Institut für Kognitionswissenschaft

Institute of Cognitive Science

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Data Ethics Outreach Lab

In the Data Ethics Outreach Lab (DEOL) we are developing innovative transfer formats that bring scientific research on data protection, data ethics, as well as critical philosophy of digitization into public debates and educational work. Our current focus is on the development of learning formats and teaching units for the classroom. In this context, we also involve students at the Institute of Cognitive Science in a study project.

Study project and interdisciplinary course for CogSci Master Students

University of Osnabrück, Summer Term 2022 - Winter Term 2024/25

Current course: Wednesdays 14-17, room: 50-316 (Institute of Cognitive Sciene, Wachsbleiche)

Prof. Dr. Rainer Mühlhoff, Marte Henningsen, Jan Siebold and Annemarie Witschas

If you have any questions, please send us an email.

Course description

Why does the data collected by Instagram or YouTube lead to social inequality? How do Snapchat, TikTok and Co. (re)structure social relationships and restrict the identity performances available to young people online? What does PayPal do with all the data they collect from payment transactions? How much does Spotify know about its users? Why do chat bots perpetuate stereotypical gender norms? And how does riding a bus without a ticket relate to being denied a loan?

These questions represent only a handful of possible vantage points from which to explore and critically reflect on key issues in the field of digital consumer culture. Many of these issues relate to big data and AI services we use every day. In most cases, users are not aware that these services have harmful effects on our societies, democracies and well-being.

Within this study project we will discuss the risks and societal implications of networked digital services to develop strategies and formats for public awareness raising. Participants will form small teams to choose their own topics – along the technologies and issues they perceive most pressing. These topics should then be implemented into Open Educational Resources – school materials for high school students, workshop events for school teachers, explainer videos to circulate on the web, or similar public interventions.


The course is aimed at Cognitive Science Master students who can participate in one of two modes:

  • Study Project (2 semesters, 6 hrs/week, 12 ECTS points).
  • Interdisciplinary Course (1 semester, 4 hrs/week, 6 ECTS points).

We further invite Master students of Lehramt to participate in this course. Accreditation at the UOS is possible as part of the KCL module “Medienbildung und Mediensozialisation” (1 semester, 4 hrs/week, 4–6 ECTS points). We have 10 places for Lehramt students.

We also have limited places for students from other disciplines and other institutions. Please contact us in this case.


The language of instruction is English. However, the course will largely work in small project groups which can also work in German (especially if you want to develop teaching material for German schools). Students who do not reside in Osnabrück can also participate online (hybrid course), although it is practical for project teams to work either entirely in person or online.

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

The OERs will be published on

Publications in German:
Why is my social media account free of charge?
Apple. Is that data protection?

Publications in English:

Addictive Designs: How and Why Social Media Addicts Its Users

This OER covers the topic of problematic social media usage, focusing on “addictive” design mechanisms and underlying incentives of social media platforms. A main goal of the lesson is to show 15-17 year old high-school students that problematic social media usage does not occur by accident.

Completed projects

Data Sensitivity: Where do we leave traces of data? (Summer term 2022)

In the summer semester 2022, a group of the DEOL was at the Käthe Kollwitz School in Hanover to talk to 11th grade students about data ethics and data sensitivity in their politics class.
More details about the project will follow.

Data Broker: What happens with my Instagram likes? (Winter term 22/23)

In the winter semester 22/23 a group of the DEOL was at the Osnabrück high school "in der Wüste" to introduce the topic of Data Brokers to the students by means of a specially developed game.
More details about the project will follow.

Social Media: Why is my Instagram account free of charge? (Winter term 22/23)

In the winter semester 22/23, one of our groups was again at the Käthe Kollwitz School in Hanover. This time, an 11th grade was taught about social media and the business models of Meta and Co. in their politics lesson.
More details about the project will follow.

Targeted Advertising: Problems and backgrounds (Winter term 22/23)

In the winter semester 22/23, a group of the DEOL conducted a teaching unit at the Carolinum Osnabrück about the topic of targeted advertising.

Social Media: Design decisions and addiction (Summer term 2023)

In the summer semester 2023, one of our groups was at the International School in Braunschweig to talk to the students about social media. A special focus was on the addictive design of the platforms.

The Bridgers: Public discourse and critical perspectives on AI (Summer term 2023)

In the summer semester 2023, this group focused on a target group outside of schools. The students conducted a workshop at the Digital Week Osnabrück 2023 and spoke with a broader audience about risks stemming from AI.

Schools Abroad: Workshop on data collection through Social Media in Brazil (Summer term 2023)

In the summer semester 2023, a group of the DEOL conducted a workshop in Brazil to educate students and staff of a governmental organisation about privacy in the context of social media.

Apple: Is that privacy? (Summer term 2023)

In the summer semester 2023, a group of the DEOL was at the Gymnasium am Mühlenberg in Bad Schwartau to talk with 12th grade pupils about privacy in the context of the company Apple.