1000 Questions about Bioethics

1000fragen.de: Analysis of an online platform on bioethics from the perspectives of participation theory and the sociology of knowledge

Director: Prof. Dr. Anne Waldschmidt
Term: October 2004 – March 2009
Funding: Aktion Mensch, Bonn

Although it is clear that the new bio-politics is already having an impact on everyday life, the discourse of “what the people are saying” (Michel Foucault) has so far attracted little attention. In October 2002 Aktion Mensch, a private charitable organisation, established the web site 1000fragen.de (1000questions.de) which was open to everybody until December 2009.

This online forum focused on the special, unpredictable nature of everyday knowledge and was an attempt to implement the participatory ideals of civil society. It invited the public to submit questions on any aspects of bioethics. At the same time, users were encouraged to comment on questions submitted by others. This online platform met with an astounding response: By March 2006, some 16,000 questions and over 60,000 comments had been submitted. Further 20,000 comments had been generated in moderated forums where selected questions were discussed.

A discourse analysis of this material provided unique insights into processes of everyday communication and self presentation in societal “inter-discourse” (Jürgen Link) of which the internet is part. The research project concentrated on the following knowledge-sociological questions: What types of knowledge about biotechnological capabilities are articulated in an online-everyday discourse? How are identity management and self-government being redesigned in the face of these new technologies?

More information in German