Travelling Codes 2017


Environmental science and, in particular, climate science is a highly international and interdisciplinary endeavor aiming at global coverage of environmental changes in long-term trends, and at global projections of possible future developments. Environmental problems such as unrestricted change in land cover and pollution on the one side, and the reduction of ecological resilience, the loss of biodiversity, regional inequity and vulnerability on the other, characterize the challenges and impacts of climate change as a global phenomenon with regional effects. Starting with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment 1972 in Stockholm the list of activities undertaken by the United Nations and others to articulate a response to growing environmental problems and to establish an infrastructure of worldwide coordination and negotiation for dealing with environmental issues is impressive. However, current developments in both climate science and politics question the focus on the globality of the ‘vast machine’ which climate science has become (Edwards, 2010), as calls have intensified for new forms of regional and local knowledge about the effects of climate change and efforts to tackle them, for instance in the form of regional ‘climate services‘. 

Against this background, this workshop seeks to use the metaphor of ‘traveling code‘ to make sense of what happens when climate science travels – whether in the form of mobile scientific tools, models, and software codes, circulating data sets and standards, or prominent artifacts like scientific images, knowledge claims or numerical targets. These forms and instances of traveling code encounter diverse cultural and political contexts which, on the one hand, involve a multitude of scientists, politicians, and citizens, with every community arguably incorporating and adapting the ‘codes’ of climate science differently. On the other hand, we may observe universalizing effects of ‘traveling codes’ – the smoothing of epistemic landscapes and the globalisation of scientific practice. This tension, between what we might call ‘localisation‘ and ‘globalisation‘, is of core interest for the workshop, along with the question of how exactly these ‘codes’ travel –through which social and media technologies– between different disciplines and knowledge cultures. What are the software codes, models, standards, data sets and images, the artifacts of climate science, that help us to understand and increasingly shape our world and future, and how have they migrated from their sites of production to new sites of application and interpretation? 

We propose the term »traveling codes« as a powerful metaphor that addresses general patterns of regional and local implementations and adaptations as well as the integrative potential of these codes as they knit together new, translocal communities of knowledge producers. These dynamics are best understood through case studies, for example on: 

  • the international exchange and regionalization of the software codes and algorithms of the models used for climate projections, 
  • the adaptation of the variety of codices of data formats and standards involved in climate science for regional and local uses, 
  • the transparency and interdependency of regimes of codification of knowledge on global, local and regional levels, 
  • the entanglement of discourses in different places and the integration of disciplines through shared models, 
  • the regional interpretation of images communicated by global media as visual codes of the statistical productions of climate science, 
  • the circulation of numerical policy targets and their associated calculative apparatuses.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

I: Travelling Codes in Modelling
Paul Edwards & Hélène Guillemot
Gabriele Gramelsberger: Introduction & Moderation

13.15Lunch at Café 9 on Campus
14.30II: Travelling Codes in Modelling and Visualization
Simon Hirsbrunner, Gabriele Gramelsberger
Arianna Borelli: Introduction & Moderation
17.00Keynote Lecture
Matthias Heymann (Aarhus University)
20.00Dinner (invited)
Friday, March 31, 2017
10.00III: Travelling Codes in Environmental Policy I
Catharina Landström, Helge Peters
Thomas Turnbull: Introduction & Moderation

Lunch at Café 9 on Campus

13.00IV: Travelling Codes in Environmental Policy II
Ronlyn Duncan & Marc Tadaki, Isabell Schrickel
Martin Mahony: Introduction & Moderation
15.00Final Discussion
Future Projects, Special Issue & Collaborations
17.00End of Conference, Departure 
Saturday, April 01, 017 (for your information)
11.00 - 14.00The Paris Agreement – Eine Lesung  


Arianna Borrelli, Institut für Philosophie, Literatur-, Wissenschafts- und Technikgeschichte, TU Berlin. Moderator Panel II 

Ronlyn Duncan, Department of Environmental Management, Lincoln University, New Zealand. Governing environments through code: updating knowledges, spatial politics, and the paradox of adaptive environmental policy (together with Marc Tadaki) 

Paul N. Edwards, School of Information / Dept. of History at University of Michigan, U.S. Model Intercomparison Projects as Organizational Forms 

Gabriele Gramelsberger, Fakultät für Kulturreflexion, University Witten / Herdecke, Germany. Travelling code in cloud parametrisation

Hélène Guillemot, CNRS, Centre Alexandre Koyré, Paris, France. The 1.5° long-term global temperature goal: production, debates and reframing

Matthias Heymann, Department of Mathematics – Science Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark. Cultures of Prediction: Towards an Understanding of the Hegemony of Climate Models

Simon Hirsbrunner, DFG Graduiertenkolleg Locating Media, University of Siegen, Germany. Situating climate futures. A reverse engineering of the visual science communication platform ClimateImpactsOnline

Catharina Landström, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK. Border troubles: Drought codes stuck in transit 

Martin Mahony, School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK. Moderator Panel IV 

Helge Peters, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK. Making habitat travel: classification and coding work in ecosystem modelling 

Isabell Schrickel, CCP | Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation, Leuphana University, Germany. Travelling Codes between East and West: European Environmental Connectives before 1989 

Marc Tadaki, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Canada. Governing environments through code: updating knowledges, spatial politics, and the paradox of adaptive environmental policy (together with Ronlyn Duncan) 

Thomas Turnbull, IEEE, Fellow in the History of Electrical and Computing Technology, US. Moderator Panel III

Conference venue
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Scharnhorststr. 1
Lecture Hall HS 5
21335 Lüneburg



Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS)
Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation (CCP | CGSC)



Concept & Organization
Gabriele Gramelsberger (MECS | Leuphana) 
Isabell Schrickel (CCP | CGSC) | Leuphana) 
Martin Mahony (School of Geography | University of Nottingham) 



The event is free and open to the public but registration is required. To register, please send an email to