Bertelsmann Stiftung (ed.)

Kilian Vieth and Dr. Ben Wagner

Calculated participation

How algorithmic processes impact opportunities to be part of society

Format Type
Date of publication
1. edition
41 pages, PDF


Free of charge


Algorithms influence our lives not only on Facebook, but in many other areas of life as well. Algorithmic decision-making (ADM) processes are used, for example, to observe and evaluate how often break-ins occur in certain neighborhoods so the police can deploy their resources accordingly.

The potential social impact of ADM processes – more concretely, their impact on opportunities to participate – is a key characteristic for carrying out a differentiated analysis of those processes. Ben Wagner and Kilian Vieth, authors of the working paper, are presenting a tool, which makes it possible to analyze the potential impact of ADM processes that evaluate and judge people. The analysis is based on seven independent variables.

In contrast to intuitive estimates, the tool's questions can be applied to a range of situations. The point of the analysis is not to determine how effective a given process is, but how it might impact participation – positively or negatively. The greater the impact, the more requirements must be put in place and the more effort must be made to ensure positive effects are exploited and negative effects, such as discrimination, are avoided.

Related projects

Cover Ethics of algorithms

From 2017 to 2022, the Ethics of Algorithms project explored the societal consequences of automated decision-making processes. The project’s objective was to put the digital transformation at the service of society. It was founded in the belief that the guiding principle should not be what is technically feasible, but what is best for society.

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