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Art and Literature in a Technological World


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


Can artistic practices that engage with the sciences and technology play a critical role in our society?

This is the question we shall explore in this course through five thematic clusters:

  1. Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene. Or, the politics of story-telling in ‘the age of man’.
  2. Who deserves to die? Ethics in the time of surveillance, data mining and drone warfare.
  3. How to feed the world? On excess economies, food security, and GMO patenting.
  4. The stuff we cannot get rid of. Discussing issues of waste from plastic soup to recycling and geological depositories.
  5. From Katrina to Fukushima. The technonature of human disasters.

The high pace of development in the techno-sciences poses major challenges to society that affect us daily. These include questions of data mining and privacy, genetic engineering, terrorism and digital warfare, food security and sustainable living to name just a few. As disheartening as the current global trends may appear, an in-depth engagement with these issues across the disciplines and societal groups is fundamental if we want to have a say in these developments. The humanities, however, are increasingly less involved in public and academic debates on the implications of science and technology; they have virtually no part in the process of agenda setting regarding key issues and developments in the sciences. This absence also applies to debates in areas that the humanities have traditionally concentrated on, such as issues concerning identity, the future, our personal and societal goals and how to achieve them.

Two threads that will guide our exploration are (a) how artistic practices may or may not open a critical space in society to engage with technoscientific questions, and (b) in which ways contemporary art can be meaningful to the humanities in finding a stronger position in debates about the implications of the sciences.

Course objectives

The student:

  • will be able to signal ethical issues and controversies in contemporary science and technology;

  • will be able to reflect on contemporary science and technology practices by discussing art and literature that engages with science and technology;

  • will be able to reflect on art and literature from perspectives of ethical and moral frameworks;

  • will gain insights into social and cultural implications of science and technology by analyzing art works;

  • will broaden her/his perspective on the relationship between art, science and technology by working in interdisciplinary groups of students.


The timetable is available on the website first semester and second semester

Mode of instruction

Seminars and lectures. Students will participate in the design of a virtual exhibition (on the issues at stake in this course), and produce a catalogue entry that meets academic standards.

Course Load

5 EC = 140 hours

seminars: 4 hours per week x 6 weeks: 24 hours.
studying compulsory readings for seminars: 30 hours.
preparing group presentation: 16 hours (reading and discussion of assigned text with group members, preparing presentation)
preparing final group presentation (art exhibition): 24 hours.

writing of final course paper (art exhibition catalogue entry) 46 hours.

Reading and discussion of assigned text with group members, preparing presentation
Rereading texts, collecting research material, searching and reading additional literature, composing and writing of entry, 1500 words.

Assessment method

Participation and Presentations in class: 20%
Final group presentation virtual exhibition: 30%
Individual catalogue entry: 50%

Students will participate in the design of a virtual exhibition (on the issues at stake in this course), and produce a catalogue entry that meets academic standards.
If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the final essay. Contact the course lecturer for more information.


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the Humanities Lab office in advance, providing a valid reason for your absence, and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the lecturer (if applicable). Being absent without notification and valid reason may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


Blackboard shall be used for readings, shared course documents, shared documents of assignments, and panel presentations.

Reading list

To be announced for each session during the course and a choice of the following readings.

Burkhardt, Jeffrey. ‘Scientific values and moral education in the teaching of science’. In: Perspectives on science 7.1 (1999): 87-110.
Chantal Mouffe, Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically, 2013, Chapter 1 and 5.
Chantal Mouffe, ‘Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces’. In: Open 2008/ No.14/ Art as a Public Issue/ Art and Democracy (available at
Barry, Andrew, Born, Georgina and Weszkalnys, Gisa, Logics of interdisciplinarity. In: Economy and Society, 2008, 37: 1, 20-49.
Georgina Born & Andrew Barry (2010) ART-SCIENCE. In: Journal of Cultural
Economy, 3:1, 103-119
Donna Haraway, Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin. In: Environmental Humanities 6 (2015): 159–165. Web. (
Paul J. Crutzen, Geology of Mankind. In: Nature 415.6867 (2002): 23. Web.
Nancy Tuana, Viscous Porosity: Witnessing Katrina. In: Material Feminisms (2008): 188–213.
Gregoire Chamayou, Drone Theory, The New Press, 2015
Jean-Luc Nancy, After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes, Fordham University Press, 2014.
Stuart Armstrong, Smarter Than Us: The Rise of Machine Intelligence, MIRI 2014.


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered via uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab


Lectures: Drs. A. Volkmar Prof. dr. R. Zwijnenberg

Humanities Lab office)