Current Research Projects

Practices of Evidence for Technical Safety

Originators: Dr. Stefan Esselborn, Prof. Dr. Karin Zachmann

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The Language of Biofacts. Semantics and Materiality of High-Tech Cultivated Plants

The objective of the research association The Language of Biofacts is to develop, through the example of high-tech plants, a theoretically and empirically sound framework for the analysis and comprehension of biofacts as socio-technical objects in modern societies. In doing so we contribute to a deeper reflection on biofacts as well as a better comprehension of current conflicts in the agricultural and food sector.

As an interdisciplinary alliance of scientists from history, philosophy, sociology and industrial design, the research association comprises six sub-projects. The scientists are based at the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, the Technical University Braunschweig and the Technical University Munich. The coordination of the research association is situated at the Technical University Munich.

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Sub-project: Changing Object Semantics: From Hybrid Corn to Transgenic Corn

The focus of this project lies on the "language" of biofacts, and the analysis of changing semantics of corn. One key aspect is the question of how this crop changed its meaning through different discourses and practices (e.g. transition from the laboratory to the field) and in a historical perspective. The aim of historicizing corn is to open up perspectives of diachronic comparison, and to identify the continuities and breaks of this history. One question aims at understanding the ways of how genetic engineering changed well-established ideas on the interrelationship of nature and technique.

Originator: Dr. Franziska Torma

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Sub-project: Biofacts of the Atomic Age: Irradiated Organisms of the Agricultural and Food Sector in Projects of the Development Aid

The research project analyses the semantics and materiality of irradiated organisms in development aid projects during the transfer from Western to non-Western civilisation. It will be shown how biofacts of the atomic age became crystallisation cores of new networks that linked hithero seperated actants (UN-organisations, nuclear scientists, farmers, nuclear reactors etc.) in world regions far apart from each other in conflictual interaction and how thereby different ideas about technicity and naturalness were performed.

"Erinnerungsfluten". The Storm Flood of 1962 in Hamburg's Public Memory

Fixed in human memory as the “Great Flood,” the storm surge of 1962 represents a focal point of Hamburg’s identity. My research focuses on such patterns of remembrance and explores the heuristic potential of natural disasters for an “envirotechnical” history approach.   Using a wide variety of sources and in close collaboration with the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, the project aims to identify not only commemorative practices and political instrumentalizations but also engages in interdisciplinary dialogue over current challenges: disaster management, flood control, and the deepening of the River Elbe. Unfolding a multifaceted panorama of Hamburg’s disaster culture at the interface between environmental, technical, and urban history, "Erinnerungsfluten" offers both a unique case study as well as general insights into how societies deal with natural disasters.

Originator: Dr. Felix Mauch

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Technik der Moderne

Originator: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Wengenroth

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Digitalisation and Individualisation: modern information technologies and the transformation of interactions between food retailers and consumers in the New Food Economy

Originator: Prof. Dr. Karin Zachmann

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