Modul 7: 532850 Seminar – CULTURE, MEDIA, CONCEPT.  A theory/practice seminar on the digital mediation of culture

Dr. Alan Prohm

Dienstag, 10–12 Uhr – Präsenz –  1st session: 25.10.Institutsbegäude – 0.03, Sophienstraße 22-22a (SO 22)

CULTURE : MEDIA : CONCEPT – a theory/practice seminar

This seminar / workshop invites participants into a process for deeping understanding of key concepts and practices in the digital mediation of culture, in the interests of a greater shared awarenes and agency within the overwhelming, epochal processes we refer to generally as digitalization.

In lectures, readings, site visits and group discussion, the course offers useful theoretical bases for approaching digitalization as a/the process at work on culture today. It practices critical skills for exploring and evaluating digital mediations of cultural heritage (both on-site at Berlin museums and online). And it empowers scholars/thinkers/artists/designers as producers of digital culture mediations with practical tools for developing and pitching effective concepts.The course will take Berlin’s cultural landscape as a field and the newly completed Humboldt Forum as a special object of study, drawing on the course leader’s professional experiences from 2015 to 2020 in the development and implementation of the Humboldt Forum digital concept to offer on-site and behind-the-scenes perspectives. It will invite participants to identify the issues, questions or processes in the digitalization of culture that most concern them and support them in formalising and refining constructive proposals of their own

Language: lectures in English; readings, discussion and coursework in English and/or German

Modalities: lectures, group discussions,  site visits, presentations, final projects and various site visits in Berlin

Coursework: weekly participation; readings; a presentation and a final project proposal 

Evaluation: Participation 20%, Evaluation of a digital mediation of cultural heritage 40%, Proposition for a digital mediation of cultural heritage 40%

Prüfungsform: Hausarabeit mit Möglichkeit multimedialerPräsentation

Readings include: Terry Eagleton, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Horst Bredekamp, Frantz Fanon, Clifford Geertz, Homi Bhabha, Lev Manovich, N. Katherine Hayles, Fiona Cameron, Sarah Kenderdine, Frederic Martel, Katja Ischebeck

START – 25.10.2022


To insure a place in this seminar and learn more about the course, attend this session. Wer sich einen Platz in diesem Seminar sichern will soll bei dieser Sitzung dabei sein.

Session 1 –  25.10.  –  10:00-12:00 Institutsbegäude – 0.03, Sophienstraße 22-22a (SO 22)

Module 1 – CULTURE


2. 01.11.

3. 08.11.

4. 15.11.


MODE: Discovery – cultural heritage and its (re)mediations 

Task: Explore the field of cultural heritage mediation (digital and analog) in Berlin and onlineIn connection with the initial lectures, site visits and discussion of the first readings, participants are to explore the Berlin cultural landscape for relevant digitalizations of cultural heritage, identifying one to study in task 2.


Today we will address the question:  Where can we situate ourselves among ideas of culture? (incl. What’s up with culture and/or our idea of culture today?)
reading: Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture, Ch. 1 “Versions of Culture”

supplementary reading:

Edward B. Tylor, Ch. 1 “The Science of Culture” from Primitive Culture 1871 (pp.1-22)
Adolf Bastian,  from Der Völkergedanke im Aufbau einer Wissenschaft vom Menschen 1881
Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures 1973, Ch.2 “The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man” (pp.33-54)
Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice Esquisse d’une théorie de la pratique 1972, Section „Structures, habitus, and practices“ (English pp.78-86; French pp. 256-284)


Today we will address the question:  What is this study of the human Wilhelm von Humboldt imagined? And who’s it for?
Reading:  Wilhelm von Humboldt, “Plan einer vergleichenden Anthropologie” 1795 in Gesammelte Schriften Band 1, S.377-410) /
additional: J.G.Herder, aus “Briefe zu Beförderung der Humanität” (III. Sammlung, Auszug aus Brief 27; 1794 (S.240)

Translations Humboldt/HerderOrdner


Today we will address the question:What does Franz Fanon have to say about culture, national identity, and the colonial situation? And to whom?

reading: Franz Fanon, “On National Culture” from The Wretched of the Earth 1967 – pp.206-226

Additional: Bhabha, “Ch. 9 – The postcolonial and the postmodern: The question of agency” from The Location of Culture, 1994

TV Media viewing material:

1. John Oliver episode: Museums –
Benin: min 05:52-11:00 : Payback Museum min 29:00-33:502.

2. Trevor Noah episode: The Royals Visit America & Elon Musk Plans Neuralink Trials –; On racism and the royals “never say from”: min: 06:40 – End  (also earlier themes in the episode, esp. Musk Neurolink)

Site Visit – Humboldt Forum – 21.11. Meet at 14:30

For our visit in the Humboldt Forum, please arrive early if possible. (E.g. at 14:15) So, everyone can be there ready and we can begin promptly at 14:30.

The location is easy to find – see map attached. Our meeting point is inside on the ground floor near the ticket counter in the main foyer (called the Humboldt Forum Foyer). Entrance is free. Lockers are available if you have bags to stow.

Please have some good means of taking notes, whether on your phone or a pad of paper and pen. I will be asking you to make some observations.

After a brief introduction to the Humboldt Forum and the ethnographical collections, I will ask you to visit the exhibition with a task. At the end we will compare notes and discuss together. This will be the basis of the small writing assignment that will be due in two weeks. Explanation to follow.


14:30 meet in the HF Foyer

14:30-14:50 brief introductionmove to the exhibitions

15:00 – 15:30 completing the task (Below)

15:30 regroup at Amazonia 1

5:45- 16:30 group visit of chosen items 

Find: 3 distinct digital mediations of cultural heritage 

1. Ask:Where is what cultural heritage/identity/material being mediated?What cultures?What heritages/identities/materials?What media?How mediated?Who mediating?Who/What coming through?

2.Ask:What matters? /

Assignment to follow.

Module 2 – MEDIA

Module 2 – MediaSessions

5 – 29.11.

6 – 06.12.

7 – 13.12.


MODE: Evaluation – evaluation of cultural heritage mediations 

Task: Research and evaluate a cultural heritage mediation

With lectures and group discussions around a new set of readings, participants will write up an “evaluation” of the discovered cultural heritage mediation.


Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, Ch. 2 “The Language of Cultural Interfaces”, (pp.69-93), Cambridge: MIT Press 2001·      

Fiona Cameron and Helena Robinson, “Digital Knowledgescapes: Cultural, Theoretical, Practical, and Usage Issues Facing Museum Collection Databases in a Digital Epoch”, in Fiona Cameron and Sarah Kenderdine edsTheorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse, MIT Press 2007·      

N. Katherine Hayles, How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis, Ch. 1 “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine” (pp. 55-80), Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2012

No Session – 22.11. NO SESSION  – Vorlesungsfreie Woche

2 – 1 – Session 5 – 29.11

reading:  Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, Ch. 2 “The Language of Cultural Interfaces”, (pp.69-83; 88-93), Cambridge: MIT Press 2001

Additional reading: Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, Ch. 1 „ The Medium is the Message

2 – 2 – Session 6 – 06.12.

Discuss: 3 digital mediations

Reading: Fiona Cameron, Beyond the Cult of the Replicant: Museums and Historical Digital Objects–Traditional Concerns, New Discourse” in Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage, Eds. Fiona Cameron and Sarah Kenderdine, MIT Press  2017 pp. 49-70

Supplementary video: Sarah Kenderdine “Computational Museology: Experimental Interfaces to Cultural Big Data – (DARIAH 2021)” – 46Min

3 Digital Mediations -Task

The small assignment given last week is due 06.12. – I hope to share examples you have brought in and discuss in the group. In selected cases I may ask if we can show one of your examples on the wall. And I will have a few examples myself. Here is the task again, for reference:


Find: 3 distinct digital mediations of cultural heritage (in the Humboldt Forum and/or any other relevant location in Berlin, not limited to museums or official institutions) and fill out a basic inventory page for each using the questions below:

Selection criteria: (for each of your choices)
– There is an identifiable culture (heritage/identity/material)
– There is a describable digital mediation
– In your opinion, or in the known opinion of others, the fact or the manner of this cultural content being mediated matters (i.e. makes an important/material difference to someone or some group)

Explore each of these mediations asking and answering the following questions. Write up your responses as notes (should be legible, but full sentences not required) no longer than one A4 page each, and no less than 1.5 A4 pages all together; (for page lengths I assume 12pt or 10pt fonts with 1. or 1.5 spacing.) Please save the document as a PDF and send by email.

Think of these as condensed summary cards from targeted field research, one per discovered object. And, being explorers, try to make a discovery, secure a very typical or a very unique specimen, expand our field of study. (No further documentation of the mediation beyond your notes is required; text only, with max. 1 identifying photo). We will share some of what we‘ve found in discussion.

1. Ask/Answer:

Where is this mediation?

What cultures?

What heritages/identities/materials?

What media?

How mediated?

Who mediating?

Who/What coming through?

2. Ask/Answer:

What matters to whom and why?
Why/how does this mediation matter? And to whom?

3. Optional: max. 1 descriptive photo of each mediation, included in your page at thumbnail size

2 – 3 – Session 7 – 13.12.

Reading:       Frédéric Martel “Smart Curation and the Role of Algorithms in Cultural Reception” Wildmer and Kleesattle (Eds.), in Scripted Culture: Digitalization and the Cultural Public Sphere, Diaphanes 2018 Additional reading:  Luciana Parisi, “Digital Automation and Affect” in The Timing of Affect, eds M. L. Angerer, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014



Module 3 – CONCEPT

Module 3 – Concept


8 – 10.01.

9 – 17.01.

10 – 24.01.


MODE: Proposition – concepts for cultural heritage mediations Task: Develop and present a concept for a cultural heritage mediation.

Concept Design – some starter material

Concept Design Process – A Toolkit

3 – 1 – Session 08 – 10.01.


Was ist ein Konzeptioner?Datei

3 – 2 – Session 09 – 17.01.




3 – 3 – Session 10 – 24.01.






FINISH – 07.02.