Category: Event

Toxic Material(itie)s: Eco-Material Entanglements in Art

Workshop at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg: Cultures of Research (c:o/re)

6 – 7 December 2023

Organized by

Käte Hamburger Kolleg: Cultures of Research (c:o/re) &

Christian Berger (Universität Siegen), Ruby de Vos (University of Groningen),
Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Our workshop sets out from the obvious, yet underexplored assumption, that much of the very stuff that art is made of is toxic. Whether working in the studio, in the dark room, in the quarry, or at contaminated sites, artists have been, and continue to be, exposed to a wide range of toxic materials. But exposure always goes hand in hand with its inevitable corollary, pollution—from the dumped toxic waste generated by the production of photographic materials to the air and water pollution generated by marble extraction. The toxicity of artistic materials extends far beyond the hazards of the artist’s job—they are part of larger environmental issues. So what can we learn when we explore artworks through the lens of their materiality within an expanded frame that is attentive to their art historical as well as environmental and sociopolitical context?

See the full program here.

To attend, please register with

Lecture and discussion with Phil MacNaghten: The knowledge politics of making anticipatory knowledge

On October 12, Phil Macnaghten will give a talk at c:o/re about The knowledge politics of making anticipatory knowledge. This event is part of the 5th STS-Forum at RWTH Aachen University.

Tagung: Briefe des 15. Jahrhunderts als Quellen für interkulturelle Kontakte zwischen Italien und dem Osmanischen Reich

From the 19th to 20th October 2023, a conference on “Briefe des 15. Jahrhunderts als Quellen für interkulturelle Kontakte zwischen Italien und dem Osmanischen Reich” will take place at c:o/re, organized by Florian Hartmann.

SFU Workshop on Transdisciplinary Pathways in Educational Research: Learning, ecology, media and beyond

On April 25th c:ore team member Alin Olteanu will be joining Natasa Lackovic (Lancaster University) and Cary Campbell (Simon Fraser University) for an online workshop, organized by the Research Hub @ Faculty of Education of Simon Fraser University, on Transdisciplinary Pathways in Educational Research: Learning, ecology, media and beyond. To attend, please register through the Simon Fraser University website, where you can also find more information. The description of the workshop is also below.

Transdisciplinary Pathways in Educational Research: Learning, ecology, media and beyond

The potential of transdisciplinary research and education has been lauded and discussed for decades. Despite often lofty promises, many have remarked on the lack of meaningful transdisciplinary research and teaching—ironically in universities, where it is most expected. Very little research presents or explores conceptual-philosophical frameworks (or pathways) for how to study and engage in transdisciplinary inquiry and questioning. Our workshop aims to address this theory gap, building from our team’s research expertise in educational semiotics and uniting theoretical perspectives from bio-semiotics, multimodality, and new socio-materiality studies.

Participants and presenters will collaboratively articulate transdisciplinary problems by distinguishing transdisciplinary methodologies and theoretical frameworks from related inter- and cross-disciplinary approaches. We specifically address transdisciplinary challenges associated with climate crisis (the Anthropocene) and the rapid proliferation of digital-media technologies, focusing on the continuity of environmental and embodied learning and digital media-learning.

Navigating Interdisciplinarity

If you would like to know more about the Navigating Interdiscplinarity workshop, which was organized by c:o/re, together with CAPAS and the Marsilius Kolleg Heidelberg, which hosted it, the CAPAS newsletter features an insightful article, here. You can also see our previous reflexion on the workshop, on the c:o/re website, here.

Models of complex systems as scientific-public boundary objects: The case of climate change. Complexity and Transdisciplinarity Graduate School of the Center for Advanced Studies (Aix-Marseille University), February 27-28

On February 27-28, 2023, the Complexity and Transdisciplinarity Graduate School of the Center for Advanced Studies (IMéRA), Aix-Marseille University is hosting an event on “Models of complex systems as scientific-public boundary objects. The case of climate change“, organized by Gabriele Gramelsberger and Alexandre Hocquet (Lorraine University, c:o/re alumni). To register, kindly contact Solenne Bruhl ( The event will feature the following talks:

27.2.2023, 14-16h Complex systems, climate modeling and managing of uncertainties – Managing the complexity of knowledge production

Gabriele Gramelsberger

28.2.2023, 10-12h Community models, standards and platforms: Managing the complexity of global collaboration and policy

Gabriele Gramelsberger

28.2.2023, 14-16h Research software: Managing the complexity of collaborative programming

Gabriele Gramelsberger & Alexandre Hocquet

Headquarters of Aix-Marseille University, CC BY-SA 3.0

Talk by Stefan Böschen at the Austrian Academy of Sciences: Engineering turn? The shift in research cultures as a challenge for science research

On Tuesday, March 28, Stefan Böschen is presenting the work of c:o/re at the Institute for Technology Assessment at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. You can find the abstract and practical information on how to register on the website of the Institute for Technology Assessment, here.

Torsten H. Voigt on voodoo science, dead salmons and the Human Brain

Thorsten Voigt giving a lecture
Torsten H. Voigt at c:/ore: Voodoo science and the missing controversy

On February 7, Professor Torsten H. Voigt, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at RWTH Aachen University, delivered a talk in the c:o/re lecture series on what has been referred to as “Voodoo science” . Professor Voigt argued that, as in science and philosophy in general, controversy functions as a driver for advancement and innovation in neuroscience. However, he explained, neuroscience as a discipline and community exhibits instrumental rationality in managing and avoiding meaningful controversy. This led to what may be termed an eclipse of reason, damaging or even destroying progress in the scientific field.

Neuroscience is enjoying great popularity, both within academia and in pop culture. and popular science. During the 1980s neuroscience cognitive became the new science of mind, by having incorporated molecular biology. This resulted in a study on a molecular level of how we think, feel and learn. Seen in this way, advertising of consumer goods, for example, reflects a connection established in pop culture between human capacities for creativity and the brain organ. These construals are not only employed in somewhat amusing ways in advertising, but they point to an unjustified optimism in academia. One reason for which this may be allowed, but which also raises suspicions about neuroscientific methods, might have to do with the very low reproducibility herein.

An important example that illustrates this type of process leading to an eclipse of reason, as Voigt argues, is observed in how the otherwise noted study by Vul et al. (2009) was largely ignored in neuroscientific research. The reluctance regarding this study was arguably met with from the start is suggested by the respective journal’s editorial board recommnending removing the expression “voodoo correlatons” from the title of the paper, as initially proposed by the authors.

Vul et al. (2009) observe mysteriously high correlations are claimed in neuroscientific research. This is explained by the fact that many experiments looked at a specific brain region instead of the whole brain as such in relation to behaviour. Despite drawing attention, the study has been ignored (low number of citations) by the community of neuroscientific researchers.

A prototype for signaling controversial matters in neuroscience, setting the tone of doing so in a controversial manner, is the famous “dead salmon” paper by Bennett et al. (2009), who ironically criticised neuroscientific methods by claiming correlations by observing supposed neural activity through fMRI in a dead salmon. The salmon, which “was not alive at the time of scanning”, “was shown a series of photographs depicting individuals in social situations with a specified emotional valence.” As neural activity could arguably be noticed in the image resulting from the scanning, the authors ironically claimed neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking”.

Another example that displays the eclipse of reason tendencies in neuroscience regards the Human Brain project, massively funded by the European Union. Arguably, the Human Brain project is not so much about the brain, as much as it turned out to be an IT infrastructure development project (Nature 2015). With such an example in mind, Voigt construes neuroscience, broadly, as an integration project

Professor Torsten H. Voigt and Dr. Phillip Roth


Vul, E., Harris, C., Winkielman, P., Pashler, H. 2009. Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition. Perspect. Pychol. Sci. 4(3):274-90.

Rethinking the brain. 2015. Nature 519, 389.

Bennett, C.M., Miller, M.B., Wolford, G.L. 2009. Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: an argument for multiple comparisons correction. NeuroImage, 47, S125.

Politics of the Machines: Lifelikeness & beyond

Call for Track-Topics and Formats

Deadline Call for Track-Topics and Formats: 01 April 2023 New Deadline: 16th April 2023

The Call for Papers will follow after the Call for Track-Topics has closed.

The 4th POM Conference

Lifelikeness & beyond
RWTH Aachen University
KäteHamburger Kolleg:
Cultures of Research (c:o/re).
April 22-26, 2024

Life is in crisis. In society, this crisis has generated an uncertainty entangled with environmental injustices, health emergencies and the many faces of right-wing movements around the world – to mention some examples. Uncertainty might blurry the future and our capacity to make decisions, but it also opens up a space of possibilities. In this fragmented framework a new field for contingencies emerges. If we are unsure about what might be, alternative but unstable scenarios become possible. How does society react to those alternative scenarios? How are scientific and artistic communities responding to the various contingencies of the present?

In the wake of this era, we have been witnessing, in biomolecular research, the developments of programmable biosensors, synthetic biology and diverse biological entities that are aimed to be made programmable. These advancements amount to the crisis of life. These new phenomena in life-research have, for example, transformed the way in which we think about organisms and how life has evolved and transformed on earth.

At the same time, the fields of life-like robotics and computational evolution, which produce artificial entities modeled after living organisms – like self-reproductive algorithms and artificial neural networks – have brought to light questions regarding the qualities defining what is life at all. Life is being redefined by the parameters of its artificial models, so we are forced to rethink the question: what is the logic of living? The borders between machines and biological systems are being negotiated across the sciences and the arts at large, and novel questions and modes of thinking are emerging from these ontological reorganizations. Faced with these situations, one cannot help pondering on the limits of the possible and the limits of life.

Nowadays, machines can perform as agents that respond to contingent scenarios, they act as if they were alive. If life enters the space of formal logic and probability, if it is modeled, engineered and designed, does it follow the laws of logical inference? It is not only the difference between the organic and the inorganic that gets blurry, but also the one between the natural and the animated as well as the boundaries between necessity and contingency. What kind of models of contingency can be brought about that are helpful to respond to the crisis of life? What must technologies and artistic practices that cooperate with the living look like? How does this change life itself?

In our times, social ecologies are steered following automated systems and models. Images of what the future of a warming planet might be are at the center of political decisions, and bodies in the street are demanding accountability to those who have been taking those decisions. What is the motivation for caring for life? Computational systems have become the basis for decisions on which forms of life are worth preserving, which ones have the right to have rights – as Hannah Arendt would put it – and what forms of life are purposeful to maintain and support. The care for life is found between environmental reactionary views on nature as the origin of place-based identities, and questions of locality and global solidarity; from colonialism to racial and economic justice. How can these models serve to respond to the needs of social groups, communities and the collective?

What effect has data on decisions on what lives we care for? On the one hand, biotechnology opens up spaces of possibility, on the other hand, it also holds the danger of new forms of control, which may be utilized in nation-state politics, for example, in the form of border control biometric technologies. Automated decisions are made over life and death in zones of war. Personal data is stored to keep the metabolic networks of capital flowing. Data is, however, at the same time, used for feminist aims and as a tool to identify urban spaces where harm and death are a threat. Communication technologies have shown to be crucial for marginalized groups for creating networks of care, support and self-defense. Thus, it seems that the same technological shifts that seem to serve necropolitical aims are the ones bringing about new forms of the collective.

With the overarching theme “Lifelikeness & Beyond” the Politics of the Machines conference organized by Käte Hamburger Kolleg: Cultures of Research at Aachen University seeks to bring together researchers and practitioners from a wide range of fields across the sciences, technology and the arts to develop imaginaries for possibilities that are still to be realized and new ideas of what the contingency of life is. The call also seeks to question what the limits between reality, fiction and imagination can be when we look for sources of action or new forms of collective action and of creating collectivities. What kind of imaginaries are needed to think of new forms of research and practice that effectively act as a counterbalance to the many crises of the present? What can we learn from a performed contingency about the community of the living and the non-living? How is the idea of contingency transformed when life and non-life are embedded within each other? PoM Aachen welcomes proposals for conference sub-tracks that look into transdisciplinary research at large in creating unrealized futures.

Full Call for Tracks and Submission:

Upcoming Workshop: Turning Points in Reflections on Science and Technology. Toward Historicizing STS 

On March 14-15, 2023 the c:o/re workshop  Turning Points in Reflections on Science and Technology: Towards Historicizing STS will take place. The workshop focuses on the 20th and 21st Century intellectual history of science and technology. It aims at opening up the field by historicizing Science and Technology Studies from various historical turns. Furthermore, it aims at discussing the various notions of “historicizing STS”. The Program is available below and here: