PhD students (second phase)

The PhD programme “Online-Partizipation” offers a total of twelve PhD students the opportunity for inter- and transdisciplinary research in the field of online participation on the local level. Currently, the following students are supervised in the context of the PhD programme (a click on the names shows details of the particular person):

Maria Becker
Political Science


Maria Becker is a research assistant at the University of Applied Sciences for Public Administration of North Rhine-Westphalia (HSPV NRW) in Cologne. She is part of the PhD program “Online-Partizipation” and belongs to the second cohort of PhD students at the NRW Forschungskolleg. She completed her master’s degree (MSc) in “Development and International Relations” in Denmark with a focus on political science as well as on gender and migration studies. After completing her master’s degree, she worked in different sectors such as refugee aid, political education for teenagers with a migration and refugee background, and as an constituency assistant. In her dissertation, she examines the political participation of people with a migration and refugee background in online participation processes using case studies. She is supervised by Prof. Dr. Katrin Möltgen-Sicking .

Andreas Braun
Political Science


Andreas Braun studied political science from 2011 to 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Duisburg-Essen. From 2014 to 2018 he studied political science and economics with a focus on political participation research at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. Before completing his master’s thesis Andreas Braun worked for several months in the department of civic participation of the city of Wuppertal, whose 2016’s “Citizen’ jury on the possible construction of a cable car” he examined in his thesis regarding the political activation potential of the participation instrument. In the course of the Online Participation research college, he focuses on the effectiveness of municipal participation methods in the activation of politically underrepresented groups. His supervisor is Prof. Stefan Marschall.

Björn Ebbinghaus
Computer Science


Björn Ebbinghaus has been studying Computer Science since 2013 at the Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf. He received his Bachelor of Science in 2017. At this time he was already working on D-BAS, the Dialog Based Argumentation System, a project from the first phase of the PhD programme Online Participation, as a student assistant. In his master studies he studied the integration of dialog based argumentation in a natural language based environment, like chats. His master thesis investigates the feasibility of a decision-making process in addition to a previous argumentation. An experiment was conducted with the students of Computer Science to test whether this form of decision-making is acceptable for the students. Since January 2019 he is employed as a research associate at the Chair of Computer Networks and Communication Systems of Prof. Martin Mauve.

Philipp Grawe
Computer Science


Philipp Grawe studied computer science (M.Sc.) at Heinrich-Heine-University. During his master studies, he gained first experiences with online participation while being supervised by Matthias Liebeck. His Master Thesis dealt with the analysis of online participation platforms with the focus on topic modeling, and interaction. The research interest within the PhD Programme “Online Participation” is mainly in the field of Text and Argument Mining. These techniques can be used to model topics and detect their trends, link documents and external sources to debates and detect the hijacking of debates. Philipp Grawe is supervised by Prof. Stefan Conrad at the Department of Computer Science.

Linus Boes


Linus Boes studied Computer Science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, where he wrote his Bachelor thesis on communication models for Online Algorithms. He then transferred to the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, where he focused on Computational Social Choice and Game Theory. In his Master thesis he dealt with modelling and analysis of iterative voting mechanisms, which successively aggregate individual preferences of participating voters. During the PhD programme “Online Participation” he is using his academic background to theoretically reinforce Online Participation in the form of Participatory Budgeting. Linus Boes is currently PhD student at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität in the working group Computational Social Choice supervised by Jun.-Prof. Dr. Dorothea Baumeister in cooperation with the group Computational Complexity and Cryptology of Prof. Dr. Jörg Rothe.

Anna Kerkmann
Computer Science


Anna Kerkmann studied Computer Science at the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf and finished her master’s degree in March 2019. During her master’s she concentrated on the computational analysis of problems, particularly in the fields of computational social choice and game theory. For her master’s thesis she studied different stability notions for hedonic games with respect to their computational complexity.Since April 2019 Anna Kerkmann is working at the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf at the chair for computational complexity and cryptology. During the PhD program “Online Participation” she is developing theoretical models for online participation and conducting computational analyses for different decision processes. Anna Kerkmann is supervised by Prof. Dr. Jörg Rothe. und Jun.-Prof. Dr. Dorothea Baumeister.

Nicole Najemnik
Political Science
HSPV (first cohort)


Digitalizing Bourdieu: An Analysis of Influencing Factors on Women’s Political Online-Participation at Local Government Level

Current developments in Germany as well as other European countries indicate a fast growing trend towards the implementation and extension of measures for political online-participation. While the possibilities for citizens to engage online in political decision-making processes concerning their town, city or region have rapidly grown in the past years, research has shown that this process is not accompanied by a trend towards equal opportunities regarding political online-participation. On the contrary, one can observe a reproduction of social inequalities from the analog sphere in the digital sphere when it comes to partaking in processes of political decision-making online. Accordingly, mainly male users with high incomes and high educational achievements take advantage of the new opportunities of political participation facilitated by the internet. This dissertation project focuses on the gender gap in political online-participation and aims to explore influencing factors on women’s engagement in political online-participation at local government level. Using Bourdieu’s theoretical concepts of “field”, “capital” and “habitus” the study aims to identify influences on women’s political online-participation other than well-explored factors such as income or education, as these factors alone fail to fully explain the predominant absence of women in political decision-making processes online. This study therefore follows the objective to shed light on the possible influence of factors such as “technological habitus” or “digital capital” and accordingly pursues the goal to conceptualize a “field of local online-participation”. The study follows a qualitative design and therefore the necessary data in order to find answers to the main research question will be collected by conducting problem-focused and guideline-based interviews with women who have and have not participated in citizen budget panning of the city Wuppertal.

project poster

Nicole Najemnik studied International Development in Vienna, Ankara and Mexico-City. She was a scholarship holder at the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology and worked as a research assistant at the Institute for Media Research and Media Pedagogy (IMM) of the Cologne University of Applied Sciences. Since 2016 she is an adjunct professor at the Center for Gender Studies at the University of Cologne. In her doctoral thesis she analyzes possible factors for women’s participation in formal online participation processes. Her supervisor is Prof. Möltgen-Sicking

Publications (selection):

Nicole Najemnik (2016) Inclusion and Language Activity with Digital Media in Kindergarten, Workshop on early literacy and (digital) media, Universität Paderborn

Nicole Najemnik, Isabel Zorn (2016) Digitale Teilhabe statt Doing Disability: Assistive Technologien für inklusive Medienbildung im Kindergarten, INFORMATIK 2016, Klagenfurt, Austria, Heinrich C. Mayr, Martin Pinzger (ed.), p. 1087-1096, Bonn: Gesellschaft für Informatik

Nicole Najemnik (2016) Cybergewalt gegen Frauen - was ist das?, Paradigmata. Zeitschrift für Menschen und Diskurse(14), p. 25-26

Nicole Najemnik (2017) Politische Partizipation von Frauen im digitalen Feld der Kommunalpolitik. Eine Analyse der Einflussfaktoren auf die Beteiligung an kommunalen Online-Partizipationsprozessen, - Fachtagung zu Kommunikation, Universität Wien

Nicole Najemnik (2017) Cybergewalt gegen Frauen und Mädchen, Volkshochschule Monheim

Nicole Najemnik (2017) Digitale Gewalt, Feministischer Salon, Frauenberatungszentrum Köln e.V.

Nicole Najemnik (2017) Cyber Violence Against Women: A New Challenge to Gender Equailty, Building Bridges in a Complex World, Internationale Konferenz in Chania, Kreta

Nicole Najemnik (2018) Digitale Ungleichheiten und Online-Bürgerbeteiligung, Deutsche Verwaltungspraxis 69(11), p. 428-433

Nicole Najemnik (2018) Digitalizing Bourdieu. An Analysis of Influencing Factors on Women’s Political Online-Participation at Local Government Level, International Conference on E-Participation at municipal level of government: Brazil and Germany

Nicole Najemnik (2018) Digitale Medien in der Frühpädagogik: Zwischen Ermöglichung und Verhinderung von Teilhabe bei Aktivitäten mit Tablets, merz – Zeitschrift für Medienpädagogik 62(6), p. 89-101

Nicole Najemnik (2018) Das Internet: Chance oder Risiko für die Demokratie?, Bergische Volkshochschule

Nicole Najemnik (2018) Cybergewalt gegen Frauen und Mädchen, Bergische Volkshochschule

Nicole Najemnik (2018) Factors of Success and Barriers for Women's Political Online-Participation. A Case Study on the City of Cologne, 9th Annual Women's Leadership and Empowerment Conference

Phillip Nguyen
Business Studies


From 2011 to 2018 studies in sociology, philosophy and business administration at the RWTH Aachen University with interdisciplinary focus and master’s degree in sociology. During the studies internships and freelance work in corporate communications and online-marketing. His research interests include (online) participation and organizational innovation and future studies. Since February 2019 working as researcher at the Chair of Business Administration, in particular Organization Studies and Human Resource Management at Heinrich-Heine-University in the graduate school Online-Partizipation. Phillip Nguyen is supervised by Prof. Stefan Süß.

Christopher Niederelz
Communication Studies


Christopher Niederelz studied political science and history at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz and proceeded with a Master of Arts in Democracy and Governance at Justus-Liebig-University Gießen. His MA-Thesis dealt with the explanation of the divergent outcomes of the Euro- and the Refugee Crisis. At the Forschungskolleg, his interests include – among other topics – the influence of interest groups in online-participation formats and the rhetoric of actors within these formats. Christopher Niederelz is earning his doctoral degree at the professorial chair for communication- and media science III at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf. His supervisor is Prof. Christiane Eilders.

Regina Stodden
Computational Linguistics


From 2012 to 2016, Regina Stodden studied Educational Science, Text Technology and Computational Linguistics (B.A.) at the University of Bielefeld, NRW, Germany. During her studies, she worked as a teaching assistant in computational linguistics at the University of Bielefeld and as a research assistant in the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology at University Bielefeld. During her consecutive master in Information Science and Language Technology (M.A., 2016 – 2018) at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU), NRW, Germany and her time as a research assistant in the Department of Computational Linguistics at HHU, she mainly did research in the areas of open data, multiword expressions, dependency parsing and machine learning. Within the NRW PhD programme “Online Participation”, she is interested in the automated analysis of text contributions of online participation processes considering coherent linguistic units. Regina Stodden is a PhD student at the Department of Computational Linguistics of the Institute for Language and Information Science at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf. Her supervisor is Prof. Laura Kallmeyer.

Marco Wähner


Marco Wähner studied Germanistik, Political Science (B.A.) and Social Science (M.A.) at Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf. In his master Thesis he analysed predictors of political (online) participation with a special focus on internetspecific skills. Since 2015 he worked as a student for the Forschungskolleg and the Düsseldorf Institut for internet and democracy. There he was particularly familiar with the organization and implementation of the participation project “YOUniversity”. As part of the Forschungskolleg his research interests focus on the empirical evaluation of the participation process and the digitial divide. Marco Wähner is a PhD student at the Department of Sociology and his supervisor is Prof. Ulrich Rosar.