Diversity in a digitized world – Challenges and opportunities to (re)establish social justice


This was the Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Programme (BIP)

The planning of this BIP started almost a year ago together with Karelia University of Applied Sciences (Finland) and Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany), coordinated and hosted by Carinthia University of Applied Sciences (CUAS). After all the administrative and content-related work was done, we had the opportunity to welcome 16 incoming students from Karelia University of Applied Sciences (Finland), Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany), Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (Finland) and University of Siegen (Germany; Member of the ATHENA European University Alliance).

Online Weeks:

Starting with an online kick-off on October 2, 2023, transnational student groups began to work together on the topics diversity, digitalization and social justice. After virtual team building in the first week, students were introduced to phenomenon-based learning in the context of “Diversity in a Digitized World” in the second week. Based on different inputs on dis/ability, classism or racism groups found topics for their group visions, which they particularly worked on during the third online week. Students developed a joint understanding of aspects they wanted to focus on in their group. Further content and thoughts about digitalization and global ethics, as well as changes in a digital world, accompanied their group work.

Intensive Week:

The intensive week at CUAS in Klagenfurt included five days of lectures, discussions and reflection. On Monday, the “Visions and Technology Day,” students started with a presentation of their group visions and participated in a lecture on smart systems and data privacy from Oana Mitrea. The students were further introduced to the research fields of the Institute for Applied Research on Ageing (IARA) at CUAS.

After that, we took a field trip to “Hi Harbach” and the “Haus St. Peter,” to visit these two alternative housing forms. Hi Harbach showed the students a new way of inclusive living and raised questions and ideas about community care and societal responsibilities. Haus St. Peter is a home and care facility for older people with dementia, supporting a self-determined life in old age in a homey, warm atmosphere. Students saw ways of ageing gracefully and living a good life with dementia. Many thanks to the Diakonie de la Tour for hosting us.

Tuesday (October 24, 2023) was our “Experimentation Day”, where students were able to test and experience assistive technologies and systems, facilitated again by Oana Mitrea. The ethical use of such technologies was discussed and integrated into the students’ group visions. After lunch, we visited the CUAS Campus St. Veiterstraße, where our colleagues Michael Suppanz and Sascha Fink from the physical therapy department introduced gait analysis. We had a lot of fun trying this method and analyzing silly walks. Group reflections and further discussions led to an understanding of this broad field and its interdisciplinarity and multi-professionality. Another highlight of this day was a guided city tour through the center of Klagenfurt in the afternoon and dinner at “Hafenstadt.”

The “Social and Ethical Reflection Day” on Wednesday (October 25, 2023) started in the morning with four lectures: the first by Carla Küffner (CUAS) and Master student Antonia Kranzelbinder (Disability, Diversity and Digitalization) on assistive and digital field of actions at the workplace, then Terhi Myller (KareliaUAS) spoke about reflective and critical practices and societal perspectives of digitalization and social justice with vulnerable people, at the example of older people. Next, Julia Kadel (TU Darmstadt) shared pedagogical reflections of difference and finally, her colleague Ewelina Pepiak (TU Darmstadt) discussed gender, digitalization, and discrimination. Students were very interested and, in the afternoon, the groups had time to reflect on their thoughts and then work on their presentations. At the end of the day, we visited the Pyramidenkogel mountain and had dinner at the “Genusswirt” there. Students and teachers enjoyed a wonderful autumn view over the Wörthersee and other parts of Carinthia.

Thursday, October 26, was the “Hands-on Day”, where students were able to work on their group visions and presentations for Friday. The groups discussed the new impressions and contents of the last days and tied them to their chosen phenomenon. The interdisciplinary and multi-professional approach of the groups provided students with the opportunity to learn and move beyond their prior understanding and knowledge.

Finally, on our “Presentation Day” (Friday, October 27), we found out what the student groups had been working on and got to know their visions for (re-)establishing social justice in a digitized world for different groups. Following topics/phenomena were creatively addressed during the group presentations: racism and hate speech, visions of digitalized equal societies, whether AI could help establish social justice and, finally, class equality in the field of European education. The discussions showed the importance of communication, participation and democracy to inform citizens about stigmatization, stereotypes and discrimination. Research and development on individual, institutional, community and system levels can help improve the quality of life for everyone in our society in a digitized world. Thanks to all the participants of this final presentation day for their work and thoughts!

Last, but not least: Many thanks to all the persons who worked in the background of this BIP, e.g. Petra Regenfelder-Davis and many other colleagues from CUAS, KareliaUAS and TU Darmstadt. Special thanks to the CUAS International Relations Office with Aleksandra Jama, Katja Keischnigg and Stefanie Steiner for their support.

We hope to see you again soon and to repeat this wonderful and socially important BIP in the future!
Christine Pichler, BIP coordinator