Fellows SS 2016

Making sense of data

My project is a transdisciplinary investigation of how we deal with technological mediation processes and the immense amounts of data and digital formats that constitute our composite analogue/digital life-world. Focusing on both visualization and sonification processes, the project’s research scope involves the investigation of contemporary artistic and experimental design practices occupied with exploring digital formats, big data, protocols, and perceptual coding strategies. 

Big Data in der Soziologie

Ist die Soziologie in der Lage, die Änderungen in Form der Beobachtung der Gesellschaft, also der Soziologie selbst, zu beobachten? Mein Eindruck ist, dass die Entwicklung der Digitalisierung, anstatt sie zu beseitigen, die Kompetenzen und Fragen meiner Disziplin in den Vordergrund rückt, weil die Entwicklung der Technologie eine Reflexion über die Bedeutung und die Formen der Kommunikation erfordert (oft unabhängig von den Absichten der Beobachter). Wir brauchen einen Kommunikationsbegriff, der in der Lage ist, die laufenden Transformationen zu erfassen. Das kann heute nur die Soziologie liefern. Die – heute sehr verbreitete aber auch sehr undurchsichtige, zentrale Frage betrifft die Bedeutung von Big Data. Worum geht es eigentlich in Big Data?.

The Computational Decision

My current research activity concerns the history of computation and cybernetics, both to plumb the past and to assess its affect on the present. Using historical investigations into the work of Albert Londe, John von Neumann, Nils Aall Barricelli, and Guy Debord, I examine the conditions of possibility for cybernetic society. Of particular interest is the formation of systems containing discrete entities, the organization of entities into systems, and the regularization of difference within the system overall.

IT-Politik und Governance der Simulation

Während des Forschungsaufenthaltes am MECS setzt sich Petra Gehring mit methodologischen Fragen einer sozial- und geisteswissenschaftlichen Begleitforschung für die Computersimulation auseinander und beschäftigt sich mit möglichen theoretischen Zugriffen auf Dimensionen einer Politik – auch im Sinne von: Governance ‒ der Computersimulation.

Software Infrastructures and Desig

My project is to elucidate the emergence of a new infrastructural condition for design practices linked to software and digital networks, and to develop a theoretical and methodological framework for the study of the new modes of design that it has elicited. It extends my previous work on the intellectual history of Computer-Aided Design in the United States and on new data tools for visualizing building design as a socio-digital phenomenon.

The Computation of Energy Conservation

At MECS I hope to more fully address the computational history of energy conservation, and the simulation of energy demand, and to reflect upon this engagement with the support of the MECS community. Before working at RAND, Roberts’ was taught by computer scientist Dana Scott (1932-) whose work on finite automata was closely linked to Alan Turing’s work on ‘universal machines’ and Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitt’s work on ‘neural nets’. Given the significance of these figures in the history of computing, I wish to explore the relation between Roberts’ work and the wider intellectual history of automation and simulation. Alongside this genealogical work, I hope to be able to reconstruct aspects of Roberts’ energy demand forecasting model, and to reflect on this simulation to reconsider the relation between computation and the political economy of energy resources.

Searching for laws on agent-based simulations: what for?

The correlated debates on explanation and causality in agent-based models have contributed to the recent shift of the epistemological focus from laws to mechanisms in biology and social sciences. But, at the same time, some research programs still try to go a step further or - which could seem controversial - to go back to what could be called again «laws». What for?

Computer Simulation in Climate Science

Despite the relevance of climate science to one of society’s most pressing problems, and despite the fact that climate science exemplifies one of the most significant developments in the sciences over the last fifty years - the explosive growth of techniques of computer simulation - it has only very recently begun to attract attention from philosophy. There exists nothing like, moreover, a systematic treatment of the philosophical problems of climate science. During my time at the mecs, I will be working to remedy this.  I will be working on philosophical issues in climate science, climate modeling, climate simulation, and in the application of climate modeling to inform policy.