Category: news

“The computer is not in itself rigorous” – Professor Øyvind Eide on modelling in digital humanities: between the sciences and the history of the humanities

Professor Øyvind Eide at c:o/re

On May 24th, Professor Øyvind Eide delivered a talk at c:o/re on Modelling in digital humanities: between the sciences and the history of the humanities. Øyvind Eide is head of the Institute for Digital Humanities (IDH) at the University to Cologne. The insightful discussion on modelling that he opened revealed not only many common interests between c:o/re and IDH but also how, from the vantage point of digitalization, modelling appears as a key interest in Science and Technology Studies broadly.

Eide’s starting point is that it is misleading to claim a definition of model because anything can be a model of anything else. Efforts to pin it down can only be reductivist to how models are used or irrelevant. Rather, it is insightful to define modelling, as an activity driven by intention. Modelling has a target, namely what is being modelled. This semiotic relation, Eide explains, has to be understood as dynamic. This perspective avoids claims of epistemological objectivity, where represented is deemed unaffected by representation. Eide defines modelling as creative processes of thinking/reasoning that result in meaning, and the negotiation thereof, through the creation and manipulation of external representations. Further, while it escapes definition, a model must always be understood as a media product. Simply, models are mediated.

From this theoretical standpoint, Eide explained the importance and intricacy of numerical mathematics for the digital humanities. This involved a history of the humanities, in reference to notions and means of modelling, that encompassed a broad and illuminating taxonomy. To draw on the role of numerical mathematics in the development of digital humanities modelling, Eide presented the obstacles to be bridged between the scholarly tradition of the humanities and the epistemologies of digital technologies. In brief, the latter are characterised as analogous, continuous, nuanced and hermeneutical, while the latter are formal, rule-based, structured and discrete. This said, Eide further explained that “the computer is not in itself rigorous”.

Any effort to digitalise humanities research, which is a modelling effort, implies a process of intermedial translation. Examples are translating from a paper text page or a paper map page to a scanned text or map page, as a formal model, so to say, in the computer. Of course, from the perspective of the interpreting researcher, the text page is more similar to the scanned text page than to the paper map page. As such, reflection on how models operate at various levels is an analysis of media modalities. Addressing the reduction of complex mathematical models into numerical models, that are computable, then, supposes an intermedial theory of meaning.

These considerations reveal several regards in which a media and semiotic theory of modelling is relevant for contemporary science and technology studies, particularly but not only as an epistemological interest. Having started this dialogue, c:o/re and IDH will now be pursuing ways of collaborating in these directions. We are grateful to Professor Øyvind Eide for this insightful talk.

Professor Øyvind Eide on modelling and storytelling

Professor Klaus Mainzer on Complexity: From Natural and Social Sciences to Artificial Intelligence

Professor Klaus Meinzer on complex parameter explosion and the Internet

On May 17th, we were delighted to host Professor Klaus Mainzer, who delivered a talk on “Complexity From Natural and Social Sciences to Artificial Intelligence”, as part of the the c:o/re Complexity lecture series. Klaus Mainzer is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Philosophy of Science at the Technical University of Munich.

In this talk, he laid a roadmap towards achieving sustainability by starting from theoretical considerations on pattern formation in complex natural systems and moving on to consequences for pattern recognition in complex artificial systems and, then, to discussing complexity in sociotechnical ecosystems.

Recently, results of complexity research have gained salience in machine learning (artificial intelligence) systems (e.g., neural networks, cognitive AI-systems, robots). While complex pattern recognition of AI-systems can and is modelled through statistical learning theory, statistical correlations of data cannot replace causal explanations of events. Mainzer holds that algorithms of causal learning are necessary for the detection of causal models behind the statistical distributions of data. Causal learning, then, would be a first step from weak AI with probabilistic learning to strong AI.

Professor Mainzer explained that the evolution of complex systems demonstrates the critical importance of pattern recognition for learning in general. This is confirmed, as an important example, by results in machine learning, which relies on pattern recognition, as enabled by the mathematical modelling of pattern formation. Shedding light on the importance of human creativity for innovating sustainable development, Mainzer argued that instability and non-linearity are not sufficient for pattern formation. Instead, he pointed to the crucial role of local activity.

In this view, sustainability on a global scale relies on both enhancing machine-to-machine communication, as incarnate in the Internet of Things and progress in the cultural studies, namely the stimulation of human creativity and plurality. Herein it occurs that what may be overlooked as merely theoretical consideration on the mathematics of complexity, actually, has profound implications for human societies, culture, cognition and beyond. The expansion of human societies onto the virtual spaces of the Internet, crossing formerly perceived boundaries and limitations, illustrates the importance of the notion of complexity for understanding contemporary technological, media and cultural processes. As Professor Klaus Mainzer stated, “we cannot programme innovation but we can incentivise it”.

Professor Klaus Mainzer on complexity and causality

Alin Olteanu @ National School of Political and Administrative Studies on New Media Imaginaries

Alin Olteanu is a guest speaker at his alma mater College of Communication and Public Relations, on May 10. He will give a talk on New Media Imaginaries within the Branding through social media course, led by Dr. Bianca Cheregi.

For more information, see here.

“The simple is complex”: Professor Giora Hon starts the c:o/re 2023 lecture series on Complexity

Professor Giora Hon & c:o/re director Gabriele Gramelsberger

On April 12, 2023, the 5th c:o/re lecture series started off. After c:o/re director Gabriele Gramelsberger welcomed attendees and introduced the speaker, Professor Giora Hon delivered his talk, From Reciprocity of Formulation to Symbolic Language: A Source of Complexity in Scientific Knowledge

Professor Hon introduced his notion of epistemic complexity, which refers to what may be considered simple, rather than complex. The talk was directed at clarifying the oxymoron “the simple is complex”. Professor Hon does so in light of three developments in the history of physics:

  • the analogy between heat and electricity, following William Thomson
  • the reciprocity of text and symbolic formulation, following James C. Maxwell
  • liberating symbolic formulation from theory, following Heinrich Hertz

Professor Hon argued that, following this trajectory of ideas in history of physics, in Hertz the complete separation of formal theory and equations can be observed.

Arianna Borrelli addresses a question to Professor Giora Hon; also in the picture: c:o/re fellows Jianqing Chen and Masahiko Hara

Entanglements of the concrete and the abstract @c:or/e: International Conference “Wissenschaften des Konkreten”

How does the relationship between concretion and abstraction manifests? How does focusing on the relationship between abstraction and concretion open up new perspectives on the history of natural sciences and empiricization? What methods are employed in collecting and presenting concrete objects from nature and science, and how are they reflected? What are the opportunities and limits of transferring the concept of ‘epistemic objects’ from the history of knowledge to literary and art studies? Can we identify coevolving styles of writing about the concrete in the sciences and in the arts?

Photograph: Undine Fuchs

From February 15th to 17th, 2023, the Käte Hamburger Kolleg at RWTH Aachen University hosted the international conference “Wissenschaften des Konkreten”, conceived and organized by Caroline Torra-Mattenklott, Christiane Frey, Yashar Mohagheghi, and Sergej Rickenbacher of the Institut für Germanistische und Allgemeine Literaturwissenschaft at RWTH Aachen University. The concept of the conference is inspired, as its title shows, by Claude Lévi-Strauss’ “sciences of the concrete” (Lévi-Strauss 1997). Lévi-Strauss argues that both the ‘savage mind’ of the nature-based cultures* as well as modern science in industrialized societies emerge from sensual and experimental interaction with surrounding things. Over the three days of the conference, the participants explored the above questions and others from three different perspectives:

The first day of the conference opened with the perspective of “Abstraction and Concretion in the Arts and Sciences”. The speakers from the history of science, archaeology, and literary studies shed light on the interplay between abstraction and concretion in their respective presentations not only from the point of view of different disciplines, but also with a focus on different epochs (Lectures: Staffan Müller-Wille, Dietrich Boschung, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Udo Friedrich). On the second day, under the heading “Epistemic Practices between Sciences and Arts”, the emphasis was initially on a sensory perspective, with lectures on “Augenmaß” (sense of proportion), visual acuity and tact (Lectures: Christian Metz, Katja Haustein, Jonas Cantarella, Regine Strätling, Svetlana Chernyshova). Finally, the third day was devoted to “Concrete Details: Objects and Cases between Art and Science”. The presentations addressed rhetorical techniques of concretization as well as the relationship between people and their objects in literature (Lectures: Dirk Werle, Alexander Kling, Dorothee Kimmich).

Photograph: Undine Fuchs

Over the course of the three days, the conference took place in the charming premises of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg. However, the hybrid format also allowed international speakers and attendees to contribute via Zoom and participate in the inspiring discussions. A stimulating atmosphere of discussion developed allowing a common denominator to emerge despite the different emphases. It was repeatedly shown that the operations of concretion and abstraction seem to be inextricably intertwined. This relationship can be observed equally, for example, in Linné’s taxonomies, biogenetic research, and early modern rhetoric. Various techniques were discussed on the occasion of the lectures that mediate between the concrete and the abstract, including graphic schemata, the sensual-habitual “Augenmaß” and rhetorical procedures. The concrete has proven itself to be multifaceted. Sometimes it manifested itself as the concreteness of scientific working methods or as rhetorical-linguistic detailing or through its reference to objects.

In the lively concluding discussion, it became clear that there were significant similarities in concretization techniques across disciplines and epochs. Abstraction and concretion were understood not only as linear procedures building on each other, but as dialectical processes in which objects, research subjects, and artworks can shift from one state to another. For this reason, a temporality is always inherent in the concrete. Furthermore, the basic sensual-intellectual action with the concrete, which precedes every abstraction, was emphasized once again, which starts in the gesture of lifting and turning the thing and finds its provisional conclusion in the gene sequentialization.

Photograph: Undine Fuchs


Lévi-Strauss, Claude: La pensée sauvage. Paris 1962. Dt. Übers: Das wilde Denken. Aus dem Frz. von Hans Naumann. Frankfurt/M. 1997.

*We would like to emphazise that this is Lévi-Strauss’ terminology.

Lecture Series Summer 2023: Complexity

We are very pleased to announce the program for our lecture series during the summer 2023. The topic of this semester’s series of lectures is “Complexity”. The program gives and overview of the work of some of our fellows but also includes renomated researches from philosophy and theory of sicence such as Prof. Klaus Mainzer with his lecture on “Complexity – From Natural and Social Sciences to Artificial Intelligence”.

To take part either online or in presence, please register with

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.

Directors Gabriele Gramelsberger and Stefan Böschen explain the first two years of c:o/re in new interview with BMBF

Since May 2021, c:o/re has been dedicated to investigating research cultures: their similarities, differences and transformations. It examines how research is changing due to the scientific re-orientation towards complex systems and as a result of societal challenges. Gabriele Gramelsberger and Stefan Böschen discuss the Centre’s work this with the BMBF in this recent interview.

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.