SPT 2017: The Grammar of Things

June 14, 2017 - June 17, 2017
Department of Philosophy, Technische Universität Darmstadt

Darmstadtium conference center and Maschinenhaus/Altes Hauptgebaeude of the TU Darmstadt at the Kantplatz
Schlossgrabenstr. 1
Darmstadt 64283

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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  • DFG German Research Council


Sabine Ammon
Technische Universität Berlin

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Philosophers from 40 countries will present current work with special tracks on engineering knowledge, (post)phenomenology, technology and the city, philosophy in the anthropocene, philosophy of biomimicry, engineering ethics, design theory, and more.

Concerned with principles of composition and the integration of people and things in a technological working order, the conference features five plenary composition lectures by George Stiny (architectural shape grammars, MIT), Pamela Andanda (Law, University of Witwatersrand - on the integration of traditional knowledge in intellectual property regimes), Astrid Schwarz (BTU Cottbus - on gardening in the anthropocene, ) poet Christian Bök (pataphysician, crystallographer, producer of immortal xenotext), and Dagmar Schäfer (MPI Wissenschaftsgeschichte - on the standing of things in the Ming Dynasty). There will be plenary lectures also by Don Ihde and Shannon Vallor, and a special session sponsored and organized by acatech. 

When we talk and think about technology, we are talking about ars and techne, artefacts and socio-technical systems – and always about putting things together, co-ordinating people and things. Seeking to understand, interpret, and knowingly inhabit the human-built world, we explore what works together, how to construct, engineer, compose, grow, plan, assemble, or design in appropriate, fitting, sustainable, and sociable ways.

These are questions of grammar: How do things work together in the motor of a car, in a public square, in a soap opera, in the painting of a historic scene, in a deliberative process? What are the principles of composition in a musical score or a computer program? How closely are things related in an ‘Internet of Things’? What sustains the operation of a concrete machine? Who acts when a law is enforced, a plan realized, a code compiled, a script executed? How do users become designers, how do scientists become engineers, how do artefacts become moral agents?

Such examinations of the grammar of things implicate epistemology, social imaginaries, and design ethics. They provoke analysis from the various traditions in philosophy of technology and seek to draw on contributions from history of technology, cultural studies, design theory, anthropology, art history, cognitive psychology, computer science, engineering education and other fields.

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June 14, 2017, 9:00am CET

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