We focus on three fields of themes: Life in the Digital Age, Planet and Nature, and Home and Globalization. Each field is subdivided into four local areas which allow for concretization on a first level.
Take a look and see how these areas could be described.
Life in the Digital Age
Digital world, digital spaces – the Internet and our new Somewhere
Our new Somewhere, i.e. the digital world, is a place where we live new experiences, learn together with others, develop ideas, and discover new horizons. We must not, however, ignore the downsides of the digital world. There is a growing coarsening in public communication which manifests in hate, agitation and the incitement to violence. In the digital age, the Internet provides public spaces that we are able to master from a technical point of view, yet fail to act on with regard to its moral and legal aspects. How, then do we responsibly make use of freedom in digital spaces?
Prospects at the beginning of a new age – an exploration
Digitalization, digital transformation, and digital revolution are catchwords of our time. They promise fascinating opportunities to shape and improve human life. The developing technology is revolutionary in a fundamental sense. It does not mean setting oneself up as a prophet if one believes the digital revolution to be a signal event and the starting point of new developments in the evolution of planetary life. However, the opportunities that come with these developments do not implement themselves and, moreover, are far from being obvious. We thus need to reflect on what kinds of opportunities are essentially in reach.
The digital age and the anthropocene – opportunities and limits
Humans have become a new factor of influence on Planet Earth due to technological progress, the massive rise of the world’s population, and the development of modern societies which consistently consume more and more energy. It is against this background that the term anthropocene has arisen, meaning a new age dominated by humans. Until recently, biological, geological, and atmospheric processes were not affected by human civilizations. This has changed, since such processes are now dependent on what humans do and do not do. We thus have reason to ask how to discuss digital transformation within the context of the anthropocene, on the one hand, and to what degree humans (being part of nature) may undergo changes if the anthropocene affects us via its digital components, on the other.
Science, research, technology – visiting the machine room of digital transformation
Far from being independent from humans, digitalization is the result of pioneering spirit, scientific research, and technological developments. Digitalization is a human invention. We thus should be interested in understanding the scientific-technological machine room of the digital age as best as we can. Such an interest represents both a lust for fascination and the desire to let technological progress happen in compliance with rules. People are people because they shape their world and decide on what human life in the digital age should and should not be.
Planet and Nature
Going back to the beginning – a cosmological perspective on Planet Earth
Whereas religions tell us creation stories, contemporary cosmology tells us that our universe is 13.8 billion years old. From this perspective, there is, in some sense, a story that can be told from a scientific point of view. Such a story is grounded in lightning scientific progress by which we have come to obtain knowledge which, amongst other things, changed our understanding of space, time, and matter dramatically. What is wrong, then, with the idea of approaching Planet Earth from a cosmological perspective by which we seek to better understand ourselves?
A different beginning – the origin of life and its consequences
The story told about the evolution of the universe may be fascinating. Yet for many of us it appears to be less attractive than religious creation stories by which our personal lives obtain meaning in a certain sense. A story which is not meaningful in such a sense, many argue, cannot be a story that is worth being brought to mind and understood. This is even true with regard to another beginning, i.e. the presumed beginning of life on earth 3.6 billion years ago. From this perspective, humans, like life in general, originated from the primordial cell LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor). Since then many different paths of life have been explored through evolution. What is wrong, then, with the idea of considering these dimensions unbiasedly, driven by the willingness to marvel at the evolution of life?
Humans and diversity in understanding nature
The known is often at risk of becoming unknown. In some sense this is also true for nature, even though it appears obvious that nature is not man-made, as that would be culture. This common sense understanding of nature, though, is in no way a limit as humans have developed different conceptions of nature which are based on diverse ideologies and practical relationships towards nature. As a matter of consequence, we should deal with nature not only from a scientific point of view but also from an aesthetic, mythical, religious, and ethical understanding of nature.
Climate Change and the future of Planet Earth
There have always been significant changes to temperature and climate in the history of Planet Earth. The current climate change is therefore nothing new from a geological point of view. What is new, however, is that humans bear responsibility for climate change. Over the course of two centuries, the use of fossil fuels has reached a level by which the consequences for our climate can be measured and experienced. Temperatures are rising, polar ice sheets and glaciers are melting, the oceans are warming, hurricanes are becoming more frequent and powerful, regions are undergoing desertification, rates of extinction are on the increase, and mankind is threatened in an unprecedented way. There are, then, many reasons to make climate change the subject of discussion.
Home and Globalization
Reflecting on the idea of being home
The idea of being home somewhere has much to do with the desire for conversance and cultural identity. It speaks of people who find their everyday reality in regions they feel connected to. The desire for being home somewhere, some say, is the emotional world of the provinces or even the foundation from which nationalist ideology grows. For others, though, it is simply a harmless desire to feel at home somewhere. Still others argue that the idea of home and cosmopolitan open-mindedness are not mutually exclusive. A further approach is to deal critically with semantics and images as detected in both history and the present age.
The space of culture
The spaces where we live are quite different. Take, for example, Planet Earth where we live and remember that it is part of our solar system where we also live. The solar system, in turn, is part of a galaxy called the Milky Way in which billions of suns exist. In this regard, we live in the Milky Way. However, this galaxy is only one of billions of other galaxies in the universe. Are we not entitled to say from a cosmological point of view, then, that we live in this universe? Of course, we hardly make references to cosmic spaces in which we live. For we are more familiar with smaller scales: we live on one of the continents in a country where we live in cities, villages, or completely remotely. Humans, though, also live in nature, even though we tend to have different conceptions of such a life. The same is also true for culture, given that culture can be a space where we live, in one sense or another. In which case, what do we mean when we say that we live in a culture?
City – Countryside – World
A city is not a village and yet not a place where only globalization is reflected. Conversely, a village is not just a place where the idea of being at home predominates. A city is a space that is heterogeneous and offers many opportunities to combine past, present, and future. Such an approach is not necessarily focused on urbanity in the conventional sense of the word. Urban development has much to do with rethinking the rhythms of life and creating spaces in which the unexpected becomes suitable for daily use. In such a universe of thought, the question arises of how people can feel at home in cities. Moreover, we need to ask the other question of what it may mean to live in the countryside beyond clichés in times of increasing mobility.
Opportunities and challenges of globalization
Globalization was not planned and implemented one day. It is not a project for humankind that was conceived by a small group of individuals. Rather, globalization is a consequence of social, economic, and technological developments. From a political perspective, there was hope that globalization would mean a dissemination of democracy and that freedom would be both an economic and a political concept by which basic human rights are guaranteed. Prosperity and freedom are still at the heart of narratives which are intended to support globalization in the face of negative criticism. However, the negative effects of globalization have become so manifest that euphoria for globalization is clearly in decline. It is therefore of crucial importance that we continue to talk about the opportunities and challenges of globalization.
Once we have left
How we see things depends on what we experience and the situations we find ourselves in. Experiences make us view the world through different eyes. Thinking is also an experience which changes us and allows us to live our everyday lives differently generating new perspectives that have practical value for each and every one of us.
In the regions, our events ideally help to start processes by which people remain in a dialogue on the themes, challenges and problems of our time. It already means a great deal if the denkwerkstatt grenzenlos brings about the initialization of local projects. Of course, this is also true if our events have an impact on, and provide further inspiration to, pre-existing local projects
Documentation and research
Our events are grounded in research and science and are in turn the subject of documentation and research. We are keen for our own experiences to be of value in our work, viewing the events as a great opportunity to learn from others. To be prepared as effectively as possible, we work with our excellent partners in the sciences, cultural life, and civil society.