c:o/re started during a new wave of academic interest for the philosophy of AI. Many seminars, lectures and workshops that took place at c:o/re during its first year, hence, pursued this intellectual current, often with a focus on human-robot interaction and rethinking the object of anthropological study in light of newly emerging reflections in this area. Stemming from these discussions we would like to direct our readers to Joffrey Becker‘s (2022) recent paper and Dawid Kapsprowicz‘ (2022) response to it.
Taking a social anthropology perspective, Becker (2022) aims “to identify the fields to be studied in order to address the effects that so-called intelligent machines can have for societies.” He concludes “that it is not possible to fully grasp the social transformations at work without considering at least three categories of problems.” The categories he identifies have to do with (1) the status and reliance of machines on life processes, (2) human interactions with machines and (3) the reconfiguration of human organizations and activities that machines produce.
Kasprowicz’ (2022) answer is favourable, with some observations. He remarks that AI is not the only attribute of robots and that, in understanding robots, matters such as life-likeness, robustness, anthropomorphism and resilience in hostile environments must also be closely considered. Kasprowicz concludes by adding to Becker’s proposal that “No matter how ‘smart’ the machine will act, the contingency of communication between two bodies and the need for maintaining relations will continue.”
Becker, Joffrey. 2022. “The Three Problems of Robots and AI.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (5): 44-49. https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-6OH.
Kasprowicz, Dawid. 2022. “Maintaining Relations and Re-Engineering the Social: A Reply to Becker’s ‘The Three Problems of Robotics and AI’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8): 50-56. https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-74G.
On July 13th, Professor Joost-Pieter Katoen (RWTH Aachen University) gave the final Philosophy of AI lecture: Optimistic and Pessimistic Views lecture at c:o/re, titled “Demystifying probabilistic programming“. The talk convincingly advocated the usefulness and accuracy of probabilistic inferences as performed by computers. Various types of machine learning, argued Joost-Pieter Katoen, can benefit from being developed through probabilistic programming. The underling claim is that probabilistic programs are a universal modeling formalism. Far from implying that this could result in softwares that could successfully replace humans from inferential and decision-making processes, probabilistic programming relies on correct parameterisation, which is an input provided by humans.
The c:o/re team would like to thank Professor Frederik Stjernfelt and Dr. Markus Pantsar for organizing the lecture series Philosophy of AI: Optimistic and Pessimistic Views, which ran throughout the summer semester of 2022.
Training of neural networks
Ghahramani, Zoubin. 2015. Probabilistic machine learning and artificial intelligence. Nature 521: 452–459.
An interdisciplinary international Graduate Summer School on Open Science starts on Monday July 18th, 2022, in Donostia-San Sebastián, co-hosted, among others, by Prof. Andoni Ibarra and Prof. Stefan Böschen. The guiding questions of the Summer School, which is organized by the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, tackle the ambiguous and uncertain status of the concept of “openness”. The goal of the Summer School’s program is to offer PhD students a framework to further develop and discuss their research projects.
On Monday, July 4th 2022 we marked the founding of KHK c:o/re with an inauguration event in the Coronation Hall of Aachen City Hall. We are grateful to the excellent scholars and professionals from many fields who made this such an intellectually enriching event and, indeed, to everyone who participated.
Rector of RWTH Aachen University, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. mult. Ulrich Rüdiger welcomed the guests to the first Käte Hamburger Kolleg at a technical university.
In her address, the State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Kornelia Haugg insightfully explained the mission and importance of both Käte Hamburger Colleges, in general, and c:o/re, in particular. It has been delightfully refreshing to gather in this impressive venue with other scholars and stakeholders, old and new friends, as it is now possible to assemble, again. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has been difficult for everyone, has made it impossible for scholars, like for many other professionals, to gather for a long time. We, the c:o/re team, were excited to be surrounded by an extensive network of colleagues at this event, which made us better understand the mission of our own centre. We hope that all attendees will continue to be part of the life of c:o/re in the years to come.
The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Prof. Dr. Torsten H. Voigt appreciated that c:o/re, through its interdisciplinary branching out and fellowship program, will bring an important contribution to the faculty. He expressed his wish that this faculty will provide c:o/re fellows an inspiring research environment, where they will find many colleagues to collaborate with.
After these addresses, c:o/re directors, Professor Gabriele Gramelsberger and Professor Stefan Böschen welcomed and thanked our distinguished guests and introduced the current and future c:o/re fellows, the scientific advisory board, the science program advisors and the c:o/re team.
Professor Karin Knorr Cetina, a top scholar in science and technology studies, delivered the keynote lecture, titled “From Loving the Data to Loving Automation: Epistemic Shifts in the Digital Age” (abstract). In her superb lecture, Professor Knorr Cetina insightfully tackled the question of whether should humans in science be replaced by models based on data. In her conclusions, she argued that machines cannot research cultures. This question and others were further debated in a panel discussion on “Present-Future Transformations of Research Cultures“, moderated by science journalist Dr. Jan-Martin Wiarda. Professor Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (MPI for the History of Science), Professor Lars Blank (RWTH Aachen, Chair of Applied Microbiology) and Professor Matthias Wessling (RWTH Aachen, Vice Rector for Research and Structure) were the discussants of this roundtable. The conversation revolved around salient contemporary issues such as the digitalization and globalization of science, possibilities of using AI in research and multi- and cross-disciplinarity.
We would like to thank the many colleagues who have been supporting us and we hope that we will rise to the height of the wishes that the guest speakers had for us.
Together with the Linguistics and Cognitive Semiotics Chair of RWTH Aachen University, colleagues from KU Leuven MIDI research group and other international colleagues, KHK c:o/re contributed to hosting the 4th conference (IACS4) of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics. The conference chair, Professor Irene Mittelberg and her departmental colleague, Professor Martin Thiering were assisted by c:o/re director Professor Gabriele Gramelsberger and Dr. Alin Olteanu in managing this event.
This year’s conference focused on the theme of Semiotic Complexities, bringing the focus of cognitive semiotic research within a similar scope to that of c:o/re. This signals the salience of the topics of complexity and emergence across disciplines. As such, c:o/re organized a panel on Semiotic Approaches to Cultures of Research. Many c:o/re fellows and team members delivered talks in this context, unraveling the linkages between semiotic theories and their research at c:o/re. The program of the conference can be found here.
Can open scholarship make science more reliable, responsive, credible and inclusive? What is the significance of anticipatory governance for open science and responsible research and innovation? Discuss these and other questions at a roundtable together with our fellows René von Schomberg and Andoni Ibarra. They have invited experts such as Clare Shelley Egan (Technical University of Denmark), Douglas Robinson (Université Gustave Eiffel), Mario Blok (Wageningen University), Frank Miedema (Utrecht University), Roberto Poli (University of Trento), Paola Zaratin (Italien MS Society), and Marianne Hoerlesberger (Austrian Institute of Technology). Klick here to learn more about the program and to join the discussions, please register with events[at]khk.rwth-aachen.de.
We are excited to soon welcoming at c:o/re Karin Knorr Cetina, the O. Borchert Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Chicago. She is a leading researcher in the field of Science and Technology Studies and, given her groundbreaking work on Epistemic Cultures and the Making of Knowledge, she is a major influence of the very rationale of our Center. During her stay in Aachen, she will take part in the scholarly debates at c:o/re and will be giving the key note lecture at our inauguration event on July 4th. You can learn more about her current research here.
Art’s Realism in the Post-Truth Era
Amanda Boetzkes and Käte Hamburger Kolleg Aachen: Cultures of Research (c:o/re) are hosting this three days Workshop on 21 – 23 June 2022
The last decade has seen a growing preoccupation with philosophies of realism from artists, curators, and theorists. But while the art world benefits from this domain of philosophical inquiry, the reverse is also true: the significance of realism in an era characterized by fake news, post-critical theory, mass extinctions, climate change, and the precarity of existence due to war and other forms of displacement, can only be fully appreciated by attending to the ways that art captures, mediates, and even shapes our understanding of reality. Taking art’s constitutive relationship to realism seriously, this workshop intervenes on contemporary debates about realism after truth by demonstrating that art does not simply illustrate philosophical theories, it requires their redefinition. The contributors will situate realism in relation to the aesthetic dimensions of media imaging, scientific visualization, bodily expression and perceptual enhancement. Bringing together advanced scholars from art history, media studies, philosophy, literature and social theory, the workshop foregrounds the importance of art’s realism in a global ecology.
Organized by Amanda Boetzkes
Raphaelle Occhietti (University of Guelph)
Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou (École des Hautes Études et Sciences Sociales)
Coordination of event
Ana María Guzmán Olmos (c:o/re Aachen, University of Bonn)
Haus Matthéy, Theaterstraße 67, 52062 Aachen
We have a restricted number of seats to attend in person. After we have reached the amount of available seats in person, we invite you to join us online.
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Tuesday, June 21, Haus Matthéy
Introduction: Eight Theatrical Rotations Around Art’s Realism
Amanda Boetzkes (c:o/re Aachen, University of Guelph)
In the Thickness of Reality: An Aesthetic of Indifference and Concealment in Eva and Franco Mattes’ The Bots
Maryse Ouellet (University of Bonn)
In 2017, film scholar Erika Balsom wrote a plea for a realist approach in film, namely the observational mode. Her essay argued that the task of vanguard documentary in the posttruth era was to “problematize access to phenomenal reality.” The notion of “access,” however, must be questioned, since it presupposes our separation from reality (Benoist, 2011). In a time when the fabric of reality is stripped from moral standards and lies are allowed to circulate more or less uncensored on social media, the challenge facing art’s realism today is perhaps less a matter of problematizing access to reality than problematizing reality itself, that is to say, to probe the chasm between reality and truth.
In their recent video series, The Bots (2020), artists Eva and Franco Mattes’ have taken on this task, by tracking down former Facebook content moderators who disclosed the psychologically damaging work they used to perform, skimming the illicit and the obscene “digital waste” (Roberts, 2016) like janitors in the shadows of social media. The videos, however, do more than giving access to a hidden dimension of reality: they also merge heterogeneous layers of reality, thereby situating the testimonies in an economy of the visible governed by “radical indifference” (Zuboff, 2019). The testimonies are indeed rendered on screen by six actors who lend their bodies and voices to the anonymized workers, while pretending to deliver makeup tutorials, speaking to their cellphones from their apartment. The disconcerting and humorous channeling of unknown individual predicaments through the widely disseminated and standardized tutorial format takes inspiration from an activist practice ironically consisting in circumventing moderation by sneaking political content into apparently innocent beauty videos or reels (Kuo, 2019). In this workshop, I want to examine The Bots’ aesthetic of equivalence and concealment to reflect on the implications of art’s realism in the post-truth era. How can aesthetic convey the thickness of reality on social media? How to be realist, when reality is deceptive? These are some of the questions I would like to offer for consideration.
Homeless realism (post-metaphysics, post-truth and posterity)
Hilan Bensusan (University of Brasilia)
The realist stance is a combination of two gestures: one that affirms the independence of things from us and another that asserts their permanence, stability and full presence. Both gestures were combined in Plato – and tied together by Aristotle’s reading of Plato’s positions – into what became metaphysics. Around this endeavor, the first gesture – that of independence – was sometimes questioned and abandoned. The second one, nevertheless, proved to be more persistent. Speculative realism, intending to revive the issues around realism, often elaborates new strategies to argue for a package involving the two gestures. The spectral realism gambit, arguably a post-metaphysical one, is to dismiss permanence while keeping independence. In that sense, it discards ousiai as the ultimate commitment somehow required by any form of realism. The rejection of ousiai – substances, presences, homes or perhaps archives that keep something in its proper kernel no matter the concealment happening in what appears – makes room for a realism where what is real is intermittent like what depends on the retrieval from an archive.
Post-metaphysics is contemporary of post-truth. There is a sense in which post-truth is a consequence of the original metaphysical efforts to be able to extract the intelligibility of truth and be able to mimick it by artificially producing its effects. One of the effects of truth is that it generates a network of reliability. Reliability itself has connections with permanence stability and substance. Interestingly, post-truth also reveals the limitations of asserting the full presence of things. Two kinds of responses are then possible: to recoil to a defense of a metaphysical realism or to move somehow forward and explore the impermanence of what is archived – and the ireducible indexical character of whatever is in the past (and can only come back to the fore if rememorated now).
Wednesday, June 22, Haus Matthéy
The Theatre of Operations
Oxana Timofeeva (European University St. Petersburg)
The talk will conceptualize the idea of the theatre of war operations. The theatricality of war, read literally, will be addressed in its specific temporality of repetition, as well as in its spatial characteristics, its architectures and geo-logics – the scene, the battle ground, and the undergrounds of war, from bomb shelters and trenches to mass graves. I will also focus on the unconscious scenarios in the theatre of war, discuss the structure of desire and the scenes of its phantasmatic realization.
Can Waves Write Poems? Immanent Purposiveness and the Matter of Meaning
Jeff Diamanti (University of Amsterdam)
Can matter story itself, and (if so) is its story coherent? It would appear so given the citational record mounting in various branches of environmental and post-humanities. Yet the largely unresolved polemic of the infamous “Against Theory” by Walter Benn Michaels and Stephan Knapp resolves precisely on this question posed from the standpoint of meaning’s hermeneutic envelope. Returning to the formative distinction between form and matter at the heart of Hegel’s philosophy—and more specifically two recent resuscitations of Formtätigkeit (form activity) in the philosophy of Karen Ng and Michael Marder—I attempt to ask and then answer if indeed the nominalization of “storied matter” underwriting much ecocritical theory is an analytic contradiction in terms (and hazard two arguments about what that contradiction might inflect elsewhere in the constellation of materialist criticism).
Thursday, June 23, Haus Matthéy
Art Between Realism and Warnings (via zoom)
Santiago Zabala (ICREA/Pompeu Fabra University)
The ongoing return to realism and order in art, politics, and culture and the increasingly narrow focus of experts have prevented us from taking warnings seriously. Too often these are discarded as useless or insignificant—much like environmentalists, artists, and philosophers—when in fact they are vital to understanding our spiritual predicament. Though philosophers can’t solve the ongoing emergencies—philosophy was never meant to solve anything—we can interpret their signs. Warnings—not to be confused with predictions—are not meant to convince anyone but invite us to reevaluate our priorities for the future. Unlike recent philosophies of animals, plants, or insects, my philosophy of warnings is more than a philosophical elucidation of a global environmental emergency. It is the ontology within which these issues exist. Phenomenologically we could say that these reacting philosophies are regional ontologies whereas ours is the fundamental one that encompasses all of them. Warnings allow us to think transcendentally without losing sight of actual political, social, and technological urgent matters.
“This word Being,” as Martin Heidegger once said, “serves as a warning to us,” a warning that reality is not made merely of beings and that its truth is not exclusively what can be measured or verified. The central argument in favor of a philosophy of warnings is not that what it warns of comes to pass but rather the pressure it exercises against those emergencies hidden and subsumed under the global call to order. This pressure demands that our environmental, political, and technological priorities be reconsidered, revealing the alarming signs of climate crisis, democratic backsliding, and the commodification of our lives by surveillance capitalism. These warnings are also why we should oppose any demand to “return to normalcy” after an emergency, which signals primarily a desire to ignore what caused the emergency in the first place. A philosophy of warnings seeks to alter and interrupt the reality we’ve become accustomed to through stances that are engaged, interested, and respondent to warnings.
Parallel Perspective: A Forgotten Realism
Jens Schröter (University of Bonn)
One of the classical ingredients of the difficult notion of realism, at least in the history of painting, is central perspective. Central perspective (ideally) follows the rules of the propagation of light (at least as seen from the standpoint of geometrical optics) and thereforen mimics the appearance of the real world. It produces thereby (ideally) a coherence of the depicted space and a potential continuity to the space of the beholder. By relating the representation to the viewpoint of an observer (at least in one point-perspective) it moreover
seems to duplicate our experience of watching the real world. But this subjective aspect of perspective also potentially disturbs the alleged realism, since it shows an object or scene from one, contingent standpoint. This leads, on the one hand, to the complicated problems of perspectivalism and the questions of the situatedness of knowledge.
There are a lot of discussions on that (see e.g. Alloa: Partages de la Perspective). On the other hand, there is a much deeper problem for ‘realism’ caused by central perspective: Central perspective distorts the represented scene, relative lengths, angles etc. change. It is for example difficult to reconstruct a machine or a building from a centralperspectival representation – for images that do realistically pre-present structures like machine or buildings forms of parallel perspective are routinely used. These are much more important as a medial infrastructure for modern technical culture as is central perspective. Moreover, digital image generation can use routinely parallel perspective – as different from the optical media like photography. With digital imaging an important representational tradition from drawing and painting is revived (e.g. in Computer Aided Design).
Given this extreme importance it is strange, why parallel perspective does not play a for more central role in discussions of realism. Parallel Perspective is used for a realism of the objects instead of the subject, so to speak. That should also make Parallel Perspective an interesting topic of study for theoretical positions that discuss the properties of the ‘object’ as such. Several aspects of these complicated problems in and around parallel perspective are discussed in my presentation.
Thursday, June 23, c:o/re, Theaterstr. 75 (Statdpalais), lecture hall
Steve Fuller (c:o/re Aachen, University of Warwick)
Closing Remarks and Discussion
An-Archaeology and Spectral Realism with Hilan Bensusan at c:o/re (June 14)
As an introduction to this week’s workshop on Art’s Realism, organized by Amanda Boetzkes at c:o/re, on June 14th at 17:00 Professor Hilan Bensusan gave a lecture on An-archaeology and spectral realism. The manuscript of the talk can be found here.
Hilan Bensusan is Professor of Contemporary Philosophy at the University of Brasilia. He is the author of Indexicalism: Realism and the Metaphysics of Paradox (Edinburgh University Press, 2021) and Being Up for Grabs: On Speculative Anarcheology (Open Humanities Press, 2016). He also published Portuguese: A diáspora da agência – Ensaio sobre o horizonte das monadologias (The diaspora of agency – Essay on the horizon of monadologies) (EdUFBA, 2018), Linhas de animismo futuro (Lines of future animism) (Mil Saberes, 2017), Heráclito – Exercícios de Anarqueologia (Heraclitus – Exercises in anarcheology) (Ideias e Letras, 2012) and Excessos e Exceções (Excesses and exceptions) (Ideias e Letras, 2008).