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Report Session for the seminar Knowing (in) the Anthropocene

Anthropocene Curriculum
Campus: The Technosphere Issue
2016, Apr 14, Thu — 2016, Apr 22, Fr

Reportsession for the seminar: "Knowing (in) the Anthropocene" - Rapporteur: Renzo Taddei, Moderation: Gabrielle Hecht

Is a different kind of technosphere possible? What forms of knowledge might a different technosphere require and engender? In order to explore such questions, we will take as our point of departure the Aerocene: a nascent, collaborative, speculative vision of the future.
The concept of the “technosphere” developed by Peter Haff refers to an emergent, semi-autonomous “sphere” of the Earth, comparable to the hydrosphere or biosphere, currently being produced by a planet in flux. A growing number of human and non-human entities are being locked into this technosphere, which itself is tied into an accelerating exploitation of fossil fuels and other material resources, and depends on particular forms of knowledge production. The sort of questions one should ask therefore are: Is a different kind of technosphere possible? What forms of knowledge might a different technosphere require and engender? In order to explore such questions, we will take as our point of departure the Aerocene: a nascent, collaborative, speculative vision of the future proposed by Berlin-based artist Tomás Saraceno. In the Aerocene, societies become untethered from the Earth’s surface. Instead of relying on the extraction of resources from the Earth’s subterranean sinks and combusting them, the Aerocene, by contrast, simply encloses volumes of ambient air in envelopes, and thereby embarks in a collaboration with elemental flows of energy and matter. The Aerocene performs experiments in lighter-than-air motion, without fossil fuels or refined gases, to sustain the movements of a range of aerostatic devices for scientific research, for human transport—or even for human habitation in what Saraceno terms Cloud Cities. The Aerocene invites us to develop new forms of collaborative knowledge production, which combine the sciences and humanities, craft and philosophy, speculation and sensory experience.
We will take the Aerocene as an alternative future technosphere, founded on a shift in the dominant global “thermodynamic imaginary” (Kiel Moe). Rather than immediately moving to technoscientific “solutions” and thereby implicitly consenting to a particular vision of the future, we will try to suspend entrenched disciplinary habits of thought and speculate about which future we actively wish to create. In exploring the Aerocene we will use techniques to unlearn ingrained, modernist “bifurcations” of thought (Alfred North Whitehead). We will develop forms of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity that resist the allure of prematurely integrated forms of knowledge and that instead experience creative agonism between modes and ontologies of knowing (Andrew Barry). In groups, participants will bring together a range of different kinds of knowledge in order to articulate alternative versions of the Aerocene, flesh out particular aspects of Aerocene living, tackle distinct knowledge challenges, or raise objections to the idea of the Aerocene as an alternative technosphere. Playing with these different kinds of knowledge, we will also explore the different ways of knowing and sensing that the Aerocene makes possible, as we capture ambient air, release its latent powers, and make our bodies sensitive to its elemental properties.

Anthropocene Curriculum | Campus: The Technosphere Issue, 100 Years of Now 2016

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