“There is no substitute for the personal exchange with the individual research teams funded by bidt,” says Dr Andreas Wenninger on the sidelines of the annual major Sprint Review. At regular intervals, the researchers come together at a sprint review and provide insights into the current status of the respective consortium project. Andreas Wenninger is one of three bidt research coordinators and is particularly in demand at interdisciplinary networking events. “The Sprint Review gives us a much better picture: Where do the projects stand? What is going well and where do the researchers also need support? In addition, they serve the interdisciplinary exchange beyond one’s own field,” Wenninger continues.
On the pulse of research
As the central contact person for the consortium projects he supervises in the research area “Communication, Society and Participation”, the sociologist acts at the interface of science and management. The projects he supervises range from opinion power and diversity on the internet to the regulation of communication platforms to identifying and combating online hostility towards politically active women. In addition to his role as coordinator and science manager, Andreas Wenninger himself conducts research at bidt in a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) on the evidence culture of Citizen Science.
Citizen science is also on the rise due to digital participation opportunities. The forms of participation are diverse and range, for example, from counting migratory birds to investigating environmental pollution in soils. But how is all this scientifically validated? What institutional norms are Citizen Science subject to and what conflicts arise? Our research will provide answers to these questions.
Diversity in biography
Diversity is also reflected in Andreas Wenninger’s own biography. It takes initiative to catch up on the Abitur full-time, even though one has already been firmly in working life for years. After graduating from Realschule, he first completed a three-year commercial apprenticeship in a metal industry company in Stuttgart. Afterwards, he worked for five years as a commercial clerk in a wholesale beverage market near Stuttgart. Then his decision matured to go back to school for his A-levels and begin a related change of career direction. “At this point I had the feeling that a lot of things were repeating themselves and I wanted to develop professionally and challenge myself intellectually in particular,” Andreas Wenninger reports. During this phase, he also became more interested in the humanities and this provided the impetus to take a closer look at the content of the subject of sociology. “It was clear to me: I want to better understand how human coexistence works and, above all, in which social structures it takes place.” So the move to the Bavarian capital for a degree in sociology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich took place.
Paths in academia
After graduation, the decision was made to pursue a career in academia – even though it initially meant saying goodbye to Munich, the mountains and the Bavarian way of life. This was followed by various positions as a research assistant – including a few years at the University of Bielefeld and lectureships at the University of Hanover; then the return to Munich as a research assistant, but this time at the Technical University of Munich and here at the Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS). Three people with sociology professorships had a particular influence on Wenninger during this time: the former director of the MCTS, Sabine Maasen, as well as his doctoral supervisor Peter Weingart and his doctoral mother Bettina Heintz. He did his doctorate under them on “Science and communicative boundary work on the internet using the example of a blog portal“.
It is important to build up a network in science and to have role models and mentors for constructive feedback at your side. In this network, I was always encouraged to continue on my path, even in challenging situations.
With his own biography, he also wants to encourage people to leave career paths they have taken and to reorient themselves when it no longer feels right. Andreas Wenninger’s doctoral thesis was then also about change, but in the context of science communication and digital change and the question: How does digitalisation change the media public sphere? – a topic that, in terms of content, fits very well with the subject orientation at bidt.
Different perspectives as a strength
Since 2019, he has been strengthening the research team at bidt and, as a research coordinator and researcher himself, is constantly adopting new perspectives – whether on citizen science, digital transformation or in exchange with the research projects he supervises. It is precisely this ability to look beyond one’s own nose that fascinates him about the research orientation at bidt, because here interdisciplinarity and exchange between the various disciplines are writ large.
I really enjoy this change of perspective and the variety of tasks that come with it. What I particularly appreciate about my job is the teamwork together with the other research colleagues and our dialogue and think tank team. As a research coordinator, it is guaranteed not to be boring.
When asked how he can best relax in his free time, Andreas Wenninger answers: “My wife and I are parents of a six-year-old daughter and have meanwhile arrived here in Munich (again). We really value the time we spend together – there’s not so much time left over for elaborate hobbies.” And then to add: “I can relax wonderfully when I’m photographing – also because the change of perspective is so much fun.” A man who remains true to himself – in his professional and private life.