Knowledge / Culture / Technology

Leuphana University Lüneburg, September 19–22 , 2018

co-hosted by the Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC), Leuphana University Lüneburg, and
the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS), Western Sydney University, as part of the Knowledge/Culture Series

Initiators: Armin Beverungen (CDC / University of Siegen), Ned Rossiter (ICS)

Conference Steering Committee

CDC: Armin Beverungen, Timon Beyes, Manuela Bojadzijev, Lisa Conrad, Mathias Denecke, Randi Heinrichs, Laura Hille, Claus Pias, Sebastian Vehlken, Daniela Wentz
ICS: Ilia Antenucci, Helen Barcham, Philippa Collin, Gay Hawkins, Tsvetelina Hristova, Liam Magee, Brett Neilson, Ned Rossiter, Teresa Swist

Conference Theme

The advent and ubiquity of digital media technologies precipitate a profound transformation of the spheres of knowledge and circuits of culture. Simultaneously, the background operation of digital systems in routines of daily life increasingly obscures the materiality and meaning of technologically induced change. Computational architectures of algorithmic governance prevail across a vast and differentiated range of institutional settings and organizational practices. Car assembly plants, warehousing, shipping ports, sensor cities, agriculture, government agencies, university campuses. These are just some of the infrastructural sites overseen by software operations designed to extract value, coordinate practices and manage populations in real-time. While Silicon Valley ideology prevails over the design and production of the artefacts, practices and institutions that mark digital cultures, the architectures and infrastructures of its operations are continually rebuilt, hacked, broken and maintained within a proliferation of sites across the globe. Meanwhile the China tech industry is booming with investement and R+D in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

To analytically grasp the emerging transformations requires media and cultural studies to inquire into the epochal changes taking place with the proliferation of digital media technologies. While in many ways the digital turn has long been in process, its cultural features and effects are far from even or comprehensively known. Research needs to attend to the infrastructural and environmental registrations of the digital. Critical historiographies, for instance, can investigate the world-making capacities of digital cultures, situating the massive diversity of practices within specific technical systems, geocultural dynamics and geopolitical forces. At the same time the contemporaneity of digital cultures invites experimental methods that draw on digital media technologies as tools, and, more importantly, that engage the intersection between media technologies, cultural practices and institutional settings. New organizational forms in digital economies, new forms of association and sociality, and new subjectivizations generated from changing human-machine configurations are among the primary manifestations of the digital that challenge disciplinary capacities in terms of method. The empirics of the digital, in other words, signals a transversality at the level of disciplinarity, methods and knowledge production.

This conference brings together research concerned with studying digital cultures and the ways that digital media technologies transform contemporary culture, society and economy. The hosts specifically encourage approaches to digital cultures emerging from media and cultural theory, along with transnational currents of communications, science and technology studies. We also explicitly invite researchers from digital humanities, digital anthropology, digital sociology, gender studies, postcolonial studies, urban studies, architecture, organization studies, environmental studies, geography and computer science to engage in this endeavor to develop a critical humanities and cultural studies alert to the operations, materialities and politics of digital cultures.

Historiographies of Digital Cultures

To suggest that we now live in digital cultures, characterized by the ubiquity of digital media technologies and their influence on almost every form of life and experience, is always already an epochal argument, raising fundamental questions regarding their historicity. At the same time, this implicitness of digital technologies, as well as the breathlessness of many attempts to describe their newness and nowness, often makes it difficult to understand the historical specificity of digital cultures. Yet as an ongoing and open process neither is termination of the digital predictable nor is its advent once and for all determinable. The dating and genesis of digital cultures are therefore historiographical problems that require careful methodological consideration. How can we grasp the historicity of digital cultures and what kind of media genealogies can we trace? If all media technologies rewrite their prehistory, how do digital media technologies prefigure the parameters of the history of digital cultures? And how do they alter the knowledge and practice of (digital) history?

Environmental Media, Media Ecologies and the Technosphere

With the ubiquity of digital media technologies come media theories that understand them in their infrastructural, environmental and ecological registers. Terms such as ecology and environment are often used interchangeably to denote networked technological agencies, planetary concerns and intricate entanglements of humans and technology. While ecological thought has entered media and cultural studies in these ways, and media technologies have entered ecological thought, often a concern for what used to be called nature or the environment is eschewed in visions of technospheric futures. What is at stake in comprehending digital cultures in terms of (media) ecology? What kinds of methods are required to study not singular media but digital media technologies which saturate our surrounds? What forms of (techno)politics are called for when these media are imbued with the computational and sensory capacities of artificial intelligence and data capture? How can  different approaches to digital media and ecology be brought into conversation in ways that signal a concern for what used to be called nature?

Platforms, Commons and Organization

As corporations extract wealth from productive activities and operations through infrastructural systems, venture capital amasses in Silicon Valley and Shenzhen, fuelling a technological imaginary which leads to an extensive proliferation of platforms of capture and extraction. While some argue that the corporate organization stands in conflict with network logics, putting its future in jeopardy, the platform offers itself as an organizational logic and vehicle by which capital can sustain itself and extract wealth from networked valorization. Meanwhile, a panoply of counter-organizations and movements draw on the subversive capacities of digital media technologies to propose alternative political economies, for example around the commons. Will platform capitalism be the economic base on which digital cultures operate and degenerate? How will the automation of environments and the rise of forms of algorithmic governance transform labour and its mobilities, management and organization? And what alternative organizational forms with different cultures do digital media technologies enable? What are the methodological challenges of studying the effects of digital media on political economies?

Biohacking, Quantification and Data Subjectivities

A growing interest in organic bodies, bodily functions and synthetic biology can not only be registered in the life sciences. In self-built biohacking labs at universities, hacklabs and fablabs, entrepreneurs, bioengineers and hobbyists are tinkering with the human body, while many of us are self-tracking and get tracked with everyday smart devices, interpreting data and drawing them into habits and practices. Questions abound concerning trans- and posthuman futures envisioned here, as much as machine learning and artificial intelligence force a redefinition of basic human capacities such as cognition and sensing. Current research often focuses on hacker collectives and DIY-biologists, the figure of the cyborg, or on everyday practices of quantification and tracking, yet rarely inquires into the epistemological relationships of technology and the human, which are also at play in robotics. Can we trace the production of new subjectivities and selves? What kind of data politics, attuned to questions of race, gender and class, can respond to the datafication of the human and the measurement of populations, and what happens to key cultural techniques such as anonymity?

Digital Publics, Movements and Populisms

A crucial effect of digital cultures is the shift of the modes and imaginations of the public, as well as the organization of social movements. We are facing a second structural transformation of the public sphere, whose impacts have been acutely perceptible in recent times. Consider, for example, the electoral triumph and governmental style of Donald Trump, Brexit, or various populisms on the rise worldwide. What does it mean when heads of state no longer communicate primarily via government declarations, press conferences newspaper interviews, but via social media? What are the implications of government opponents organizing via social media, both in short term protests and long term movements, and in diffuse organizational forms, e.g. Anonymous? In the meantime, the modern order of nations, borders and citizenship is challenged by a media technologically enabled extrastatecraft, as well as new forms of mobility and an intensification of migration. Which notion of the public emerges when traditional institutions, processes and rituals of the political tend to be substituted by a far more fluid and ramified media technological system?

Contemporary Futures and Anticipatory Modelling

Notwithstanding current tendencies of political regression, the 21st century is, by all means, captivated by futures. This finds its expression in growing concerns with climate change, energy scarcity, security, migration or economic investments and collapses. Where contemporary digital cultures are marked by historical futures and their imaginaries, for example those conceived by cybernetics, developments such as machine learning and artificial intelligence underpin the technologies and imaginaries of contemporary futures. Meanwhile, large-scale computer simulations and models, big data repositories (e.g. generated by distributed sensor networks or extracted from social media activities) or prototype high-tech sites such as smart cities yield innovative modes of calculation, quantification and visualization of multiple socio-political, economic and environmental futures. How do these media technologies produce different futures? How do modes of calculation, quantification, but also of speculation intertwine in these technologies? How do they contribute to contemporary cultures of resilience or preemption? And last not least: who employs them to envision what kinds of futures – and how does this shape our imaginaries of the future and concepts of property, respectively?


These internationally accomplished researchers and artists will contribute as keynotes and panelists to the framing of the event.


The submissions process is now complete.

There are only a few places left, for which you can register here. However, you are welcome to attend any of the keynotes or spotlight panels for free without registering.

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Childcare will be provided. Please get in touch via email well in advance of the conference to let us know what you requirements are or if you have any questions.

For any queries, please contact

Conference Program

The conference booket (with detailed program and abstracts) is now available for download. The schedule of events is as below.

Wednesday 19th September

17.00–17.30 Welcome
17.30–19.00 Spotlight Panel 1
19.00–20.30 Reception and Book Launches

Thursday 20th September

10.00–11.30 Concurrent Sessions 1
11.30–12.00 Coffee Break
12.00–13.00 Keynote 1
13.00–14.30 Lunch Break
14.30–16.00 Concurrent Sessions 2
16.00–16.30 Coffee Break
16.30–18.00 Spotlight Panel 2

Friday 21st September

10.00–11.30 Concurrent Sessions 3
11.30–12.00 Coffee Break
12.00–13.00 Keynote 2
13.00–13.30 Lunch Break
14.30–16.00 Concurrent Sessions 4
16.00–16.30 Coffee Break
16.30–18.00 Concurrent Sessions 5
18.15–19.15 Artist talk
19.30–22.00 Conference Dinner

Saturday 22nd September

10.00–11.30 Concurrent Sessions 6
11.30–12.00 Coffee Break
12.00–13.30 Spotlight Panel 3
13.30–14.30 Lunch Break
14.30–16.00 Concurrent Sessions 7
16.00–17.00 Closing Panel / Discussion

Summer School

Historiographies of Digital Cultures

The conference will be preceded by the Lüneburg Summer School for Digital Cultures, which provides advanced training in the study of media, their theory, aesthetics and history. Focusing on one special topic annually, it affords a select group of graduate students the opportunity to work with international scholars from all fields of media studies in an intimate and highly focused context. The 2018 summer school deals with the challenges of histories and historiographies of digital cultures. For further information, please visit

Hosts & Collaborators

The Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC) at Leuphana University creates a conducive, productive and, in many instances, experimental research environment in which researchers and practitioners, activists and theorists, artists and producers, hackers and designers broker and live dynamic connections between digital cultural practices, and new forms of knowledge production. This includes the development of advanced theory and innovative courses, as well as the creation of software, media formats and digital platforms, which unleash new forms of collective expression and experience.

The Institute‘s engaged research is committed to making a positive difference in the world. It is engaged ethically and reciprocally with others. Our aim is to carry out innovative interdisciplinary research into continuities and transformations in culture and society in a way that contributes to understanding and shaping contemporary local and global life. This approach involves being reflexively engaged both with the world and in understanding the conditions and limits of its own knowledge practices. The Knowledge/Culture Series is a sequence of international conferences hosted by the Institute for Culture and Society in collaboration with our partners.

In collaboration with:

Department of Media Studies, University of Siegen
Berlin Institute for Empirical Research in Integration and Migration (BIM), Humboldt University of Berlin
ephemera: theory & politics in organization
Meson Press

Venue: Leuphana Central Building

The conference will take place in the Central Building of Leuphana University Lüneburg.

Travel and Accomodation

Lüneburg’s special atmosphere attracts people of all ages. Some people say that the city is refreshing not only because of its clear air, but also because of the cheerful mood of the residents.

Lüneburg is the perfect home for people who need an environment allowing for full concentration at work but who don’t want to miss out on a relaxing atmosphere in their free time.

A close-knit university campus and a wide array of entertainment and cultural events ranging from art exhibitions and international rock festivals to poetry readings provide a stimulating atmosphere.

Traveling to Lüneburg and Accomodation