29 Oct

Psychology and the Other 2015

Psychology and the Other Conference 2015

The Psychology and the Other Conference organizers have just launched their call for proposals for 2015. the deadline is February 6. As has been the case in the last years, the list of keynote speakers is pretty impressive. The conference takes place October 9-11, 2015

This is the blurb from their website:

The purpose of the Psychology and the Other Conference is to enrich conversations at the intersections of philosophy, psychology, and theological/religious studies, particularly emphasizing scholarship around the notion of the “Other.” Our hope is that our conversations and collaborations will challenge and deepen our various disciplines.

 Submissions for symposia, individual papers, and theoretical/philosophical posters are welcome. We invite papers that seek some form of interchange between psychology, philosophy, and/or theology. Student posters are highly encouraged as well.

Deadline for submission is February 6th, 2015. Notifications will be made in early-to-mid April.

28 Oct

Journal für Psychologie Call for Papers: Big Data

Journal für Psychologie


Big Data

(edited by Martin Dege)

Big Data is the IT buzzword of 2012 and has been with us ever since. Originally it was applied to data sets that were too large, changing too fast, or simply too complex to be analyzed by traditional means of data analysis. Through the increasing availability of computers and cloud services with high calculating power, Big Data analysis has become available to a broader range of business consultants, companies, researchers and not least the average user of various smart phone based tracking applications. As an outcome of this rising popularity, Big Data attract increasing amounts of research money from public and even more so private institutions. While the concept is ultimately about size, it is the big in Big Data that points also to a qualitative difference compared to traditional forms of data collection and analysis. This new quality is usually identified as the three Vs: volume which denotes the large quantities of data, velocity denoting the amount of data continuously added to a particular dataset, and variety indicating a large diversity of raw data. It is the combination of these three Vs and ever more complex algorithmic calculating power that promises not only a more of everything but a new quality of knowledge: more accuracy in both description and prediction, knowledge about fields that could previously not be examined, be it due to the lack of appropriate technology or access, and maybe most importantly, a better understanding of the connectedness of various social domains that can be observed through the data directly, thereby reducing the need for “fuzzy” theorizing.

As promising as this may sound, the Big Data concept also sparks ample criticism from various angles. After all, the rationalist fantasy that enough data could be collected to ultimately describe the “truth” of a particular context under investigation and predict its future development is far from new. Such positivist waves have been part of academic research ever since it became formally institutionalized. And hopes for proper social engineering given the right data trace back to the technocrats movement of the early 20th century and have left their mark on the social sciences in general, and psychology in particular. Moreover, it is often criticized that Big Data conceal the politics that go into designing specific forms of data collection which in turn supposedly shape the outcomes. With this mind frame, Big Data could not be understood as slowly eliminating the need for theory in the social sciences but as a particular theory itself.
The Journal für Psychologie calls for papers about the concept of Big Data. It is the goal to decrypt the fuzziness of the term itself, to analyze its potential and pitfalls, to position it in the existing body of social science research, and ultimately to explore the political ramifications that evolve due to Big Data description and prediction of the social world.

Among other contributions, potential articles could focus on any of the following questions:

  • Who should own data?
  • What does Big Data mean for future research projects? What are possible advantages and disadvantages of large and fluid amounts of data?
  • What are the theoretical and historical underpinnings of the Big Data concept?
  • What are the political, economic and social preconditions of Big Data analyses?
  • What are the potential misuses of Big Data?
  • How can specific biases in the collection and analysis of Big Data be uncovered?
  • How is the construction of theories influenced by Big Data?
  • How does Big Data change the role of the researcher?
  • What is the relationship of Big Data and ethical conduct?

If you would like to contribute to this special issue of Journal für Psychologie, please send an abstract of no more than a single page to martin.dege@uni.kn. The deadline is February 28, 2015. Based on the evaluation of your abstract, you will be invited to submit a contribution. All manuscripts will undergo a peer review process.


28 Aug

Journal für Psychologie Special Issue Polyamory

Journal für Psychologie

The Journal für Psychologie Special Issue on Polyamory edited by Peter Mattes and Martin Dege has just been launched.

Jg. 22 (2014), Ausgabe 1: Polyamory

Herausgegeben von Peter Mattes und Martin Dege


Peter Mattes, Martin Dege
Marta Mazanek
Katrin Tiidenberg
Marianne Pieper, Robin Bauer
Gesa Mayer
Ali Ziegler, Jes L. Matsick, Amy C. Moors, Jennifer D. Rubin, Terri D. Conley
Jennifer D. Rubin, Amy C. Moors, Jes L. Matsick, Ali Ziegler, Terri D. Conley
Amy C. Moors, Jennifer D. Rubin, Jes L. Matsick, Ali Ziegler, Terri D. Conley
Herbert Csef
02 Aug

Sommerakademie Leysin: Google and the Shitting Duck

The Shitting Duck


Together with Carmen Dege, I’ll be teaching a two week workshop at the summer academy of the German National Academic Foundation in Leysin, Switzerland from August 10 to August 24.

Here is a short description of the course:

Google and the Shitting Duck

Ever since the beginnings of the Enlightenment, the importance of automatons, mechanization, and algorithmic methods has steadily increased. While the first automatons were built with the intention to imitate life in one way or another, it was the second generation that played a major part in the industrial revolution: Instead of imitating life, they begin to replace it by taking over tasks which were previously carried out by human workers. With the second industrial revolution, mechanization becomes technology and previously unconnected individual machines become integrated in a larger socio-technical context consisting of a net of interwoven actions by humans and machines.

At the same time, this development convoys a sacred promise of salvation: Technology promises everlasting and rapid progress and through it the end of all mundane torments such as manual labor, illnesses, natural disasters, hunger, and so on. Magical rituals of complexity and rationality beyond the comprehension of the individual inaugurate engineers as our new priests. They are supposedly leading the way to prevent the foreseeable end of our physical world – all this in the face of our past experience that taught us the power of technology to destroy.

On the basis of these developments, this seminar examines the history and future of the term technology. We will attempt to understand technology as ideology, that is the ways in which technology reverses the relationship of high and applied arts, of physical and mental processes, of objects and ideas, and of enslaved and free man. In this process, technology is rendered as an object. It influences our life world while it remains at the same time magically shielded from our grasp. Is it possible to unriddle this reification, even to reverse it? First signs of yet another ideological shift appear on the horizon with the Web 2.0 and 3.0 as well as the transhuman movement, all of which we are going to explore in the last part of the seminar.

the syllabus can be found here.

28 May

Talk: Spirit vs. Matter: Marx, Thermodynamics, and the Quantified Self Movement


I’ll be giving a presentation at the University of Konstanz, Germany entitled Spirit vs. Matter: Marx, Thermodynamics, and the Quantified Self Movement

The abstract reads like this:

γνῶθι σεαυτόν – “Know Thyself” was one of the central Delphic aphorisms – and according to the writer Pausanias also inscribed in the pronaos of the Temple of Apollo. And indeed, what is given as a command here has, in one way or the other, always been a quest of humankind, be it on the philosophical or psychological level. The Hobbesian promise of knowing more about the world and others by studying (or as he maybe quite tellingly intends “reading”) thyself strongly levitates over us; and the youngest offspring of this fundamental desire seems to be the Quantified Self Movement: The idea is, in short, to track your personal everything: calorie burning and consumption, amounts of steps per day, alcohol per week, runs per month, flights per year — and share those data and its correlations with your friends, and possibly the rest of the world (wide web) – with the ultimate goal of self-improvement. Through this movement, “Know Thyself” becomes παρακολουθείτε σεαυτόν – “Measure Thyself” as the new credo for an ultimate form of self-knowledge.
When and how did this idea of measuring thyself develop? What are its roots in the history of ideas? How come it is plausible to (at least some of) us that we might actually learn more about ourselves by looking at charts and numbers which we seem to take as representing some form of universal and transcendental life energy? And not least: Where are the dangers of such an understanding? After all, γνῶθι σεαυτόν is not to be understood solely as a command; it is also a warning against those “whose boasts exceed what they are.”
29 Mar

Liquid Democracy and ReClaiming Participation

ReClaiming Participation

ReClaiming Participation

I’ll be giving a talk at the ReClaiming Participation conference in Zürich, Switzerland (May 7-9).

The abstract of my talk reads like this:

Ever since the beginning of the Pirate Party movement in 2006, the various subdivisions have considerably enlarged their scope of topics. The original concern with patent law and copyright issues mainly in the digital world has been expanded with privacy issues, direct democracy, transparency, and participation — all lumped together under the umbrella of “Internet freedom;” an idea that rests on the assumption of “the Internet” as something entirely “new” that kicked of a neoteric epoch in human development characterized by transparency, openness and universal participation. Within this logic, the Internet provides the laws and rules for this new epoch and the transgression of these rules to party organization, politics, and ultimately social life is for the benefit of all. The German branch of the Pirate Party certainly represents the strongest proxy with elected representatives in four Landtage. And despite recent setbacks they have managed to introduce a number of topics into the greater political discourse. On the technology end, their most advanced and widely discussed tool is an online system called LiquidFeedback, a platform on which every member can set up proposals for the others to vote on. The whole system becomes “liquid” in that every member can choose to transfer their vote to every other member whom they doom to be more knowledgable on a particular matter thus abolishing the necessity to acquire expertise on the topic for themselves while at the same time still being able to participate in the decision‐making process.

While this all sounds promising, empirical evidence speaks another language: Compared to the number of party members, relatively few actually participate in LiquidFeedback polls and many of the discussions are circulating around issues of minor importance. This is usually reasoned with as mere teething troubles of an entirely new way of doing politics (which people have yet to “understand”). It might however also be an expression of an underlying, implicit ideology that is, at its core, dysfunctional: Liquid Democracy seems to suggest that the unwanted side effects of the established political system that is driven by bureaucracies, hierarchies, behind doors conversations, and bargaining can simply be dispensed with by fixing an imperfect communications infrastructure. In essence, rather than introducing something entirely “new” brought about by “the Internet,” Liquid Democracy seems to be pouring new wine into old wineskins by reviving the old Madison/Burke debate of the role of the representative as mere delegate vs. independent agent, possibly enhanced with Fishkin’s idea of deliberative polls. Coevally, the idea of Liquid Democracy is hardly anything new: Concepts of proxy voting or delegate voting have been discussed for example by Lewis Carroll as early as 1884 and have subsequently reappeared mostly within the realm of rational choice and public choice theory. Liquid Democracy is concomitant of this history which is disguised by a nullification of anything prior to “the Internet;” a move that hardly saves us from the potentially harmful consequences of such a world view. As such, it is the aim of this talk to caution against a too enthusiastic epitome of universal participation brought about by new technologies. By historicizing existing concepts, the goal is to point to an empirically founded and theoretically reflected investigation of interaction processes between democracy and new technologies.