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Stefanie Büchner

Assistant Professor Ph.D. Sociology, University of Potsdam


E-Mail: s.buechnerish.uni-hannover.de

Room: A 411 (Building 1146), Im Moore 21 (Front Building)

Phone: 0511/762-3143

Office hours: Tuesday 12:30 - 1:30 pm. Due to the current situation I offer counselling by phone. Please register for a call at Stud.IP and send me a mail with your number. I will call you back.


Research Areas

  • Sociology of Organizations
  • Digitalization and Digital Transformation
  • Sociology of Professions
  • Qualitative Methods, especially Ethnography

Current Research Projects

Digital Cases (Freigeist Fellowship Funded by the VolkswagenStiftung, 2019-2024)

The Digital Cases research project examines how complex information and case management software in professional organizations structures the processing of cases, meaning the handling of patients, the provisioning of social assistance, and the management of legal procedures.

Using the example of case information and case management systems, this project aims to develop the relationship between organizations, technology, and professions in a theoretical and conceptual way. Digital Cases engages in a comparison of the structuring effect of case information systems in a hospital, a social services agency, and a court of law, thereby traversing a range of organizational typologies. This opens up a crucial middle ground of theory formation to examine the structural effects of these systems in professional organizations.

The project uses an ethnographic approach that centers upon participatory observation and the shadowing of software. To harvest the potential inherent in the generalization of ethnographic research, a new method of co-ethnography will be tested after a phase of individual case ethnography (publication in progress). In doing so, the ethnographers temporarily change "their" field, meaning for example from the hospital to the Youth Welfare Office, to generate comparative knowledge on the structuring of casework during the observation phase.

Opal (ESF 'Social Innovation Projects', 2020-2023)

Opal is analyzing the potential of sensor-based technologies of care with a participatory and qualitative research approach to enhance the quality of work of nursing staff. (Grant received in January 2020)

Partner of the research project " The Nursery as a Gender Political Module of the Workfare State of Functionally Differentiated Society: Assignment of Tasks and its Implementation" (Funded by the DFG, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), PD. Dr. Christine Weinbach, University Bonn, Forum Internationale Wissenschaft

 Major Publications

(2018): Zum Verhältnis von Digitalisierung und Organisation. In: Zeitschrift für Soziologie 47 (5), S. 332-348. DOI: 10.1515/zfsoz-2018-0121. 

English Abstract: "On the Relationship of Digitization and Organization (2018)"

This article examines the relationship between digitization and organization. It takes issue with the impression that digitization takes place in a way that is more or less neutral to organizations. Using five central theoretical points from Luhmann's sociological systems theory, the author assesses how digitization not only affects organizations but also how organizations, as social systems, make a difference regarding digitization.

Referencing current studies in digitization research, the article demonstrates that organizations influence digitization in disparate ways and shape digitization in structurally specific ways. Inversely, digitization also influences how organizations arrange their expectations and decisions. On the basis of these insights, a case is made for digitization research that is sensitive to organizational concerns, thereby encompassing the research field of Organizational Datafication in an interdisciplinary and comparative framework that is informed by intersections with organizational sociology.

(2018): Digitale Infrastrukturen - Spezifik, Relationalität und die Paradoxien von Wandel und Kontrolle. In: Arbeits- und Industriesoziologische Studien 11: S. 279-293.

English Abstract: "Analyzing Digital Infrastructures - Peculiarity, Relationality and Paradoxes of Change and Control (2018)"

Complex and integrated information- and management systems are influencing work and organizations deeply while incrementally extending their scope. As central elements of current processes of digitization, these systems cannot longer be reduced to passive tools or to mere technical facilities. This article promotes to expand the given focus on the effect of digital technologies and suggests picking up the concept of (digital) infrastructures.

Using empirical material from a case study of a digital portal for social services and a hospital information system, three central implications of taking the concept into account are illustrated: the importance of the digital characteristics of the infrastructure, its relational character and the resulting paradoxes of change and control.

(2018): Der organisierte Fall - Zur Strukturierung von Fallbearbeitung durch Organisation. Wiesbaden: VS Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-19115-3

English Abstract: "Organizing Cases - Understanding Organizational Structures and Processes in Casework (2018)" (summa cum laude)

My dissertation explores three social services in Germany engaged in the short, middle and long term protection of children and in the provision of help and assistance for families. The goal of this comparative project was to generate a more nuanced understanding of how organizational, not only professional structures shape the daily casework of frontline workers.

It can be shown that the influence of organizational structures tends to be either overscored when they are understood as rather monolithic structures (bureaucracies or professional organizations) or underscored when they are reduced to a source of working conditions. Instead, the qualitative interview-based study shows that the influence of organizations in casework can be better understood as having a modular quality.

Accordingly, five modules of organizational shaping are elaborated on: The arrangements at the frontline between clients and professionals (handling the case), the division of labor used to deal with short term alerts of child protection and long term perspectives of support and care (splitting the case) in the process of casework, the role of standardization in face of highly specific problems of clients (thinking the case) and the challenge to secure diametrically opposed ways of encountering parents as sources of help or danger (switching the case). The final section (filing the case) takes the rising expectation to document casework as a starting point. It explores how documentation work and interaction-based casework can be understood in relation to each other when organizational structures are taken into account.

To understand organizations as modular in their shaping of casework renders their inner flexibility and complexity in processes of casework visible: There is no evidence that the reconstructed modular ways of shaping occur in fixed or permanent sets, but instead, that they are loosely coupled. As such, the concept of organizations as complex social systems that structure casework in a modular way suggests an alternative to the over- and underscoring of organizational influence on daily casework.

 Publications (selected)

Zusammen mit Judith Muster, Thomas Hoebel und Tabea Koepp (2020): Führung als erfolgreiche Einflussnahme in kritischen Momenten. In: Christian Barthel (Hg.): Managementmoden in der Verwaltung, Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 285-305. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-26530-4_13

(2020): Der sozialpädagogische Fall unter Bedingungen der Digitalisierung in Organisationen. In: Nadia Kutscher, Thomas Ley und Udo Seelmeyer (Hg.): Handbuch Soziale Arbeit und Digitalisierung, Weinheim: Beltz Juventa. ISBN: 978-3-7799-3983-2

(2019): Die schwierige Liaison von Organisationssoziologie und Praxisbezug am Beispiel Beratung. In: Maja Apelt, Ingo Bode, Raimund Hasse, Uli Meyer, Victoria V. Groddeck, Maximiliane Wilkesmann und Arnold Windeler (Hg.): Handbuch Organisationssoziologie, Bd. 32. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 1-16. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-15953-5_26-1

(2018): Datafizierung und Organisation. In: Daniel Houben und Bianca Prietl (Hg.): Datengesellschaft. Einsichten in die Datafizierung des Sozialen. Bielefeld: Transcript, S. 253-270. DOI: 10.14361/9783839439579-011

(2018): Fallsoftware als digitale Dokumentation - Zur Unterscheidung einer Arbeits- und Organisationsperspektive auf digitale Dokumentation. In: Lukas Neuhaus und Oliver Käch (Hg.): Bedingte   Professionalität - Professionelles Handeln im Kontext von Institution und Organisation. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, 240-269. ISBN: 978-3-7799-3648-0

(2018): Tagungsbericht: Wissen und Organisation im Spannungsfeld von Öffentlichkeit, Steuerung und Digitalisierung. In: Soziologie 45 (3), S. 328-331.

(2015): Cohen, Michael D. /March, James G. /Olsen, Johan (1972): A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice. In: Administrative Science Quarterly, Jg. 17, S. 1 – 25. In: Stefan Kühl (Hg.): Schlüsselwerke der Organisationsforschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 186–190. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-09068-5

(2015): Specializing Attention – Deep Rules in Spezialdiensten des Kinderschutzes. In: Bernd Dollinger, Axel Groenemeyer und Dorothea Rzepka (Hg.): Devianz als Risiko. Neue Perspektiven des Umgangs mit abweichendem Verhalten, Delinquenz und sozialer Auffälligkeit. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, S. 319–336.

(2015): Der Fall Kevin - Warum wird geholfen, wenn Hilfe nicht mehr hilft? In: Jens Bergmann, Matthias Hahn, Antonia Langhof und Gabriele Wagner (Hg.): Scheitern. Organisations- und wirtschaftssoziologische Analysen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 131–158. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-01652-4_6

(2015): Mythos Vera Wohlauf - Empörung und Ensemblebildung bei der Deportation von Międzyrzec Podlaski. In: Alexander Gruber und Stefan Kühl (Hg.): Soziologische Analysen des Holocaust. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 55–78. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-06895-0_3

(2012): Tagungsbericht: Organisationen im Chaos? In: Soziologie 41 (2), S. 236–241.

(2012): Soziale Arbeit als transdisziplinäre Wissenschaft. Zwischen Verknüpfung und Integration. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-531-94115-8

(2010): Transdisziplinarität als Attribut Sozialer Arbeit. In: Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Soziale Arbeit 8 (1), S. 53–68.

Praxisorientierte Fachzeitschriften, Blogs und Zeitungsbeiträge

Zusammen mit Stefanie Hecht und Holger Kurrek (2018): Digitalisierungsprojekte in der Praxis - (In-)Formalität und Machtspiele verstehen. In: Kompetenzzentrum Öffentliche IT, Fraunhofer FOKUS.

(2018): Knock, Knock Who‘s There? – Organisation und Digitalisierung revisited. Metaplan Academy Versus Blog.

(2018): Mythen digitaler Dokumentation. In: Das Jugendamt (9), S. 372–375.

Zusammen mit Stefan Kühl und Judith Muster (2017): Von wegen Revolution - Digitalisierung macht weder Hierarchien noch Abteilungen überflüssig. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10.04.2017, S. 18.

Zusammen mit Stefan Kühl und Judith Muster (2017): Digitalisierung zähmt keinen Menschen. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30.07.2017 (151), S. 16.

Zusammen mit Judith Muster (2017): Digitalisierung. Jetzt. - Eine Entgegnung. In: Organisationsentwicklung (4), S. 70–72.

(2015): Fehler im System - Die dunkle Seite der Fehlerfokussierung. In: Forum Kinder- und Jugendarbeit 31 (1), S. 22–27.

Büchner, Stefanie (2011): Sensemaking über Legitimität. Masterarbeit, Universität Bielefeld. Gekürzte Fassung

Selected Talks


(De-)Professionalisierung durch Digitalisierung? Zu den methodologischen Herausforderungen digitaler Assistenzen im Gesundheitssektor, Great Transformation: Die Zukunft moderner Gesellschaften, Jena, 24.09.2019, zusammen mit Jannis Hergesell.

The Other Black Box - Exploring Organizations as Active Contexts for Datafication, 35. EGOS Colloquium (European Group for Organizational Studies), Edinburgh, 4.7.2019.

Invited Discussant, Algorithms on the Shopfloor - Data-Driven Technologies in Organizational Context, Data&Society, New York, 14.6.2019

Arbeitsfeldübergreifende Digitalisierungsforschung in Pflege, Krankenhaus und Sozialem Dienst. Ein methodologischer Vorschlag für eine komparative Digitalisierungsforschung, Digitalisierung der Arbeit im Gesundheits- und Sozialsektor, Gelsenkirchen, 21.5.2019, zusammen mit Jannis Hergesell

Rediscovering the Comparative Power of Ethnography, Big Data and the Power of Narrative, IT University of Copenhagen, 21.3.2019


Visibility as relevancy - Organizational Logics of Visibility, The Role of Visibility in Academic Evaluation, HU Berlin, DZHW, 15.11.2018

Ambivalenzen digitaler Dokumentation und Steuerung im Kinderschutz, Ringvorlesung des Zentrums für Kinder- und Jugendforschung, Universität Bielefeld, 17.1.2018

Digitalisierung und methodisches Arbeiten im Jugendamt, Zweijahrestagung des Deutschen Instituts für Jugendhilfe und Familienrecht, Weimar, 28.9.2018 Infrastructuring - Organisationsübergreifende Digitalisierung, Arbeit und Technik revisited, Frühjahrstagung der Sektion Arbeits- und Techniksoziologie, WZB Berlin, 12.4.2018


Was ist der Fall? - Digitale Falldokumentationen an den Grenzen des Klassifizierbaren, DGS Kongress, Ad-hoc Gruppe Klassifikation und Big Data, Bamberg, 28.9.2016

Attention, Deep Rules, and Organizations, International Conference on Judgment and Decision-Making in Social Work, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, 23.9.2016

What's relevant? Exploring the efficacy of terminological-procedural standards in organizational practices, 32. EGOS Colloquium (European Group for Organizational Studies), Neapel, 8.7.2016


January 2020 until March 2020 Visiting Researcher at the Department of Digitalization, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

May 2019 Elected member of the Junge Akademie

May 2019 until December 2019 Visiting Researcher at the University of California, Irvine, USA with Professor Geoffrey C. Bowker

February 2019 Assistant Professor (Sociology of Digitalization) at the Department of Sociology, Leibniz University Hannover

July 2018 Freigeist Fellowship of the VolkswagenStiftung: Research Group Digital Cases

December 2018 until January 2019 Postdoctoral Researcher at the L3S Research Center, Leibniz University Hannover

April 2016 until November 2018 Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Sociology, Working Group Organizations, University Bielefeld

July 2016 Dissertation "Zur Strukturierung von Fallbearbeitung durch Organisation"/ "Organizing Cases - Understanding Organizational Structures and Processes in Casework" (summa cum laude)

2010 - 2016 Doctoral Candidate and Lecturer at Potsdam University, Working Area: Sociology of Organizations and Administrations

2011 Master of Arts in Sociology (with distinction), Bielefeld University, Main Focus: Sociology of Organizations and Sociological Theory

2007 Visiting Associate at the Social Work Research and Development Unit (SWRDU) University York/ England

2002 until 2010 Member of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation

2002 until 2007 Social Work Studies in Hamburg (HAW), Zürich (HSA) and Berlin (ASFH), graduation with distinction