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Subject: PhD summer school "Technologies and Their Environments"
From: "Hard, Prof. Mikael" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Tue, 13 Feb 2007 12:01:16 +0100

text/plain (155 lines)


to the
Interdisciplinary PhD Summer School

Technologies and their Environments:
The Circulation of Materials, People, and Knowledge in 20th-Century Europe

organized by
the Graduate School "Topology of Technology"
the International Collaborative Network "Tensions of Europe"

This interdisciplinary PhD summer school explores the embedding of modern
technologies in their environments through concepts such as "circulation,"
"metabolism," and "ubiquity." Focusing on 20th-century Europe, it
investigates how technology has become so closely intertwined with its
surroundings that the old distinction between culture and nature no longer
seems to make sense. Rivers like the Rhine have been turned into traffic
arteries, and Scandinavian forests have been transformed into plantations.
To supply Europe with fresh tomatoes and masses of tourists with fresh
water, Andalusian wells are nowadays drilled up to 1 km deep and surface
water is being piped in from ever more distant areas. Quickened by the
globalization of the world's economy and the internationalization of
engineering knowledge, technologies now span the world and threaten to
reduce the earth to little more than a source of raw materials. Fresh air
and water—what in Europe used to be called "common goods"—are not only
becoming increasingly rare, but also increasingly commercialized.

The summer school explicitly problematizes and historizes these
developments. It asks how the situation just described has evolved and by
what means these negative developments may be arrested or deflected. Its
focus lies on 20th-century Europe, but comparisons with other parts of the
globe will also be undertaken and the successive globalization of
environmental problems will be discussed.

The one-week course takes familiar discourses as its point of departure. For
example, critical philosophers, historians, and sociologists have for some
time now analyzed our dependence on technology by speaking of a "second
nature," and concerned scientists and engineers have tried to reduce the
“environmental impact” of production processes and products. In technology
studies concepts such as "infrastructure," "system," and "network" have been
applied to analyze the close relationship between technology and society,
and in environmental studies the impact of our lifestyle has been
investigated by means of a concept like "ecological footprint."

The organizers of the summer school acknowledge the importance of these
approaches, but wish to go one step further. By exploring the potentials of
the so-called spatial turn in the social sciences and the humanities, they
hope to contribute both theoretically and methodologically to the
development of a "topology of technology." This implies that we encourage
applications from PhD students who deal with spatial aspects of technology.
Students who are interested in the potential of a topological approach for
understanding the technological integration of Europe are especially

The organizers invite PhD candidates from various fields to spend one week
together to discuss the historical origins and future challenges of a system
that has become increasingly problematic to sustain. Only by combining
insights and perspectives from several disciplines will it be possible to
increase our awareness of the increasing omni-presence of technological
systems and products in various environments. The program is deliberately
interdisciplinary, and the teachers come from history, sociology, and

Time and Place

The summer school will be held 8–13 July, 2007, at the Jakobsberg monastery,
beautifully situated, overlooking the Rhine valley, ca. 40 km west of
Frankfurt (


The course will be taught by teachers from three countries and representing
three disciplines:
- Sabine Barles, Paris, France
- Cornelis Disco, Twente, Netherlands
- Mikael Hård, Darmstadt, Germany
- Dieter Schott, Darmstadt, Germany
- Wilhelm Urban, Darmstadt, Germany
- Heike Weber, Darmstadt, Germany
All teachers will be present throughout the whole week and will, in addition
to giving a plenary lecture, be available for group discussions and for
participation in the presentation of the individual PhD projects.

Program Structure

The topics of the five days are:
Monday, 9 July: Circulation and Metabolism as Analytic Concepts
Tuesday, 10 July: Resource Management in Europe and Overseas
Wednesday, 11 July: The Industrialization of Nature
Thursday, 12 July: Streams of Waste in the Consumer Society
Friday, 13 July: The Spatial Turn in Technology Studies: Summary and Outlook

The program consists of:
- plenary lectures (45 min.) given by the teachers, and additional time (30
min.) for questions and discussion
- group discussions (45 min.) on the basis of the lectures and
pre-circulated reading material (a total of 6 groups, each joined by one of
the teachers, minutes to be kept by one participant)
- presentations (20 min.) by PhD candidates of individual projects (in 2
parallel sessions), followed by discussion (20 min.)
- an excursion on the Rhine
- shared meals and social events

Requirements and Credits
All participating PhD candidates are expected
-	to read the provided set of texts (ca. 300 pages) in preparation for the
-	to take an active part in discussions
-	to give a 20-minute oral presentation in English on their dissertation
In addition, those students who wish to receive a diploma need to submit a
15-page (6,000 words) paper in English on one aspect of their dissertation
or on a topic discussed in the course before 15 Sept., 2007. Students who
fulfill all these requirements will receive a diploma for 6 ECTS credits
(work load: 180 hours) from the organizers.


The summer school is organized by the graduate school "Topology of
Technology," a newly established program at Darmstadt University of
Technology, funded by the German Research Council (DFG)
(, and by the international
collaborative network and research program "Tensions of Europe," coordinated
by the Foundation for the History of Technology at Eindhoven University of
Technology ( The goal of the interdisciplinary
graduate school is to improve our knowledge of the spatial aspects of
technical change and usage. In the Tensions of Europe research network the
ambition is to get a better understanding of the emergence of Europe by
using concepts such as circulation and appropriation of technologies and


The participation fee amounts to 195 €, incl. (subsidized) accommodation for
five nights in a double-room and full board, but excl. travel costs. All
additional local costs will be carried by "Topology of Technology" and
"Tensions of Europe." PhD candidates who are not able to raise the necessary
amount for travel and lodging may apply for funds.


PhD candidates interested in the topic are invited to apply. An application,
including a curriculum vitae and a one-page abstract of the PhD project,
should be submitted no later than Tuesday, 10 April 2007, to
[log in to unmask] Applications for travel grants or fee waivers
have to be accompanied by a declaration of the candidate's economic
situation and institutional affiliation.

The summer school is planned for 34 participants. In case more students
apply, the organizers reserve for themselves the right to make a suitable
selection. Please direct any questions you might have to Mikael Hård
([log in to unmask], tel. +49-61 51 16 30 97) or Dieter Schott
([log in to unmask], tel. +49-61 51 16 20 44).

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