Post-Digital Cultures

What significance do new technologies, artificial intelligence or the blockchain have for us? – Debates on digitalisation and civil society
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Current Articles

Linguistic Identity Aymara in the Internet Age

Ruben Hilari Quispe hopes to firmly anchor the Aymara language and culture on the Internet. The Aymara live in the Qullasuyu region of Bolivia. Ruben introduces them to us here.

Photo: Jaqi Aru The Jaqi Aru Team in Tiwanaku in western Bolivia

Quantum Computing and Ethics “In Terms of Understandability, It’s Similar to a Standard Computer”

Digital progress always has a dark side too: facial recognition can be used for surveillance, and some forms of Artificial Intelligence discriminate against minorities. The next major technology advancement could be quantum mechanics. What can we expect? An interview with quantum physicist Tommaso Calarco from Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/dpa/Sven Hoppe Quantum computers are highly complex in mechanical terms, but the way they function from a user perspective is similar to standard computers.

Inclusion through Technology The Freedom of Virtual Worlds

Formats like virtual reality, the metaverse, or 3D animation can allow people with disabilities to walk, express themselves, or move. Uruguayan artist Fabián Barros experiments with virtual environments and talks about how technology can fuel inclusion.

© picture alliance / Westend61 | Jose Carlos Ichiro Virtual worlds as an opportunity for inclusion

Third Quantum Revolution The Radical Potential of Quantum

Quantum technology is becoming the “next big thing”. Many agree on that. But what does this mean for society, culture and the arts? A comprehensive analysis by Lucy Rose Sollitt.

Ent- 2022, commissioned by Light Art Space. The Evolution of Ent-: QX commissioned by arebyte Gallery. Photo credit: Max Colson. The Evolution of Ent-: QX, 2022, Libby Heaney, installation shots from arebyte Gallery.

Video Robots in Love – Robots and Pop Culture

A look at the history of the borderlands of pop culture and technology: How has the romantic relationship between humans and machines developed over the past decades?

© Goethe-Institut intro robots

Algorithm and Culture

Young Generation Reimagine AI

What purpose should artificial intelligence have and who should it serve? Young adults develop their vision for a future with artificial intelligence – a short film and selected statements.

Photo (detail): Vasin leenanuruksa; © Alamy Stock Photos / mauritius images Two girls with laptop and mobile phone; the photo is superimposed on a graphic in which various pictograms are connected by lines like a network.

Musicians and Machines How Machine Learning can create new Ways of making new Sounds

How can artists use AI and machine learning to their advantage? An interview with Jesse Engel, Research Scientist at Google Brain’s Magenta Project.

© Gann | McPHOTO/M. Gann/picture alliance (detail) 3D computer graphic, round cute robot rolling over a piano keyboard against black background

Artificial Intelligence Awful AI

In our modern world, nothing can escape the digital revolution. The way we commute, communicate and consume is controlled by code, and that code is growing increasingly intelligent. But artificial intelligence is by no means as fair or neutral as it may seem.
 

Photo (detail): © Adobe Artificial intelligence is by no means as fair or neutral as it may seem.

Artificial Intelligence in Journalism On the Hunt for Hidden Patterns

Even today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) already plays a key role in journalism: algorithms find stories in large data sets and automatically generate thousands of texts. Very soon, AI could become a critical infrastructure of media production.
 

Image (screenshot): Max Gruber © Better Images of AI / Ceci n'est pas une banane / CC-BY 4.0 “Bounding boxes” that Max Gruber has artistically and humorously depicted here.

Bias and Error When AI is biased

Over the past decade, we have come to spend much of our lives in the digital sphere – a sphere that is increasingly controlled by just a handful of corporations. These companies, unavoidable for most, exert a considerable amount of control over what we can see and say, as well as the types of tools available to us.

Photo (detail): © Adobe Whether it is being used for searches or automated content moderation: Artificial intelligence is only as useful as its underlying datasets.

Images and Bias What Do Normal People Look Like?

What is normal? And what constitutes a normal face? Our brains are constantly analyzing and classifying every face we encounter, and we as people are not alone in this. A whole field of science and technology analyzes these sub-attentive cognitive processes and breaks them down into statistical normalities. Through machine learning, facial recognition is even being used to categorize and predict human behavior.
 

Photo (detail): © Normalizi.ng What constitutes a “normal” face? The Normalizi.ng project is an experimental online research project using machine-learning to analyze and understand how we decide who looks more normal.

Democracy in the Digital Space “Be Careful What You Build”

Human rights lawyer and author Maureen Webb explains how “technical fixes” can exacerbate bias and discrimination, and how hackers are fighting to protect our democratic rights in the digital space.
 

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/Zoonar/Axel Bueckert The algorithms in facial recognition are anything but unbiased.

Emotion Recognition Technologies “We Cannot Begin to Talk About Benefits”

What does it imply when computers recognize and decode emotions? An interview with Alexa Hagerty, researcher on ethical issues in artificial intelligence at the University of Cambridge.

© Lena Ziyal Illustration: Three heads with different facial expressions

AI and the Book Market Machines that Write Novels?

Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly important in the book industry too. Some hopes are realistic, while others are more science fiction.
 

Photo (detail): Donald Iain Smith © picture alliance / Bildagentur-online / Blend Images AI in the book market is largely still in its infancy. Whether AI will ever be in a position to write the next Harry Potter remains to be seen.

Food Waste AI Saving Food From the Bin

Germany has committed to halving food waste by 2030. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV are looking for artificial intelligence approaches that could get us closer to this goal. 

Photo (detail): © Adobe A lot of food can be saved from the bin.

Young Europeans and Artificial Intelligence Online Survey We and AI

What are the concerns and hopes of young Europeans about artificial intelligence? The study “We and AI” tried to find out. Emilija Gagrčin, one of the authors, talks about expected and surprising results in an interview.

Illustration: © Lena Ziyal Online survey We & AI

AI and Psychology “The Fact That We Gain a Little Does Not Justify the Fact That We Lose a Lot”

Artificial intelligence is like a mother who arranges everything for us, – says psychologist Pavla Koucká. If we are not careful, we will end up like spoiled children – dependent and unable to develop real relationships. How can we make meaningful use of artificial intelligence while continuing to develop as humans?

Photo: © privat Psychologist Pavla Koucká

Intimacy and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Algorithmic Culture

AI is profoundly shaping culture. Rather than fearing machines that surpass human intelligence, we might consider how human beings are being asked to act more like machines. How might a reconnection to the body, to landscape, and to experiences of diaspora suggest new possibilities?

Photo: © Marvin Luvualu AI

Artificial Intelligence and Art When Is Art Really Art?

Artificial intelligence making art puts a new spin on age-old questions, such as if AI art can really be called art, and who gets credit as the artist – the machine, the programmer or the person whose data was fed into the algorithm.

Photo (detail): © DeepArt When AI creates a painting, is it truly art? And who ultimately owns the copyright?

AI Development Taking the Outside Lane

Europe has fallen behind in artificial intelligence (AI) development, but this disadvantage may soon become an advantage.

Photo (detail): S. Ziese © picture alliance /Zoonar Is Europe lagging behind China in AI development? Either way, this German Chinese restaurant employs intelligent service robots.

Artificial Intelligence The Machine that Unleashes Our Creativity

British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy is convinced that artificial intelligence (AI) can be as creative as humans and might even attain a state of consciousness in future: a discussion on the current creative limitations of AI, its ability to surprise us, and how AI changes the way our species is looking at its own creativity.

Photo (detail): © private Could an algorithm write music to rival Bach? The performance “Gödel Escher Bach” at the Barbican Performing Arts Centre in London.

Cultural Expression and Machine Learning The Wolf We Feed

Whether it is composing music or painting pictures, artificial intelligence has the technical and creative capacity to make art. Argentinian publisher Octavio Kulesz predicts this could lead to an explosion of creativity and increased market concentration at the same time.

Photo (detail): © Adobe Whether it is composing music or painting pictures, artificial intelligence has the technical and creative capacity to make art.

Ethics and Law “Let’s Decide on Our Own European Standards and Stick to Them”

Do we need to establish common standards for artificial intelligence? In this interview, Karen Yeung, Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics at the University of Birmingham, explains why the legal regulation of technological developments is crucial – and urgent.

Photo (detail): © Adobe Do we need to establish common ethical standards for artificial intelligence?

Education Lessons to learn

What do young people need to know about artificial intelligence (AI) in order to use it responsibly and make informed decisions? Stephanie Hankey, co-founder of the Tactical Tech non-governmental organisation (NGO), talks about her experiences with young digital natives and the need for educational institutions and civil society to join forces to promote digital literacy.

Photo (detail): © David Mirzoeff / Tactical Tech Lessons to learn: Impression of Tactical Tech’s “The Glass Room” project.

Artificial Intelligence and Covid “AI is Not a Magic Bullet”

What place does artificial intelligence have in the health sector, where human interaction is so important? In our interview, scientist Rahul Panicker points out some of the problems of AI - and how it could still help us in times of pandemics.

Photo (detail): Engin Akyurt © Unsplash A woman with a mask looks at her smartphone.

Artificial Intelligence and Peace “We Need the Political Will”

When people think of the use of AI in warfare, most of them think of “killer robots”, drones. But could it also be used for peacekeeping operations? In our interview, Angela Kane, former Under-Secretary-General of the UN, explains the implementation of AI in UN-operations and its up and downsides.

Photo (detail): Sascha Steinach © picture alliance / ZB A graffiti of a war drone with a palm leaf in Geneva.

Fighting Against Climate Change “The Question Remains: Are We too Slow?”

We are in the midst of climate change and must use AI to tackle this challenge, says deputy director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre Victor Galaz. At the same time, AI technologies are used to harm the climate further. How can we find a balance between these poles?

Photo (detail): Westend61/Florian Kopp © picture alliance Tree stumps in front of the burning Amazon rainforest

Artificial Intelligence Master or Minion?

Will Artificial Intelligence rule humanity at some point? – On the insurmountable distinctions between humans and machines. An essay by Peter Glaser.

Photo (detail): © Adobe Artificial Intelligence

Digital Civil Society

Digital Natives Childhood in the Era of Surveillance

Children and youth are the victims of excessive data collection by online applications. However, children and adolescents in Europe enjoy higher levels of data privacy and protection than those who live in what is called the Global South.

Photo (detail): Michele Ursi © mauritius images/Alamy Stock Photos A mobile device with several social media apps on the screen, very dark in the foreground a thumb and a finger

Feminism Online Digital Space and an Intersectional Feminist Future

The internet as we know it is shaped by algorithms based on a patriarchal and (neo-)colonial value system. Our author Francesca Schmidt argues in favour of feminist intervention to make society more equitable both on and offline.
 

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/Xinhua News Agency/Zheng Huansong Two women in front of a colourful background one with VR glasses

Digitalization in Latin America “Technologies alone won’t suffice to safeguard liberties”

Is the Internet merely a reflection of the current political and social decline in much of Latin America or a bastion of creative and expressive freedom in the region? We asked Germán Rey, a Colombian expert on media, communication and culture.

Photo (detail): GES-Sportfoto; © picture alliance / augenklick/GES-Sportfoto Children playing with a computer game in the favela

Home Office The Hybrid Generation

It isn’t just the big international tech corporations who are holding heated discussions about staff returning to the office in summer 2022. Plenty of employees would like to remain at home in Germany too: what makes the home office so attractive?
 

Photo (detail): © picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com / Erik Mcgregor Nick Holzthum from New York is dependent on a wheelchair, but at the Parkchester underground stop in the Bronx he is forced to crawl to the platform. Although the subway station was renovated in 2010 and since then the entrance has been at ground level with an automatic barrier for passengers who have wheelchairs, prams and wheeled luggage – there are no lifts to access the train level.

The “Uberization” of Work Is the Gig Economy a Growing Threat to Job Security?

During the Covid-19 lockdowns, the widespread use of “uberized” home delivery services threw more light on the “gig economy”, which uses digital platforms to put customers in touch with freelancers. Who works in this sector and what are these precarious jobs like?

Photo (detail): © frimufilms - fr.freepik.com Delivery service

Glitch Feminism As If Another World Is Briefly Shimmering Through

Working with a team of translators and literati, writer Ann Cotten co-translated the book “Glitch Feminism” by US-American Legacy Russell. What does translate a book like this into German involve? And what is glitch feminism exactly? 

Photo (detail): © Adobe Are the mistakes,  the glitches, an opportunity to escape categories and liberate the body?

Meme Tactis Fighting Algorithmic Censorship

How artists and activists from under-heard and under-represented communities are using technology, memes, and a variety of tactics to subvert algorithmic censorship and media bias to ensure they get their messages across.
 

Photo (detail): Patrizia Cortellessa © picture alliance / Pacific Press How do you draw the world’s attention to overlooked injustices when mainstream media is optimized for mindless clicking? One tactic is to produce highly clickable social media images: women performing the flash mob dance “El violador eres tú” in Rome, Italy.

AI Stereotypes De-biasing Translation Tools

Many people routinely use machine translation services like Google Translate to translate text into another language. But these tools also often reflect social bias.

Photo (detail): Alexander Limbach © picture alliance / Zoonar A white robotic hand next to a button with speech bubbles on it and the German and UK flag next to it.

Criminal liability in the digital space Online Violence

Supposedly funny images on Facebook, a fake dating profile on Tinder, insults on Twitter: in this interview, Anna Wegscheider from advisory organisation Hate-Aid discusses gender-specific differences in digital violence and the slow-moving judiciary.

Photo (detail): Ben Queenborough © picture alliance / empics A large badge from the UK charity Girlguiding with the words “Online harm is real harm. End it now” printed onto the material.

Mis- and Disinformation Playing “Fight for the Net”

The “Fight for the Net” card game exposes the methods and motives of the actors behind misinformation. Creators Elena Falomo and Matthias C. Kettemann talk about the game’s backstory, aims, and mechanics.
 

Photo (detail): Patrick Daxenbichler; © picture alliance / Zoonar How and why is misinformation spread? The card game “Fight for the Net” explains the mechanisms in a playful way.

Loyalty versus Fairness The Psychological Dimension of Whistleblowing

Whistleblowers seem to have a strong sense of justice and freedom. But what motivates them to turn in their employers or state officials? Psychologist Mark Travers presents four insights that tap into government secrecy, transparency and whistleblowing.

Photo (detail): Sachelle Babbar © picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com Protesters with a whistle-like costume at a Demonstration against the Munich Security Conference

Cyberactivism “You Need to be Seen by the Real World”

Protesting in person is not always an option for activists in countries where protests are heavily restricted. How can activists bring attention to issues in other spaces, such as online? Arshak Makichyan, a climate activist from Moscow, discusses his experiences with protesting in Russia both on- and offline.

Photo (detail): © Yakov Koleichuk Arshak Makichyan holding a burning cardboard sign which says “You are building the roads to climate collapse”

Data Protection A Society Is More Than the Sum of Its Individuals

Facebook, Siri or Alexa – where artificial intelligence technology is concerned people often complain that there is insufficient protection of privacy. But intelligent systems are less interested in individual data than in generalising and standardising the life contexts they are automating. 

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/Goldman What happens when apps become our new urban architects? The reason we urgently need to modify the regulation of digital applications.

Digital Services Act Taming the Data Kraken

The content we find on the internet – which search results, videos and social media posts come up first – is increasingly determined by a few giant internet corporations. As such, they influence not only our consumer behaviour, but also how we form our political opinions. The EU’s Digital Services Act is designed to ensure greater transparency.

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/Sergey Nivens/Shotshop Anger, fear, shock: Recommendation algorithms prioritise emotionalizing content – with significant consequences for how we form opinions on the web.

About the Future in Times of Crises HammamRadio, Your Feminist-Love Radio Station

What started as a coping mechanism turned out to be a powerful driving-force for thousands of womxn, non-binary, trans, and queer folk. While the world was going through lockdown, we decided to create a space to provide us, and the community we belong to, with hope, love, music and joy: HammamRadio.

Photo: © HammamRadio HammamRadio, feminist-love radio station

About the Future in Times of Crises Care in a Techno-Capitalist World

The Pirate Care initiative combines – in times of pandemic – the topics of care and technology to support people.

Photo: © Pirate Care Pirate Care

About the Future in Times of Crises Future Perfect Continuous

An uprising is underway in Belarus – against the government that has been in power for 26 years. Thoughts on the protest movement, today's “post” time and the future.

Photo: © Alesia Zhitkevich Future Perfect Continuous

About the Future in Times of Crises Be Water – Insights into the Hong Kong Citizen Protest Movement

An interview with curator Joel Kwong and artist Eric Siu about solidarity, collective intelligence and being water during the mass protests in Hong Kong in 2019-2020.

Graphic (detail): © Eric Siu Be Water

About the Future in Times of Crises Venezuela – the Dual Crisis

​Vanessa Blanco and Daniela Ropero are two young women who are fighting for a fairer Venezuela. In our interview, the two talk to us about challenges and hopes in a country that finds itself in a permanent state of political and economic crisis.

Photo (detail): Joven Pride Joven Pride

About the Future in Times of Crises One Vision, One World. – Whose World Then?

Vândria Borari, an indigenous leader, lawyer and human rights defender, joined Camila Nobrega, a researcher and journalist working on social-environmental justice, to discuss their visions for a sustainable and just internet.

Photo: © Vândria Borari Vândria Borari

About the Future in Times of Crises Play, Imagine, Build – the Collective Verbs

The organisation Fields of View describes how they playfully get very different people in India to engage in conversation.

Photo: © Fields of View Fields of View

Politics in the Digital Age The Zero-One Game – Politics as a Game

Politics is a serious business. It’s about money, power and resources. At present, and this is new in terms of cultural history, even our existence itself is at stake, i.e. the question of whether and how long people will still be able to live on this planet. At the same time, however, in this digital age politics is mutating more and more into a game. Signs without meaning are plying a nefarious trade.

Photo (detail): Valentin Wolf; © picture alliance / imageBROKER Screenshot of the Twitter profile of Donald Trump

Disinformation Hunting Down Fake News

In the worst case, targeted disinformation can become a real and present threat to our democracy. A number of initiatives in Germany have responded by taking on the mission of fact checking information on the net. 

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/Goldmann Installation in response to the 2020 US presidental election

Conspiracy Myths “It Will Wipe the Smile Right off Your Face”

People are more vulnerable to conspiracy ideologies when they fear a loss of control, making the corona pandemic the perfect storm. In an interview, political scientist and net activist Katharina Nocun explains how we should react when encountering people who subscribe to conspiracy theories.

Photo (detail): © picture alliance/Marc Vorwerk/SULUPRESS.DE Fear of losing control makes people more vulnerable to conspiracy ideologies. This is happening during the corona pandemic: participants at a so-called hygiene demonstration in Berlin expressing opposition to government measures to contain the pandemic.

Shift Society Exclusive Inclusion?

Why is the internet still full of barriers for people with disabilities? Or isn’t it? NGO founder Tiffany Brar, video influencer Daniel Jones, app developer Javier Montaner and researcher Shai Fuxman discuss the tensions between digital possibilities and their actual realisation – and what everyone in society can do.

Photo (detail): Markus Winkler © Unsplash The picture shows a typewriter with a piece of paper on which the word Equality has been typed.

Shift Society Retweet and Remember: Digital Approaches to the Holocaust

How does our digital age shape the memory of the Holocaust? Survivor Abba Naor, German scholar Ernst Hüttl, press officer of the Auschwitz Memorial Pawel Sawicki and student Emely Fuchs talk about experiences, opportunities and risks.

Photo (detail): NIR ELIAS © picture alliance / REUTERS Visitors with audio guides at Yad Vashem’s Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.

Technology and Future

AI Surveillance Technological Violence Through High-Risk Experiments at the Border

AI surveillance, drones, iris scanning: fleeing is often perceived as chaotic and confusing, but many states and border protection agencies know exactly who is moving where and when. Lawyer Petra Molnar specialises in technology and migration and sheds light on the techniques used to monitor refugees.

Photo (detail): © Petra Molnar New High Tech Refugee Camp

Quantum Computing Could Quantum Computers Save the Climate?

Some researchers think that quantum computers could one day help to reduce emissions drastically. Quantum physics and technology expert Emily Haworth explains the potential of a “quantum leap” – and why we’re better off not relying on it.

Photo (detail): © Adobe Performing computer operations in next to no time and it’s even climate-friendly: quantum computers will be able to contribute significantly towards the development of cleaner technologies in the future.

Digital Computing Power The Future of Digitalisation: Quantum and Neuromorphic Computing

Whether it is automatic speech recognition, self-driving cars or medical research: our need for computing power is constantly on the rise. Yet, the possibilities for increasing the performance of microchips will soon have reached their limit. So where do we go from here?
 

Photo (detail): © Forschungszentrum Jülich / Sascha Kreklau Are supercomputers a solution for more computing power? Currently the fastest supercomputer in Europe, JUWELS, at Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Self-driving Cars A Question of Individual Cases?

Who is responsible in an accident involving a self-driving car? A research centre at the University of Würzburg deals with precisely such techno-legal questions.

Photo (detail): Rupert Oberhäuser © picture alliance / Rupert Oberhäuser A small, autonomously driving electric bus at the city railway station. There are a few people waiting at the bus stop.

Aesthetics and Technology How Pop Culture Determines the Look of the Future

Humanoid robots, whether compliant or anarchic, are products of our pop culture: Metropolis, Star Wars, Jane Fonda and Missy Elliot, all of them design the futurisms of new technology and their aesthetics. Nowadays, they predict the look of the future dialectically with robotics.
 

Photo: © picture alliance / AFP A group of models in boots present short mini dresses with transparent tops during a fashion show by designer Andre Courreges.

Humanoide Robots “Tengai Assesses Everyone the Same Way”

How do you completely eliminate bias in recruiting situations? With robots - claims software developer Vanja Tufvesson. She has founded an NGO, which organizes Coding Camps for women-identifying people, and has worked on the development on the world’s first unbiased robot.

Photo (detail): © Tengai Unbiased Three robotic heads with human features, all called Tengai, next to each other

Social Robotics Learning How to Live With Robots

When machines become “social” interaction partners, we need to revisit our understanding of sociality. This is a conversation with the philosopher, Johanna Seibt, Aarhus University, who works in the new research area of “robophilosophy”​and launched the biennial conference, which in 2020 took place online from 18 to 21 August.

Photo (detail): picture alliance / BSIP | BSIP Older woman with folded hands sitting opposite a robot

Digitalisation in Art “Complexity is Beauty”

Virtual reality, 3D animation and robotics have long been used by theatre directors in other countries but they have yet to be embraced as tools of stagecraft in Germany. That is about to change. The new Akademie für Digitalität und Theater (Academy for Digitality and Theatre) in Dortmund is set to revolutionise the German theatrical landscape. 

Photo (detail): „Die Parallelwelt“, Kay Voges © Birgit Hupfeld / Schauspiel Dortmund What if Fred’s life had been different? At the premiere of Kay Voges’ Die Parallelwelt the audience saw two life stories at the same time – one performed live on stage, the other presented on a video screen.

Non-Fungible Tokens A Revolution in the Digital Art Market

A blockchain technology is making waves in the art scene. For the first time, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are making it possible to trade digital art just like paintings, sculptures or photographs – and charge equally high prices. We look at what non-fungible tokens are all about and how they can bring in so much money. 

Photo (detail): Jens Kalaene © picture alliance / dpa / dpa-Zentralbild There are entire exhibitions and galleries dedicated to NFT art, like this one at the Superchief Gallery NFT in New York 2021.

Virtual Reality in Museums When Dinosaurs Come to Life

Virtual Reality is taking over in museums. Natural science and art historical exhibition institutions open up unimagined dimensions with the new technology.

Photo (detail): © Städel Museum Project Zeitreise |  Städel Museum in 19th century

Smile to Vote A Smile Please... You Have Voted!

The media art project “Smile to Vote” revolves around a voting booth that scans faces and automates the vote-casting process. Its originator, artist Alexander Peterhaensel, criticises the increasing encroachment of technology on privacy. 

Photo (detail): © Alexander Peterhaensel 2017 Smile to Vote: Screenshot of the fictitious company website