Conference: Emerging Activity. Relating Things

Interdisciplinary Laboratory Image Knowledge Gestaltung
Humboldt-Universität, Berlin
16.02.2017 - 17.02.2017
Registration open until 31st Jan 2017

For centuries, self-motion attracted curiosity. While modernity attributed self-motion primarily to living beings, depriving nonorganic matter of activity, today biological movement inspires development of new robotic technologies that mimic selfmovement in nature. At the same time, activity in matter as such has been discovered by new feminist materialism as a research field in its own right, that challenges the modern dualism of active and passive that divide nature and genders. With this newly arisen interest in self-motion, debates once related to biological movement alone, reemerge and enter new fields in the sciences and humanities trying to tackle the phenomenon of self-motion.

The dichotomy between holistic and reductionist models, or top down and bottom up models using the terminology suggested by the historian of science Raphael Falk (2000), to explain movement in nature, is as old as the scientific study of organic movement itself. Current advances in the sciences and humanities demand a re-examination of this dichotomy. Increasingly powerful computer-based analyses of expanding data sets today enable us to produce more complex and dynamic descriptions of phenomena. The behaviors of complex systems on numerous levels, from composite materials through central nervous systems, to agglomerations of humans and the multiple potentialities of relations, become computable, thus ‘explicable’ from a reductionist perspective. On the other hand, statistical uncertainty and chaos theory became accepted doctrines in science with repercussions in humanities, fostering interest in complexity and emergence. The dichotomy between holistic models and reductionist ones to explain movement in nature currently disintegrates – but what comes instead? What is the potential of heuristics that contend the capacity for movement as intrinsic to any object? Are descriptions justified according to which movement is rather an issue of more or less complex relations between things? And are there ways to integrate a top down and bottom up perspective?

As the different ways to approach activity and self-motion are of equal importance to diverse disciplines in the sciences and humanities struggling with the conflict of a search for complexity while being in need of practical models, this interdisciplinary conference discusses the emergence of movement in historically grounded and interdisciplinary perspective. The conference aims to spotlight advantages of either perspective and challenges the mutual exclusivity of a reductionist versus holistic approach. Focal points of interest in this context are ascriptions of activity and passivity concerning material, social, and symbolic levels.

Registration open until 31st of January via email to Julia Weitzel:

Programme PDF here

Conference webpage here

COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on 'How Matter Comes to Matter'.

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With the changing of societies on local, national and international scales owing to economic, ecological, political and technological developments and crises, a reorganized academic landscape can be observed to be emerging. Scholarship strives to become increasingly interdisciplinary in order to grasp and examine the unfolding complexity of ongoing ecological, socio-cultural and politico-economic changes. Additionally, academics forge... Read more or find out Who's Who

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Working Groups focus on four key areas of research

Working Group One

Genealogies of New Materialisms; examines and intervenes in canonization processes by compiling a web-based bibliography, coordinating the OST 068/13 8 EN... Read more

Working Group Two

New Materialisms on the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences; seeks to develop new materialisms at the boundaries of the human and natural sciences. The group focuses on how European new materialisms can rework the ‘Two Cultures' gap... Read more

Working Group Three

New Materialisms Embracing the Creative Arts; brings together European researchers, artists, museum professionals, and other activists with a keen interest in the material... Read more

Working Group Four

New Materialisms Tackling Economical and Identity – Political Crises and Organizational Experiments... Read more


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COST Action IS1307

New Materialism —
Networking European Scholarship on 'How matter comes to matter’

An intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology
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