BMBF Collaborative Research Project "Embodied Information"

FU Freie Universitaet Berlin (Institue of Philosophy) and KHM Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Media Science Department)


'Lifelike' Algorithms (Gabriele Gramelsberger, FU Berlin) 
- Temporal Indexicality and Notational Plasticity of Algorithms

Ambient Intelligence draws on informational structures of organisms able to incorporate and process environmental information. Imitating such operative functions of organisms can yield models of sensitive and adaptive objects. The project explores the preconditions of transforming representational information structures into operational ones. It examines the role of time and the notational plasticity of algorithms imitating living entities, also as the basis of convergence. The project also explores the influence of algorithms that have become widespread epistemic tools employed in numerous devices on everyday life.

Concepts of Algorithms (Lothar Michael Putzmann, KHM Cologne)
- On aspects of algorithmic information theory in a broadened conception of computation

New understandings of being algorithmically are suggested by the intertwinings of various information sciences and technologies. This gives cause to rethink the formal interpretation of the algorithm in terms of recursive equation theory and the paradigm of the Turing Machine, which for decades now has provided an upper bound on what is computable.  It raises the issue of how to impinge these new views on strict limitative and negative results of conventional formalism, such as the incompleteness, undecidability or randomness theorems and their implications on the notions of complexity and information. The project emphasises the impact of this paradigm shift on mathematical information theories and investigates the alleged relativisation of their outcomes.

Cellular 'Machines' (Werner Kogge, FU Berlin)
- Inspiring a New Form of Technology

Biotechnology plays a central role in the technological visions arising from the discourses on converging technologies. In Synthetic Biology, Systems Biology and Bionanotechnology, cells and microorganisms are regarded as cellular 'machines', the molecular structure of which is not only open to programming (re-)construction but also enables environmentally sensitive behaviour on the basis of an autonomous relationship to the world. The project investigates which concepts of adaptivity, situatedness, environment-relatedness, information and autonomy are being employed in current discourses of biotechnology, how they are rooted in the semiotic terminology of molecular biology, and how they relate to phenomenal descriptions that are close to research. The project aims to establish a set of conceptual tools which permit an estimation of the novelty and the life-world relevance of recent developments.

Recursive Convergence (Adrian Mackenzie, ESRC Lancaster)
- Design Techniques and Practises in Synthetic Biology  

Synbio is regarded as the epitome of bio-info convergence. It draws heavily on software design concepts such as modularity, platforms, registries, libraries, standards and re-factoring. The project examines the role that techniques, infrastructures, models and protocols play in the 'recursive convergence' of synthetic biology. It also explores the frictions and dynamics that arise when design and modelling processes drawn from engineering are rapidly transcribed onto another, the life sciences. The project focuses on modes of recursive convergence in synbio, and how they affect the sensations of speed and value associated with it.

Associated Project:

Prosthetics (Karin Harrasser, KHM Cologne)
- Outlines of an object of knowledge

Prosthetics as a field of knowledge and as practice is a deeply interdisciplinary endeavour and also a phenomenon of multiple interfaces: It operates at the interface of medicine, engineering and information technologies, between high-tech products, the craftsmanship of orthopedics, and the 'techniques of the body' exercised in physical therapy. And of course prosthetics is all about developing new interfaces for seemingly incomplete bodies. But only at first glance is prothetics a mere medical/technical practice: It is an assembly, consisting of institutional, discursive and technical elements, that organizes all kinds of knowledge-particles concerning 'the human'. Therefore the project is interested in the historical and symbolic preconditions of the production of prosthetic knowledge, and especially in the interdependencies of prosthetic knowledge and theories of culture and media, as well as in the changing political and epistemological frameworks of prosthetics of the last 100 years.

Associated Labs:

lab3 (Georg Trogemann, KHM Köln)

Laboratory for experimental information science at KHM Media Art School Cologne »lab3


Operational Images (Nina Samuel, FU Berlin)
- The transformation of image technologies

All sciences involved in the NBIC convergence use technical image processing. These techniques get even more important the more the objects of investigation are situated on the microlevel. Taking the overall hypothesis of the research collaborative as point of departure - if and how new technologies rearrange the relation of material and information - the project analyzes primarily those images that are produced in laboratories and circulate in research collectives. A real paradigm change would have to show consequences in the realm of the visual as well, allowing a manipulation of the material through the visually coded information. The project analyzes case studies to find out if and in which form such „operational images“ do exist. Distinguishing them from other possible forms of visually operating modes, image technologies have to be both historicized and discussed in the framework of a general theory of operational images.

Envisioning ‘Converging Technologies’ / CT 'Viscourse' (Kathrin Friedrich, KHM Cologne)
- Images, Visualizations and Metaphors of a Visionary Paradigm

The discourse about ‘Converging Technologies’ uses and generates a visionary vocabulary of metaphors and images which advertise convergence to be the new paradigm of the 21st century. Referring to Karin Knorr Cetina and her remarks on “’Viskurse’ der Physik“ (1999) the project conducts a ‘viscourse analysis’ by investigating different levels of the visual discourses on the basis of case studies. Besides the imaging processes (media pragmatic and institutional affiliation) the study focuses on strategies of visibility and ‘science-fiction visions’ of CT. Therefore, formats and configurations of the images, in particular aesthetics and visual genealogies, will be explored. Furthermore the project examines operative and narrative functions as well as the hidden agenda of the images within the whole discourse of CT.

Visual reasoning (Peter Bexte, KHM Cologne)
- Images, Visualizations and Metaphors of a Visionary Paradigm

Images, visualizations and metaphors play a crucial role and have diverse functions in new scientific and technological developments. Although their importance is undeniable, they often appear as a kind of backgrund phaenomenon with a concealed guiding function. It is the objective of this part of the project to describe forms and formats of a specific visuality that goes with the discourse on 'converging technologies'. Visual forms often embody long-lasting cultural traditions. That is why the project aspires to reconstruct the tradition of these images and metaphors − in order to recognize possible new functions. It explores the use of advanced image databases as new research tools.