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GCSC Keynote Lecture Series

The Role of the Digital in the Study of Culture.

New Horizons, Potentials, Challenges.

The GCSC Keynote Lecture Series is open to anyone interested in attending. To provide relevant topics for the diverse set of research interests pursued within the GCSC, the lectures in this series are positioned for an interdisciplinary spectrum of listeners and centred on current concepts, questions and theories within the study of culture.

The lectures are oriented according to the research areas of the GCSC and deliver theoretical and methodological impulses.

Download the programme of the current semester here

Winter Semester 2021/22

WiSe 2021/22: The Role of the Digital in the Study of Culture. New Horizons, Potentials, Challenges




David Lyon (Queen's University, Canada)

Pandemic Data: Surveillance Surge as Political Priority

09.11.2021, 18-20 (CET), online


The COVID-19 pandemic is both the most extensive—global—pandemic, prompting an unprecedented surveillance surge, comparable to post-9/11, but far larger. Some pandemic efforts are treated as “national security” matters. A collusion occurred of public health surveillance and a parallel expansion of surveillance centred on the domestic sphere. Remotely conducted activities such as shopping, learning and working all enjoy enhanced surveillance capacities. So “state” surveillance is significant, but also, “corporate” surveillance mushrooms with the two often working in tandem, through public-private agreements. Questions are raised about some public health surveillance such as contact-tracing and vaccination certificates, but few about the overall surveillance surge. If the increased surveillance remains in place as the pandemic subsides, this poses major political challenges. As well as indicating an urgent need to update already existing legal and regulatory instruments, a broader response is also required, to raise the profile of “data justice.” This points not only to the notion that “privacy” might be violated or “data protection” impugned, but that a more universal challenge has surfaced. As surveillance data is the means whereby people are made visible, represented and treated, “data justice” is a new political priority, to ensure fair treatment for all in an increasingly digital culture.



KNL Poster - Prof. Astrid Ensslin

Astrid Ensslin (University of Bergen, Norway)

Literary Gaming: Digital Culture Between Narrative Play and Electronic Literature

16.11.2021, 18-20 (CET), online


In this lecture, I introduce the concept of literary gaming as a way of understanding the hybrid media ecologies between lucidity (playfulness), narrativity and poetic expression in contemporary digital culture. Taking an aesthetic approach, I demonstrate how literary expression in digital-born media exceeds and subverts traditional notions of literature. Looking at examples of digital poetry and fiction, literary-narrative games and virtual reality installations, I showcase how concepts of worlding, multimodality, and procedurality open up entirely new hermeneutic, phenomenological and critical paradigms that require new, transdisciplinary research agendas for analyzing, understanding and co-creating  these complex works, and for exploring how they can help us address real-world questions and challenges.






 KNL Poster Prof. Marcello Vitali-Rosati


Marcello Vitali-Rosati (University of Montréal, Canada)

The Factory of Thinking: Protocols, Algorithms, Formats, and Worldviews

18.01.2022, 18-20 (CET), online


For some years now, there has been talk of a "new materialism". Criticizing the idea of metaphysics of Aristotelian origin which opposes form to matter, this current - if it is one - tries to return to the materiality of thinking: there is no form without matter, matter makes form, or even better, matter is form. To say it with Karen Barad: "matter matters". This means in particular that text is also always an inscribed text. A certain ideality of the notion of text such as it has circulated in the post-structuralist tradition is thus put to shame. Thinking is always an inscription, a text is always an inscription. And thus there are no neutral tools in the hands of a thinking mind, tools, protocols, formats... are thinking. Protocols, algorithms, formats think. How do they think? What do they think? Based in particular on the example of textual writing formats, I will try to show this fusion between technique and thinking and its cultural and political consequences. In particular I will analyze the format docx and the implications of writing with Microsoft Word, and I will present the text editor Stylo which was created in order to propose an alternative way of writing in the field of Human and Social sciences.




KNL Poster Prof. Peter Haslinger


Peter Haslinger (Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Germany)

 Memory Politics in the Digital Age

08.02.2022, 18-20 (CET), online


Digital communication and the digital representation of the past are obviously closely related to memory cultures, and by that also memory politics. However, we still need a model that systematically captures this complex and multi-layered interrelationship. Also, the digital revolution raises a lot of new questions about the futures of historical knowledge and – given the political development in countries like Russia or China – especially of memory politics. The aim of the presention is therefore to give an impulse for the development of a new conceptional approach for future research. It will start with the critical potential of Digital humanities approaches when it comes to analyzing current trends in memory politics, especially in the form of populisms from above. It will then take a look at examples from Eastern Europe to address the intersection between memory politics and digital knowledge spaces and media systems. From that point of view it will in the end shed some light on how digital communication might pro-actively help to foster a digital knowledge environment that is based on multiperspectvity and a critical and ethical approach to memory cultures.

Summer Semester 2021

SoSe 2021: The Role of the Digital in the Study of Culture. New Horizons, Potentials, Challenges.


Martin Eve (Birkbeck, University of London, UK)

Publishing, Power, and Praxis: Open Access and the Humanities

20.04.2021, 18.00-20.00, online

Academic publishing, a core part of any research activity, has become, in recent years, a highly politicised act. Boycotts have arisen against the major publishers – and particularly Elsevier – over claimed monopolistic practices. At the same time, the rise of open-access (OA) publishing has presented a series of social and economic challenges that are still unresolved. While it appears to yield great promise of universal access, for many researchers, the increasing number of mandates for open-access from centre-right governments appears to betray the argument that this form of dissemination could be of greater ethical import. Coupled with high article processing charges, OA appears emptied, in many ways, of any of its political force.
In this talk, Martin Paul Eve will talk about the ongoing debates around open-access publishing; the core challenges for the humanities disciplines in achieving better levels of access; and the implications of open, digital forms for the future of the scholarly monograph.


 See the recording in our Video Archive





Erik Born (Cornell University, USA)

The Digital University: Switches, Binaries, Polarization

25.05.2021, 18.00-20.00, online


To counter the narrative that the global pandemic merely accelerated an inevitable digital transition, we need a foundational critique of the mutual entanglements among higher education and media technology over the longue durée. This talk distills switches, binaries, and polarizations in ongoing debates about the “idea of a university,” putting a materialist theory of the university as a media system in dialogue with recent work in critical university studies. Even if the key social aspects of the digital order consist in automation, interactivity, and interconnectivity, it remains unclear whether a truly “free” and “open” university is possible in the digital age.

In this talk, Erik Born will examine the shifting historical alliances among the university, the book market, and the nation-state. Drawing on media history and theory as well as the emergent field of critical university studies, the talk aims to provide a space for discussing digitization and academic labor.


See the recording in our Video Archive


Dorothee Birke (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway)

Booktube and co.: An Introduction to Reading Culture on Social Media

01.06.2021, 18.00-20.00, online


We often hear that in the age of the digitalization, people no longer read books. What this juxtaposition of “online culture” and “book culture” ignores, however, is the fact that there is a growing group of readers who combine “old” and “new” media practices and use social media to structure and communicate their lives as book lovers. This talk presents the example of BookTube – a group of YouTube channels – in order to discuss how literary reading is `done` on social media. Which affordances of BookTube do the practitioners utilize for their reading? Does the printed book as an object still play a role in this context? To what extent do social media transform literary reading into a more social activity? And how does this relate to long-standing reading practices?

Join the lecture to find out more about the world of online book culture – and on the way reflect about your own reading practices in the age of digitalization.


 See the recording in our Video Archive





Annette Löseke (Bard College Berlin) & Katharina Lorenz (JLU)

The Politics of Code: Curating Cultural Heritage in the Digital. A conversation

06.07.2021, 18.00-20.00, online

In our exchange, we want to explore opportunities and challenges that come with employing digital technologies for presenting and facilitating engagement with cultural heritage. We will examine some of the curatorial and usage strategies at play at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Specifically, we will compare the historic reconstructions of the Pergamon Altar as they were and are displayed in the gallery with the current stand-alone, digitally-enabled Pergamon Panorama exhibition. Our aim is to tease out the respective capacities of analogue and digital exhibits for scaffolding immersion and interplay, pinpoint the curatorial blind spots that impact engagement with these displays, consider how these different settings shape highly politicised spaces, and experiment with alternative forms for presenting (contested) cultural heritage in the digital.