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Art and Literature in a Technological World


Admission requirements

You have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year and your academic results are good (indication: 7,3 average). Students who meet the criteria may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


This course will address the question: In which ways can contemporary art be meaningful to the humanities in finding a stronger position in debates about the implications of the sciences? More specifically we will address the question: Can artistic practices which engage with science and technology play a critical role in our society? And what does it mean to say that art can be important to the humanities’ methodologies?

Contemporary developments in science and technology (technologies in the field of data mining, privacy and surveillance, food, terrorism and legislation, the environment, and sustainability) have major implications on our daily lives and our society. 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 as regards major issues and developments in science. This absence also applies to debates in areas that traditionally the humanities have concentrated on, such as issues concerning our identity, the future, and our goals and pursuits and how to achieve them. In this course we will focus om three clusters of themes: 1. surveillance – drones – data mining- privacy; 2. ecology, natural and technological disasters; 3. food security, patenting, technological vs. natural (GMO, in-vitro meat) and discuss how artists engage with these themes.

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 reflect on art and literature from perspectives of
    ethical and moral frameworks;

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

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


Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.00 to 17.00. For the exact timetable, please visit the following website.

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 (1) 16 hours Preparing final group presentation (art exhibition) 24 hours Writing of final course paper (art exhibition catalogue entry) (2) 46 hours- Ad 1: Reading and discussion of assigned text with group members, preparing presentation

  • Ad 2: Rereading texts, collecting research material, searching and reading additional literature, composing and writing of entry, 1500 words.

Assessment method

Participation and Presentations in class (1) 20% Final group presentation virtual exhibition 30% Individual catalogue entry 50%Ad 1: 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.


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

Reading list

Assigned literature. To be announced for each session during the course and:

  • Jeffrey Burkhardt , Scientific Values and Moral Education in the Teaching of Science. In: Perspectives on Science, Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 1999

  • Chantal Mouffe, Agonistics, 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

Further readings:

  • Gregoire Chamayou, Drone Theory, PENGUIN GROUP, 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.


Instructor: Dhr. Prof. dr. R. Zwijnenberg

Humanities Lab:
Office: e-mail
Phone: 071-527 2228 or 071- 527 8039


If all participants of this course are Dutch native speakers, this course will be taught in Dutch.
More information: website.