Prof. Sybille Krämer

Sybille Krämer is Professor of Philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin. From 2000-2006 she was Member of the 'Wissenschaftsrat', 2005-2008  permanent fellow Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, 2007-2014 Member of the Panel of the European Research Council, Brussels, 2008-2013 Chair of the 'Doctoral School': Notational Iconicity' and 2008 - 2012 Member of the Cluster of Excellence 'TOPOI. Space and Knowledge in Antiquity. Since 2009 Prof. Krämer is Member of the Senate of the DFG. Visiting professor:  TU Vienna, Austria, Max Reinhard Seminar Vienna Austria; University of Graz, Austria; Luzern University, Swiss, Zürich University Swiss; Tokyo University, Japan. Her research fields enfold: Philosophy of language, images and writing; mediaphilosophy;  diagrammatology; epistemology and theory of mind;  philosophy of culture; ethics and episteme of testimony. Recent and selected publications are: "Medium, Bote, Übertragung. Kleine Metaphysik der Medialität" 2008 (Frankfurt a.M.); ed. "Medien, Computer, Realität. Wirklichkeitsvorstellungen und Neue Medien" 2009, 4th edition (Frankfurt a.M.); ed. with H. Bredekamp: "Bild-Schrift-Zahl", 2008, 2nd edition (Munich).



Simulation of Flatness: Digitalization and the Cultural Technique of Flattening

My work at mecs includes one research project and two editing projects: (1) Research project: A reflection on aspects of the digital in the context of the 'cultural technique of flattening' under the title 'Simulation of Flatness'. (2) Editing project: The conception of a volume on Ada Lovelace, the 'first computer programmer', which will be published by Fink Verlag. (3) Publishing project: The completion of my monograph 'Cognition and Figuration: Principles of Diagrammatology', which will be published by Suhrkamp Verlag.

(1) Research Project
With the 'screen' interface, computer technology participates in a cultural technique of inscribed surfaces that has been widespread since time immemorial. Living in a three-dimensional world, we are surrounded by illustrated and inscribed surfaces whose use is so self-evident that we hardly ever notice the artificial form of spatiality that 'flatness' embodies. However, 'flattening' is a maxim not only for the symbolic worlds of texts and images, but also for the technical worlds of apparatuses: Advances in virtually all communication, information and networking technologies are also defined by the possibility of making devices that are consistently flatter. This is called the 'cultural technique of flattening'. This striking similarity in the development of our symbolic and technical worlds has hardly been thematized or examined until now.

Computer technology is therefore part of the cultural technique of flattening, which allows the design and use of tablets, smart phones, cell phones, etc. to build on familiar everyday practices from the age of literacy and the handling of texts and images. This also indicates that the connection between 'literacy' - understood as 'scribality' - and computer culture is in many ways closer than McLuhan or Flusser expected: Consider, for example, the constitutive role of the binary alphabet, the technique of programming, the emergence of new forms of transcribed orality in electronic communication, or the link as writing that moves itself, etc.

The thesis that underlies this research project is that the simulation of flatness constitutes an essential dimension of computer simulation itself. The role of flatness is therefore by no means limited to the interface design. Just as flattening is easy to grasp as an instrument-based dispositif of contemporary information and communication technology, so too is the role of flatness - thus the thesis - more deeply embedded in computer simulation than merely at the level of the interface technique. What needs to be examined is whether or not it can actually be proven that the implementation of time associated with simulation fundamentally overcomes the two-dimensionality associated with literacy.

At first glance, this hypothesis seems implausible: Flatness is a form of two-dimensional spatiality, yet computer simulation basically means the implementation of time in spatial structures. This allows images of numerical models to be produced and dynamics to be represented. The principle of flatness thus appears to be undermined and nullified in the computer simulation. What is the relationship between the role of spatiality and the role of temporality (self-movement), which is generally fundamental to the simulation? This should be discussed with regard to selected examples. A two-pronged approach will thereby be adopted:

(i) On the one hand, the basic question of what an algorithm is will be posed once again. Although an algorithm is a computable procedure for the execution of a rule - and thereby also an organizational form of time - the representation of an algorithm is constitutively connected to spatially organized scribality. Although algorithms and Turing machines are not identical, the role of spatiality and temporality at the 'fundamental level' of digitalization can be examined by way of example with the aid of the sequential procedure of the Turing machine and its flat tabular notation.

(ii) On the other hand, a simulation algorithm should be described in the context of the simulation of living systems in the form of 'cellular automata', as these 'automata' are spatial systems of gridded cells whose conditions always depend on the conditions of adjacent cells and whose transition into a new condition is predetermined by developmental rules (deterministic or stochastic). Such systems have the ability to self-replicate and can simulate the evolution of simple systems by virtue of an event that is not predictable despite the fact that the starting conditions and developmental rules are known. It is characteristic of this form of simulating artificial life that the topological and therefore spatial characteristics of flat neighborhoods are essential for the unfolding of the dynamics. How is the diagrammatically representable two-dimensionality of the gridded, cellular systems related to the digitally animated multidimensionality of the simulation?

(2) 'Ada Lovelace' Editing Project
To celebrate the 200th birthday of Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), the female mathematician who collaborated with Charles Babbage and wrote a program that calculated Bernoulli numbers using the machine Babbage designed, the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum will present an exhibition on Ada Lovelace that will be accompanied by this planned volume with essays on Ada Lovelace.

(3) Monograph: 'Cognition and Figuration: Principles of Diagrammatology'
This work is for the most part complete, but it must be made ready for publication.