HU Seminar: Digital Concept and Cultural Production

a seminar at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin – Institut für Kulturwissenschaft

Summer Semester 2021

Course Title:



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 grand (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: C. Geertz, T. Eagleton, 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

Format: wöchentliche Online-Treffen basiert auf wöchentlicher Text-Lektüre

  • Asynchron Video-Vorträge: vor jeder Sitzung wird ein Video-Vortrag zum Thema hochgeladen
  • Synchron-Termine per Zoom: Donnerstags 14:00 bis 16:00 vo 15.04.2021 bis 15.07.2021 (13.05. ist vorlesungsfrei)
  • Erster Termin: 15.04.2020, 14:00-16:00
  • Lektüre: Kerntext 10-20 S., plus Zusatzlektüre optional
  • Lesematerialien: Material im Moodle bzw. online
  • Sprache: Lektüre Deutsch und Englisch; Diskussion Deutsch und Englisch; Vorträge Englisch mit Deutsch
  • Aufgaben: für 3 ECT: Lektüre, Teilnahme an Diskussionen, ein Impuls-Vortrag, die Formulierung einer eigenen Fragestellung und für 5 ECT die Verfassung eines finalen Aufsatzes (10-15 SS.) bzw. eines finalen medialen Projekts
  • Evaluation: für 3 ECT Partizipation 60%, Impuls-Vortrag 40%; für 5 ECT: Aufsatz/Projekt 40%, Partizipation 40%, Impuls-Vortrag 20%;

Seminar: ()





reading: Clifford Geertz, Ch. 3 “The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man” from The Interpretation of Cultures 1973 (pp. 33-54)



reading: Carolin Stapenhorst, Ch.0 “A Notional Outline: from Aesthetic Norms to Conceptual Strategies”, and Ch. 1.1 “ The Need for a Transversal Language” in Concept: a Dialogic Intrument in Architectural Design, Berlin: Jovis-Verlag 2016 (SS. 9-30)



reading: Horst Bredekamp/Pater-Klaus Schuster, “Die Idee des Humboldt Forums” Dokumentation der Beschlüsse in den Gremien” in Das Humboldt Forum: die Wiedergewinnung einer Idee, Eds. Bredekamp und Schuster, Berlin: Wagenbach 2016 SS. 11-15


  • Achtung: 13.05. Vorlesungsfrei



reading: Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, “Kulturindustrie: Aufklärung als Massenbetrug” in Dialektik der Aufklärung: Philosophische Fragmente, Fischer 1969 SS. 139-189



possible invited guest:    

reading: “Employment in the cultural and creative sectors”, Briefing of the Think Tank of         the European Parliament, 2019 (SS.1-12)



reading: Katja Ischebeck, “Was Sie über Konzepte wissen sollten” in Erfolgreiche Konzepte: eine Praxisanleitung in 6 Schritten, Offenbach: Gabal-Verlag 5. Auflage 2019 (SS. 11-35).



No new readings – Input from student projects; final sessions will be conducted as organised discussions around an analysis and evaluation of chosen aspects of the Humboldt Forum as digital cultural project, possibly with a round-table of invited guests:


reading: Friedirech Kittler “Signal _ Rausch _ Abstand” in Die Wahrheit der technischen Welt. Essays zur Genealogie der Gegenwart, Berlin: Suhrkamp 2013, SS.214-231



reading: Bernhard Siegert, “Cultural Techniques: Or the End of the Intellectual Postwar Era in German Media Theory”, Theory, Culture & Society 30(6) 48–65 2013



reading:  Karl Marx, “Wage Labour and Capital” in The Marx-Engels Reader ed. Robert C. Tucker, New York: Norton 1978 203-217 English / Deutsch



reading: Scott Lash and Anthony Fung, “Cognitive Capitalism and Creative Industry” in The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism Part 3 Ed. Warren Neidich, Berlin: Archive Books 2014




An extended bibliography: (under construction)


  • Katja Ischebeck, Erfolgreiche Konzepte: eine Praxisanleitung in 6 Schritten, Offenbach: Gabal-Verlag 5. Auflage 2019
  • Matthias Messerer, DIGITALE KONZEPTION: So führen Sie Ihre Anwendung zum Erfolg  2019
  • Ralf E. Strauß, Digitale Transformation: Strategie, Konzeption und Implementierung in der Unternehmenspraxis 2019
  • Carolin Stapenhorst, Concept: a Dialogic Intrument in Architectural Design, Berlin: Jovis-Verlag 2016
  • Majer Kefi, Information Technology Ethics: Concepts and Practices in the Digital World, Cambridge: Scholars Publishing 2015
  • Eds. Turkka Kalervo Keinonen, Roope Takala, Product Concept Design: A Review of the Conceptual Design of Products in Industry, Berlin: Springer 2010
  • Jean Piaget, La représentation du monde chez l’enfant, Presses Universitaires de France 1947
  • Edward E. Smith and Daniel N. Osherson (Eds.) An Invitation to Cognitive Science vol.3: Thinking, Cambridge: MIT 1995
  • Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, “Kulturindustrie: Aufklärung als Massenbetrug” in Dialektik der Aufklärung: Philosophische Fragmente, Fischer 1969
  • Eric Louw, The Media and Cultural Production, London: Sage Publications 2001
  • Eric Klinenberg and Claudio Benzecry, “Introduction: Cultural Production in a Digital Age” Cultural Production in a Digital Age Vol. 597, (Jan., 2005), The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Sage Publications pp. 6-18
  • Sybille Krämer (Hrsg.), Medien, Computer, Realität: Wirklichkeitsvorstellungen und neue Medien, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1998.
  • Friedrich Kittler, Die Wahrheit der technischen Welt. Essays zur Genealogie der Gegenwart, Berlin: Suhrkamp 2013
  • Ana Ofak (Herausgeber), Susanne Holl (Herausgeber), Friedrich Kittler (Herausgeber) Medien vor den Medien (Kulturtechnik) –  Berlin: Wilhelm Fink 2007
  • Medientheorien: Eine philosophische Einführung eds. Alice Lagaay, David Lauer, Frankfurt: Campus Verlag  2004.
  • Susanne Pütz (Hrsg.), Metzler Lexikon Medientheorie, Medienwissenschaft. Ansätze, Personen, Grundbegriffe.  Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler 2002.
  • Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Ilinca Iurascu and Jussi Parikka (Eds.), Theory, Culture & Society Issue 30 No.6 pp. Sage, 29 October 2013 (
  • Alexander Alberro, Blake Stimson Eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, Cambridge: MIT Press 2000
  • Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How it’s transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life,  New York: Perseus Book Group 2002
  • Jacques Rancière Le partage du sensible: esthétique et politique, Paris: La Fabrique-éditions 2000
  • Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019 (1977).
  • Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
  • Heinz Steinert, Culture Industry, Cambridge: Polity Press 2003.
  • Eds. Bredekamp und Schuster, Das Humboldt Forum: die Wiedergewinnung einer Idee, Berlin: Wagenbach 2016.
  • Barrett, M, Ideology and Cultural Production, London: Routledge 2020.
  • Edward B. Tylor Primitive Culture (1871)