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Research seminar 'Media Philosophy and Media Theory' – Edition 2020-2021

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Digital media and technology are ubiquitous and have in transformed our world in the recent decades. At almost every moment of our lives we create data – consciously or unconsciously. Phenomena such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the internet of things (IoT) are growing explosively. These evolutions raise pressing philosophical and ethical questions. At the Centre for Ethics and Humanism (ETHU) of the VUB we investigate these with the tools and insights of existential philosophy, phenomenology, pragmatism and critical theory.

In the research seminar 'Media Philosophy and Media Theory' we read authors by way of whose work we might be able to shed a fresh and unusual light on evolutions in digital technology. This year, also in the context of the ongoing research project 'Existential Ethics of Artificial Intelligence' (ETHU & AI Lab), we will zoom in on Herbert Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Beacon Press, Boston, 1991). Marcuse, once an icon of the 1960s counterculture, is still widely read today as one of the most influential theorists of the Frankfurt School. In philosophy of technology in particular, his work has helped to shape the important approach of Critical Constructivism. We will study One-Dimensional Man – by many thought to still contain a highly relevant analysis in our current time – specifically in the light of recent technological developments, most particularly AI.

The research seminar is organized as a reading group, and we expect participants to make a preparation in advance of every session. The meetings take place in English. Given corona-related restrictions, all meetings will be held online, via Microsoft Teams.

Practical: at a first introductory session (30 mins.) on Tuesday November 10th, 3 pm, we will go over practical details and arrangements. We will also agree then upon the dates for the following sessions.

The seminar is organized by Prof. dr. K. Verstrynge and Prof. dr. Y. Van Den Eede (ETHU).

Registration: participation is free of charge, but registration is required. Please send an e-mail to, by November 5th at the latest.

Doctoral students: the research seminar is a part of the Doctoral School Human Sciences (DSh). Doctoral students receive 1 credit per session.
The research seminar is also part of the Research Master of Arts in Philosophy (10 ECTS).