Prof. Dr. Petra Löffler

Petra Löffler held positions as Professor for Cultural Techniques and History of Knowledge at Humboldt University, Berlin, and for Media Philosophy at Bauhaus University, Weimar. From 2008 to 2011 she was Assistant Professor at the Institute for Theater, Film and Media Studies at the University of Vienna, where she finished her habilitation with a study of the media history of distraction in 2012. In 2015/16 she was Senior Fellow at the IKKM in Weimar. She has been editor of Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft since 2009. Research Fields: media archaeology, image migration, archival practices, and media ecology. Recent publications: Verteilte Aufmerksamkeit. Eine Mediengeschichte der Zerstreuung, Zürich/Berlin (diaphanes) 2014; Ghosts of the City: A Spectrology of Cinematic Spaces, in: Communication+1, vol. 4 (2015), article 9 (online); Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft, 14 (2016): Medienökologien (with Florian Sprenger). 



World Simulations and the Knowledge of Ecology

Ecosystems are, following Arthur George Tansley’s definition, heuristic epistemic ensembles relating biotic and non-biotic agents in complex non-stable states. In scientific ecology, the observation and analysis of such complex ecosystems has been undertaken with the help of systems theory and cybernetics: In 1948 George Evelyn Hutchinson published his paper on „Circular Causal Systems in Ecology“, and in 1953 Eugene T. Odum’s “Fundamentals in Ecology” explicitly referred to Tansley’s term. Parallel with these theoretical approaches important ecological questions concerning the limits to growth, the finiteness of natural resources, and the negative outcomes of environmental pollution were raised. These issues were more and analyzed and modeled mathematically on a global scale. In this respect computer simulations played a crucial part. Jay W. Forrester, for instance, has worked at the MIT on world simulations since the 1950ies.

The research projects focuses on the interdependence between ecological knowledge, modeling of the world by computer simulations and political decision-making. It takes the influential report “The Limits to Growth”, which was first published in 1972, and its reissues in 1992 and 2004 as a starting point to reflect on changes in data collection, methods of modeling and generating prognoses. This micro-historical study tries to figure out how statistics and cybernetics shape ecological thinking and create future scenarios for political reasons as part of what can be called cultures of simulation.