1531 Sustainable Economics and Business II: Socio-Ecological Transformation and Digital Platforms
Mag. Katarzyna Gruszka, Ph.D.
Contact details
Weekly hours
Language of instruction
09/09/21 to 09/27/21
Registration via LPIS
Notes to the course
Subject(s) Bachelor Programs
Day Date Time Room
Tuesday 10/12/21 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM Online-Einheit
Tuesday 10/19/21 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM Online-Einheit
Tuesday 11/02/21 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM Online-Einheit
Tuesday 11/09/21 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM Online-Einheit
Tuesday 11/16/21 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM Online-Einheit
Tuesday 11/30/21 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM Online-Einheit

In the last two decades, and particularly intensified in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, a proliferation of digital platforms can be observed. Spanning from powerful tech-giants, through the leading industrial and agricultural companies, to dynamic venture capital-funded start-ups, platforms enable interaction between distant and heterogeneous actors (e.g. customers, service providers, advertisers, producers, suppliers) via a digital infrastructure. Fueled by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and often supported with a fair portion of Venture Capital (VC) investments, platforms function as digital market organizers, taking on an intermediary and interface role. Have you ever used Uber or Airbnb? Are you on Facebook or Instagram? Do you shop via Amazon from time to time? How about some good old Google? Simply put: a short reflection on our daily behaviors makes us realize the overarching presence of platforms.

Platforms have become an area of concern for various academic communities, which attempt to understand the diverse effects and consequences of those digital market organizers on socio-economic systems. For example, platforms have raised ambiguities around the various forms of indirect, contract-based employment. Moreover, as a perfect business model to extract, analyze, use, and control data, platforms have been leading to intensified discussions on data as the “new gold” of 21st century capitalisms, and particularly the monopolization thereof. Critical perspectives on ratings and rankings embedded in platforms infrastructures, and the emergent platform modes of governance, are growing. Set in the global context of planetary-scale computation, the “environmental price” of platform data is gaining urgency, especially while considering the nexus between technological innovation and socio-ecological transformation.

The course takes platforms as the main focus, systematizing various perspectives on the key issues and applying them in analyzing “platform realities”.

Language of instruction: English.

Learning outcomes

After completing a ZuWi II course the students are aware of the social and environmental context of economic activities. They have a holistic perspective, seeing both the economy and society as embedded in biophysical systems. They understand the effects business has on these dimensions - in this particular course: platform businesses. Throughout the course, students learn to take into account the impact of their later actions on society and the natural environment, their social responsibility and their contribution to a long-term sustainable development. Students develop the ability to consider ethical, social and environmental issues implied in their decisions in both private and professional spheres. They acquire skills such as self-reflection, openness and sensitivity to diversity, and understanding of complexity. They learn to conduct team projects effectively, to listen attentively and to present their ideas in convincing ways. Having completed the course, they are able to process information, to understand ideas and problems, to develop solutions and to communicate them to both expert and non-expert audiences. Extensive feedback from both the course instructors and peers helps students to understand their shortcomings and to improve.

During this course, the students will:

Gain a deeper understanding of the following concepts: digital platforms, platform economy, technological change/digitalization and capitalism, socio-ecological transformation;  

Be able to critically reflect on these concepts;

Be able to use apply the knowledge gained during the course on a practical, “real-life” example;

Understand the complexity of change processes and reflect on the role of context, power, and interests in these processes

Attendance requirements

Attendance is mandatory.

This is a blocked course including six 4h long sessions, largely based on in-class activities. Absence equal to one session is allowed, but a compensatory task on the given in-class input is assigned.

*virtual mode clarification: the sessions will be held online. To clarify: four hours online are challenging. To counter this, the class will be divided into two sub-sessions with a longer break in between. In order to additionally shorten the joint screen time, the instructor’s input will be sent with a voice over prior to each session, and explored further during the online sessions. The following tasks: Newsflash, Group Presentation, Group Commentary - will all be held during the online meetings. Details to be discussed on the first session.

Teaching/learning method(s)

The course will consist of:

  • Lectures and input from the instructor

  • News Flash: short summaries of the sessions as group tasks, via focusing on current issues related to the activities of key platforms

  • Reading of the assigned literature, accompanied with Group presentation and Group commentary

  • Plenum discussions and group discussions

  • Fragments of videos and films

  • Reflection paper




Active in-class participation (including short written assignments and in-class discussion) (30%)

Preparation of the assigned tasks, taking part in discussions, ability to answer questions (including: newsflash group; group presentation; group commentary) (40%)

Reflection paper (30%)

Prerequisites for participation and waiting lists

Course enrollment is on the basis of "first-come, first-served” principle. If you have registered but cannot participate in the course, please de-register via LPIS during the registration period so that your course is available to students on the waiting list.


If there is a waiting list for enrollment in the course, students at the waiting list will be notified after the end of the enrollment period, and will be allocated to available places. Students will be ranked by their study progress not by their rank on the waiting list.


This procedure, however, is not to be understood as a place guarantee!

Availability of lecturer(s)

Meeting possible with a pre-scheduled appointment.

Last edited: 2021-04-28