International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)

Dr. Paula Helm

Society, Culture and Technological Change

Dr. Paula Helm is PostDoc in the BmBF project PEGASUS as well as in the EU-project WeNet. She studied cultural anthropology and peace & conflict research in Marburg (2005-2011), was a fellow in the Research Training Group "Privacy" and received her doctorate in 2016 on the topic of addiction therapy. Financed by the DAAD, she spent one year at New York University and 3 months at the Surveillance Studies Centre in Kingston, CA.

Research Interests

  • Science and Technology Studies (STS)
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Cultural Situatedness of Addiction and Addiction Therapy, Addiction by Design
  • Critical Data Studies
  • Applied Ethics: Ethics of Technology (Design Ethics, KI Ethics), Information Ethics (Privacy)


I am specialized in Technology Ethics and Science and Technology Studies. My current research focuses on issues at the intersection of Privacy and Anonymity; Data-, Security- and Design-Ethics; Digital Literacy; Addiction Therapy (including new forms of technology related dependencies), as well as Predictive Policing and AI-driven Migration Management. The overarching theme of my different fields of research is concerned with the question how individuals and societies cope with unforeseen and sometimes problematic consequences of technological innovation, specifically in the field of Information- and Communication Technologies (ICTs), Data Analysis and Machine Learning. Methodologically, I am interested in building bridges between ethnographic research and application-oriented ethics.

I hold a Doctor of Philosophy (summa cum laude) from the German Research Foundation’s Graduate School „Privacy: Forms, Functions, Transformations”. Prior to writing my dissertation, I studied Cultural Anthropology, Philology, and Peace & Conflict Studies (2006-2011) and worked at the Institute for European Ethnology, both at Philipps-University Marburg.

Before starting my current position at the “International Center for Ethics in the Sciences” (University of Tübingen), I was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Sociology Department at Goethe University Frankfurt (2016-2019). Here, I served as Equal Opportunity Commissioner and I was a member of the “Lab for Studies of Science and Technology” as well as the working group „Normative Orders of the Internet” at the Excellence Cluster „The Formation of Normative Orders”. During this time, I also gave birth to my two sons Onno and Caspar.

I held teaching appointments at the “America Institute” at LMU Munich as well as the Goethe University Frankfurt. In 2019, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Surveillance Studies at Queen’s University/Canada (invited by David Lyon) and in 2013 I was Visiting Fellow at the New York University, where I was affiliated with the Privacy Research Group (invited by Helen Nissenbaum, Cornell Tech, Digital Life Initiative) and the Gallatin School for Individualized Studies (invited by George Schulman, NYU). In 2012, I was Visiting Scholar at the “Imprints Project” at Loughborough University. I am elected chairperson of the German Science and Technology Studies Association (, member of the DGV-section “Going Digital” as well as an external member of the RUSTLab at Ruhr Uni Bochum. I am co-editor of the “Digital Exhaustion Blog” as well as of several books and special issues, including in the Journal for Social Movements.

I have worked in exciting interdisciplinary research and public engagement projects including “Structural Transformations of Privacy” and “Reconfiguring Anonymity”. I have been doing field research in Northern Russia, Canada/Ontario and the United States. My papers have been published in journals such as New Media & Society, Addiction Research & Theory, Ethics & Information Technology, Surveillance & Society, Theory & Politics in Organization. My research has attracted interested by major German media outlets including Deutschlandfunk, ZDF Info, and Welt am Sonntag.

Publications (* = peer-reviewed)

Articles in Academic Journals and Chapters in Edited Volumes

*Co-Addictive Design, Problematic Internet Use and Digital Detox. Distributed Responsibilities in digitalized Societies, in: Science, Technology & Human Values (under revision).

*Beyond the Prediction Paradigm. Chances and risks of machine learning in criminal prosecution, in (Luciano Floridi, Jeff Ward, Cynthia Rudin, eds.): Black Box Artificial Intelligence and the Rule of Law. Law & Contemporary Problems. Duke University Press (forthcoming April 2021).

Anonymität: Wissen durch Nicht-Wissen, in: Koch, Gertraud/Moser, Johannes/Hansen, Lara (Hg.): World, Knowledge, Design. Hamburger Journal für Kulturanthropologie (forthcoming Feb. 2021).

Dance with the Trouble. Anonymer Tanz als dekolonialisierende Praxis, in: Koch, Gertraud/Moser, Johannes/Hansen, Lara (Hg.): World, Knowledge, Design. Hamburger Journal für Kulturanthropologie (forthcoming Feb. 2021).

*Longing for a Selfless Self and other Ambivalences of Anonymity, in: Anon Collective (ed.): Book of Anonymity. Earth/Milky Way: Punctum Books: 401-223.

Leben im Netz. Editorial, in: Kuckuck. Notizen zur Alltagskultur: 3-4.

*Normative paradoxes of privacy. Literacy and choice in platform societies [with Sandra Seubert], in: Surveillance & Society, 2020, 18(2): 185-198.

*Linking loose ends. An interdisciplinary Privacy and Communication Model [with Katharina Bräunlich, Tobias Dienlin, Johannes Eichenhofer], in: New Media & Society, 2020, 22(9): 1-22.

Myth #45: Privacy is dead [with Katharina Bräunlich, Tobias Dienlin, Johannes Eichenhofer], in: Busted! The Truth About The 50 Most Common Internet Myths, in: Matthias Kettemann, Stephan Dreyer (ed.). Berlin: Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology/Leibniz Institute for Media Research/Hans-Bredow-Institute, 2019, 202-206 (translated in 8 Languages).

Normative Paradoxien der Privatheit in datenökonomischen Zeiten [with Sandra Seubert], in: Borucki, Isabelle/Schünemann, Wolf (Hg.): Internet und Staat. Perspektiven auf eine komplizierte Beziehung. Frankfurt: Nomos, 2019, 81-104.

Reflexionen zu einem social turn in den privacy studies. Philosophische und rechtliche Perspektiven [with Johannes Eichenhofer], in: Henning, M. et al. (Hg.): Digitalität und Privatheit. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2019, S. 139-165.

*Sobriety versus abstinence. How 12-Stepper negotiate recovery across groups, in: Addiction Research & Theory, 2019, 27(1): 29-36.

*Treating sensitive topics online. A privacy dilemma, Ethics & Information Technology, 2018, 20(4): 303-313.

Potentiale und Grenzen der „familienfreundlichen” Hochschule, in: Die Ratsfrau. Zeitschrift des Gleichstellungsrats. Fachbereich Gesellschaftswissenschaften, 2018, Vol. 21.

*What can self-organized addiction therapy groups teach us about anonymity? In: Ephemera. Politics and Theory in Organization. 2017, 17(2): 327-350.

*Group privacy in times of big data, in: Digital Culture & Society. 2017, 16(2): 137-152.

Privatheit und Demokratie [with Sandra Seubert], in: Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegungen. 2017(2): 120-124.

Transparenz und Anonymität: Potentiale, Irrtümer, Grenzen, in: Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegungen. 2017(2): 142-152.

*Freiheit durch Anonymität? Privatheitsansprüche, Privatheitsnormen und der Kampf um Anerkennung], in: West-End. Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, 2016(1): 133-144.

*Addiction as emotional illness: The testimonies of anonymous recovery groups (2016) in: Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 2016, 236(1): 79-91.

Spaces and Cultures of Privacy. Introduction [with Eva Beyvers, Martin Hennig et al.], in: Beyvers, E., Helm, P. et al. (Hg.): Räume und Kulturen des Privaten. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2016, 1-19.

Die utopischen Sicherheitszwänge Süchtiger und das Wagnis der Anonymität, in: Paragrana. Zeitschrift für Historische Anthropologie, 2015, 24(1): 58-69.

Mythos und Autonomie im Therapieprogramm selbstgeründeter Suchtgenesungsgruppen, in: Zimmermann, Harm-Peer (Hg.): Lust am Mythos. Kulturwissenschaftliche Neuzugänge zu einem populären Phänomen. Marburg: Jonas-Verlag, 2015, 262-270.

What the Concept of Anonymity in Addiction Therapy Can Teach Us About Privacy. Conference Paper at The 6th Annual Privacy Law Scholars Conference. University of Berkley/CA.

Städter im Zwielicht nächtlicher Straßen, in: Kuckuck. Notizen zur Alltagskultur. 2009(2): 103-111.

Full-Length Books, Edited Volumes and Special Issues

Leben im Netz (2021). Sonderheft. Kuckuck. Notizen zur Alltagskultur.

Die Ratsfrau (2018). Zeitschrift des Gleichstellungsrats. Fachbereich Gesellschaftswissenschaften, Vol. 21 [ed. with Luise Brunner et al.].

Suchtkultur und Gruppentherapie. Vom anonymen Ich zum anonymen Wir (2017), Wiesbaden: Springer VS, Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Privatheit und Demokratie (2017). Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegungen, Vol. 30/2 [ed. with Sandra Seubert].

Räume und Kulturen des Privaten (2016). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften [ed. with Eva Beyvers, Martin Hennig, et al.]

Lectures and presentations

Press and Media

Radio-Interview: „Nachrichten sollten zum Handeln bewegen“ Über den Umgang mit der Nachrichtenflut im Internet. ERF Plus, first broadcasting: 10.03.2021,

Co-editor: international, interdisciplinary blog DIGITAL EXHAUSTION [with Alexander Taylor, University of Cambridge/Winchester Media and Text Lab],

Press-Interview: Und es hat ZOOM gemacht. Digitale Erschöpfung in Zeiten von Corona, in: Welt am Sonntag, Issue 20.12.2020.

Blog post: Letters to my children. On intergenerational solidarity in times of existential crises. On: BoasBlogs, Corona Diaries.

Researcher portrait: Sending Life-Stories on more than virtual journeys. Reflections from the archive, in: POEM Newsletter. Participatory Memory Practices. 4/2020.­­­­­

Radio-Interview: Stories of Disconnection, in: Sendung der Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Kulturanthropologie (GEFKA). Radio X Frankfurt, first broadcasting Jan. 7th, 2020.

Report: Generationenkonflikte im Spannungsfeld zwischen Privatheit und Nachhaltigkeit. Ein Design-Thinking Experiment (2020). In: Design Thinking for Privacy. Newsletter des GRK “Privatheit und Digitalisierung”  [with Anne Deremetz, Alix Michell, Julia-Marie Mönig, Eva Beyvers].

Report: On the Quest for Autonomy (2019), in: Ethnologica Europea 115(1), reprinted in:

TV-Interview: Mythos Darknet. Documentary on ZDF Info, first Screening July 2017.

Laudatio: Öffnung des Privaten? Um welchen Preis? Zum 70. Jubiläum des Arbeitskreises für Neue Erziehung, Oct. 2015, Arbeitskreis für Neue Erziehung, ANE e. V.

Radio-Interview: Privacy and Democracy. Deutschlandfunk. Sendung: Aus Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften. 29.09.2016.

Report: Privatheit als kollektive Herausforderung. Tagungsbericht zu "Privatheit und Demokratie". Theorieblog.

Review: Privacy and Capitalism in the Age of Social Media. Von Sebastian Sevignani, in: kommunikation@gesellschaft, 2017, 17 (3).

Invited Talks

03/2021: Co-Addictive Designs, Problematic Internet Use, and Digital Detox. At: ERC funded research project DISTRACT, The Political Economy of Distraction in digitised Denmark, Copenhagen Center for Social Data Science

02/2021: Confession, Privacy and Data Economic Interests. SFB 1369 Cultures of Vigilance. LMU Munich.

01/2021: Beyond the Prediction Paradigm. Chances and risks of machine learning in criminal prosecution. At: Black Box Artificial Intelligence and the Rule of Law. Digital Ethics Lab, Oxford Internet Institute, invited by Luciano Floridi, Jeff Ward, Cynthia Rudin.

10/2020: AI-Ethics and Criminal Justice. Focus Group. Center for Science and Technology Studies. Leiden University.

08/2020: Partial Dis_Connection. Digital Detox and the Addiction Algorithm. At: The Analogue Idyll, Symposium of the Media, Culture and Text lab. University of Winchester.

04/2020: Stories of Disconnection. RUSTlab Lecture Series, Ruhr University Bochum (virtual).

02/2020: Stigmatized, Intruded, Disempowered? DIY-Therapy Groups in digial_cultures. Workshop of the research project HermA: Automatisierte Modellierung hermeneutischer Prozesse, University of Hamburg.

11/2019: Disconnection Movements. From Digital Detox to Do-it-yourself. Lecture Series: Safe Spaces. The Private and the Public. Institute for Cultural Anthropology, Carl-Franzen’s University Graz.

11/2019: Design Thinking and Prototyping for Privacy Sensitive Technology. Workshop des DFG Graduiertenkollegs „Privatheit und Digitalisierung”, University Passau.

06/2019: Democratizing the Digital. Puzzles, Problems, Paradoxes. Surveillance Studies Centre. Queen’s University/Canada invited by David Lyon.

05/2019: Privacy, Public Responsibility and Democracy. Privacy Online. What have we learned so far? University Hohenheim.

04/2019: Panel Discussant: Democratizing the Digital: Problems, Solutions, Consequences. 41st European Conference on Information Retrieval. University of Cologne.

10/2018: Eine sozialkritische Perspektive auf Privatheitsregime im Umbruch. Staat und Internet. Workshop der NRW School of Governance/Universität Hildesheim.

10/2018: Privatheit und Demokratie. „Wirtschaft trifft Aufsicht”. BvD Datenschutzkonferenz, Stuttgart.

10/2018: Democratizing the Digital. „A=Anonymity”, Abschlusskonferenz des VW-Projektes „Reconfiguring Anonymity”, Universität Hamburg.

06/2017: Gruppenprivatheit in Zeiten von Big Data. Jahrestagung des VW-Projekts "Strukturwandel des Privaten". Universität Koblenz.

05/2017: Rethinking Anonymity. Workshop des VW-Projektes "Reconfiguring Anonymity". Universität Bremen.

04/2017: Emergenz in Zeiten digitaler Allgegenwart, Gruppenprivatheit und Algorithmen. Normative Orders of the Internet. Colloquium des Excellenzcluster Normative Orders. Goethe Universität Frankfurt.

10/2016: Praktiken der Anonymität: Formen und Funktionen.Wissenschaftliches Zentrum für Informationstechnikgestaltung (ITeG), Universität Kassel.

04/2015: On the Relationship between Anonymity and Autonomy. Amsterdam Plattform for Privacy Research. University of Amsterdam, invited by Beate Rössler.

11/2014: Anonymität als Wagnis der Unsicherheit. Gesellschaft für Historische Anthropologie. FU Berlin, invited by Christoph Wulf.

11/2013: Anonymität als dreidimensionales Schutzprinzip. LMU München/Analytical Philosophy.

09/2013: Ethical Dimensions of Anonymity. University of Washington. Center for Internet and Society, invited by Ryan Calo.

05/2013: Poster (with Adam Zaretsky, New York University/Tisch School of Arts): The Evolution of the12-Step Network. Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University. 

04/2013: Anonymity in AA. Privacy Research Group (PRG)/Informational Law Institute (ILI), New York University, invited by Helen Nissenbaum.

12/2012: Poster (mit Sebastian Sowa, TU München): Self-Help Groups - From Addiction to Recognition. International Congress for Social Diversity. University of Santiago de Compostela.

Conference Papers

08/2020: Disconnection Movements. From Nature versus Technology to TechnoNatureCultures. EASST/4S Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and Agency of STS in Emerging Worlds, Prague University.

10/2019: Anonymer Tanz als postkoloniales Ereignis. 42nd DGV Kongress. University Hamburg.

03/2019: Normative paradoxes of privacy. Literacy and choice in platform societies. Big Data and the Power of Narrative. Danish Association of Science and Technology Studies. IT University Copenhagen.

10/2018: Normative Paradoxes of Privacy. 3rd Amsterdam Privacy Conference, University of Amsterdam.

10/2018: Connectivity versus trust. A privacy dilemma. 3rd Amsterdam Privacy Conference, University of Amsterdam.

09/2018: Privatheit und Demokratie im digitalen Kapitalismus. DVPW Kongress, Goethe Universität Frankfurt.

04/2018: Embedded Privacy Hostility Online. DGV-Working Group „Going Digital”, University of Basel.

10/2015: Privacy in Practice: Social Dimensions of Anonymity. 2nd APC, University of Amsterdam.

06/2013: What the Concept of Anonymity in Self-Help Groups Can Teach Us About Privacy. The 6th Annual Privacy Law Scholars Conference. University of Berkley/CA.


(Co-)Organizer of international Conferences, Panels und Workshops

  • 2021: Associate Editor, track: „Information Security, Privacy and Accountability“ (mit Ali Sunyaev, KIT und Jens Grossklags, TUM). 16. Internationale Tagung für Wirtschaftsinformatik Wi 21. Universität Duisburg-Essen.
  • 2021: Lead-organizer of international conference: „On Humans and Machines. Human-Machine-Interaction in digital_cultures“. FernUniversitätHagen.
  • 2019: Lead-organizer of the panel “Knowing, not-knowing and designing Anonymity” (mit Michi Knecht). 42nd DGV Conference “World, Knowledge, Design”, Universität Hamburg.
  • 2019: Co-organizer of international conference: “Privacy Online. What have we learned so far?” Appr. 70 participants. Universität Hohenheim.
  • 2018: Lead-organizer of peer-reviewed Panel, Amsterdam Privacy Conference (APC): “The Privacy Paradox Revisited”. University of Amsterdam/NL.
  • 2016: Lead-organizer of international conference: “Privacy and Democracy”, appr. 60 p. Goethe-Universität Frankfurt.
  • 2014: Co-organizer of international conference: “Spaces and Cultures of Privacy”, appr. 40 p. Universität Passau.
  • 2013: Co-organizer of workshop: Collapsing and Constructing Identity (with Heath Bunting). University of Loughborough/UK, funded by Imprints: Identity Management – Public Responses to Identity Technologies and Services.
  • 2013: Co-organizer of workshop: “Rethinking Privacy”, appr. 20 p. Universität Passau.