Prof. Dr. Martin Schneider (Universität Paderborn, Management)
Prof. Dr. Claudia Öhlschläger (Universität Paderborn, Komparatistik)
Additional Cooperating Partners:
PD Dr. Alexander Dunst (Universität Paderborn, Amerikanistik)
Prof. Dr. Kirsten Thommes (Universität Paderborn, Management)
Prof. Dr. Isolde Schiffermüller (Universität Verona, Germanistik)
Dr. Sabine Bacouël-Jentjens (ISC Paris, Management)
This project examines discourses (defined as debates and knowledge orders) about the relations between humans and machines from the 1920s to the 2020s by combining perspectives from literary and cultural studies as well as economics and management. The project focuses on literary, anthropological, philosophical, sociological and economic images of “man” as a rational creature who brings forth technology, which may in turn threaten humanity. Technological achievements productively challenge humanity to become creative, but they can also replace human beings as productive forces or as a species altogether. The project pursues the following, interdisciplinary questions:
Which images of humanity emerge in the face of new digital technologies? Do intelligent machines, according to these images, support human beings, or do they change, substitute or even endanger them as a species? Which images of humanity were brought forth by the first industrial machine age during the 1920s and how did these tap into the tradition of humanistic ideas? In which ways were enlightenment, rationality and progress subjected to a critical revision in the aftermath of the 1920s, especially in the development of “critical theory” after World War II? In which ways are these historical conceptions of man and machine related to contemporary perspectives? In how far do they complement or contradict each other?
The uniqueness of this project rests on two characteristics, namely (1) that the focus will be on images of man in relation to technology and machine, and (2) that, in addition to scholarly accounts, we will also consider popular statements on man-machine relations in films, essays and other non-academic forms of text. In the realm of management, such texts include company ethics codes, publicity announcements and statements made by company executives in interviews or in management books. In the realm of literary and cultural studies, similarly, interest focuses on essays, speeches, prefaces, philosophical treatises and the film as a medium of visual culture – all these “miniatures” (kleine Formen) and popular forms may help explore how humans and machines were imagined over time in anthropology, sociology, and social policy. This is because such hybrid texts generate cultural and economic knowledge in the interdisciplinary border region between theory, scholarly endeavours and popularization. Juxtaposing these texts will allow us to derive valid propositions on how man-machine relations transformed themselves historically.
The participants aim at developing a joint perspective and to find additional participants for a joint research proposal.