Black and white photo. A series of prototypes for handle shapes. On the left and right edges of the image is a hand, each of which is embracing and trying out a handle.

Technology and Anthropology. Engineering and Humanities in dialogue

Ongoing developments in the digitalization and informatization of industrial production as well as in our lifeworld(s) fundamentally change society and the image of humanity. In today’s world, cultural studies and the humanities are tasked with analyzing the complex problems of the ‘Industry 4.0’ and the collaboration between man and machine in everyday life. Research in this field thus focusses on both industrial artefacts (conventional industrial machinery, assistance systems, robotics) and on everyday technologies (smartphones, software applications, control systems, personal computers, the internet of things). This mostly comes down to an analysis of socio-technical negotiation processes concerning the relationship between ‘humankind and technology.’ Discussions on the relationship between man and machine contain an abundance of humanist and anthropologist terms. There are, for instance, demands for a ‘responsible’ technology which is not only to serve mankind and therefore assign humans a ‘central’ position, but they are also expected to increase ‘acceptance’ and ‘trust’ through ‘ethical reflection.’ Along with the emphatic ‘consideration’ of the human being, a philosophical topos has found its way into the technical sciences since the 1920s—a discourse which was influenced by philosophers such as Arnold Gehlen, Theodor Litt, or Simon Moser as well as by psychologists (Fritz Giese), physiologists (Richard Wagner), and control engineers (Hermann Schmidt).

Current research gives increasing attention to a successful interaction between man and machine. In this interaction, technology is supposed to convey trust and acceptance, reduce complexity, and assign a central position to humans. However, critical perspectives on the premises, implicit assumptions, and lines of continuity of these concepts are frequently disregarded. This interdisciplinary project aimed at enhancing our critical perspective by examining the dialogue between the humanities and cultural studies and engineering. Thus, the project opened up new perspectives on the current development of the interaction between man and machine.


Fig. above: Determining the natural shape of a control device. Source: Karl August Tramm, Psychotechnik und Taylor-System. Vol. 1, Berlin/Heidelberg 1921, 49

Carlo Barck Prize Scholarship 2017–2018
Head researcher(s): Kevin Liggieri


Kevin Liggieri

Zur Geschichte eines umstrittenen Begriffs

Konstanz University Press, Konstanz 2020, 364 pages
ISBN 978-3-8353-9117-8
  • Der Mensch als “logische Maschine”? Die Kybernetik und ihre Probleme, in: Andreas Oberprantacher, Anne Siegetsleitner (eds.): Mensch sein – Fundament, Imperativ, Floskel. Innsbruck: Innsbruck Uni Press 2017, 561–571
  • “Sinnfälligkeit der Bewegung” – Zur objektpsychotechnischen Anpassung der Arbeitsgeräte an den Menschen, in: Zeitschrift für Technikgeschichte 1 (2017), 29–62
  • Akzeptanz durch Anpassung? Mensch und Technik im philosophischen und wissenschaftshistorischem Kontext der Sinnfälligkeit, in: Robert Weidner i.a. (eds.): Zweite transdisziplinäre Konferenz zum Thema “Technische Unterstützungssysteme, die die Menschen wirklich wollen.” Hamburg 2016, 91–98


Panel discussion i.a. with Kevin Liggieri
07 Jun 2018 · 4.30 pm

Brain-Computer-Interface. Wenn Gedanken einen robotischen Arm steuern

City Cube Berlin, Messedamm 26, 14055 Berlin

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05 May 2018

Kevin Liggieri: Schmidt vs. Wiener. Zur Anthropologie der Regelungstechnik

Technische Universität Berlin, Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, Raum H 2036

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04 May 2018 · 2.30 pm

Kevin Liggieri: Unbehagen an der Technik

Helmut-Schmidt-Universität, Holstenhofweg 85, 22043 Hamburg

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Conference (organized by Kevin Liggieri)
07 Feb 2018 – 09 Feb 2018

Der ›Faktor Mensch‹ in der Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion. Schnittstellen zwischen Mensch und Technik aus geistes- und technikwissenschaftlichen Perspektiven

Blue Square, Kortumstraße 90, 44787 Bochum

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