This seminar offers concepts and context for critically examining events and dynamics in the cultural production of our time and place. Through weekly readings, presentations and discussion we will deepen and expand our grasp of certain core concepts of cultural studies:  "culture", "culture industry", "cultural technique" (Kulturtechnik) and "cultural labor". As these concepts take form through our readings and exchange, we will apply them to an examination of current phenomena, questioning how we produce culture today - in our digital world, viewed from Berlin in 2021. With tools of sociology and critical theory we will focus on digital concept design in particular as a function or role grown prominent in culture and the so-called cultural economy today. Analogous to the role of architect as it emerged in the Renaissance and often intersecting with it today in practice, digital concept design emerges for the 21st Century out of dispersed practices (communications design, advertising, information architecture, user experience design, digital interface and interaction design, digital product design) to play an important role in the (micro and macro) processes known as digitalization. As a new cultural practice and a new scriptural form, digital concept amounts to a new cultural technique (Kulturtechnik) whose study can yield important insights into the dynamics of cultural production today. 

To solidify our topic empirically, we will assemble a profile of the digital concept designer as this shows up on the labor market and in labor statistics on the cultural sector and creative industries in Europe and the US. We will consider Berlin as "creative city" and look to current local projects for examples of cultural production going on today.  In particular, as a case study and possible topic for student papers/projects, we will take the Humboldt Forum and its digital concept, developed between 2015 and the initial (digital) opening in Dec. 2020. The (digital) emergence of this new institution, hoping to open to visitors during the timeframe of our seminar, is a major event of cultural production with significance both in Berlin and internationally. As a case study, it can reveal a lot about our cultural moment, challenges and opportunities. In particular, the Humboldt Forum as cultural project poses a unique, complex and important challenge to the new competences, tools and technologies available for "digitalizing" culture and cultural heritage. Thus it can be a vital mirror for thinking the present and the future of culture under digitalization.

Readings from: T. Eagleton, C. Geertz, C. Stapenhorst, H. Bredekamp and P.K.Schuster, M. Horkeimer and T. Adorno, Think Tank of the EU Parliament, K. Ischebeck, F. Kittler, B. Siegert, K. Marx and S. Lash and A. Fung

Semester: SoSe 2021