Department
Speculative
Transformation

About

The Department of Speculative Transformation serves as a cutting-edge research hub dedicated to exploring the possibilities of technology, infrastructure, and society in the future. It stands out in Germany for it is distinctive approach, combining expertise from various fields such as engineering, mathematics, natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, construction, environmental sciences, and medicine. By leveraging this interdisciplinary collaboration, the center tackles pressing societal issues that arise at the crossroads of people, technology, society, and the environment.  In addition to addressing current challenges, our department also places great emphasis on fostering speculative intersectional practices. These practices aim to cultivate sustainability, diversity, and social responsibility in the design and development of new technologies. Through our research, we aim to promote forward-thinking and imaginative approaches that aspire to a future where technology and its collaborative development serves as a driver for change that positively impacts the entire planet. 

Vision

The Anthropocene era represents a time where nature and human beings (culture, technology, society) are closely intertwined, influencing everything from global climate change to nanotechnologies. To navigate these complexities, it’s crucial to reevaluate our approach to designing technology and infrastructure with an emphasis on justice, diversity, sustainability, and equitability. This requires a blend of humanistic inquiry and scientific experimentation to address the vast scale and intricacy of the Anthropocene. The center’s philosophy is influenced by the most recent concept of „wissenschaft,“ which seeks to create new knowledge models beyond immediate functionality and encourages the convergence of sciences and humanities. The focus lies on speculative design practices, model building, and simulation, emphasizing the importance of imagination and representation in understanding and reshaping the world. The center aims to link natural sciences and humanities in order to foster new design and engineering models, asserting the vitality and interplay of both ideas and materials. 

People

Activities

Our Activities section offers a comprehensive overview of the department’s multifaceted engagements. Here you’ll find a detailed overview of our department’s work. This includes projects, seminars, workshops, field research, and recommended events. Our endeavors aim to critically examine and challenge the paradigms at the nexus of technology, humans, society, and the environment. Through these activities, we cultivate a space for the exchange of diverse perspectives, fostering a deeper understanding of the complexities inherent in speculative transformation. We invite scholars, stakeholders and research enthusiasts alike to pursue this section for insights into our methodological approach and ongoing academic discourses. 

News

Welcome to the News Section of the Department of Speculative Transformation! In this special section, we present the latest updates, discoveries and findings from our research center. Stay updated on our interdisciplinary research hub’s latest advancements and explore a future where technology fosters positive global change. 

Projects

Welcome to the Projects section of the Department of Speculative Transformation (DST) Research Hub. Here, you will find an array of innovative and transformative research initiatives that we are actively involved in. Our projects demonstrate the exceptional range and depth of our interdisciplinary collaboration, embodying our commitment to exploring the intersection of technology, society, and the environment. Each project reflects our dedication to fostering speculative intersectional practices, envisioning a sustainable, diverse, and socially responsible future. Dive into our collection of ongoing and completed projects to understand the scope of our transformative work. 

Jens Krzywinski

Prof. Dr. Jens Krzywinski leads the Professorship of Industrial Design Engineering at TU Dresden since April 2019, with prior experience as a junior professor in the same field from September 2012 to August 2018. He has won international innovation and design awards during his tenure. Besides his academic roles, he is active as a juror and advisor for different national and local cultural and creative institutions. Currently, he is the founding director of the Department of Speculative Transformation.

 

Jens and his team work on various research projects also with industry collaborations focussing on cyber-physical systems, human machine interaction, user experience and design methods from design thinking and serious gaming to hybrid prototyping and generative design, with more than 75 publications and lectures to their credit.

Orit Halpern

Orit Halpern is Full Professor and Chair of Digital Cultures at Technische Universität Dresden. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design. She completed her Ph.D. at Harvard. She has held numerous visiting scholar positions including at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, IKKM Weimar, and at Duke University. She is currently working on two projects. The first is a history of automation, intelligence, and freedom; the second project examines extreme infrastructures and the history of experimentation at planetary scales in design, science, and engineering.

 

She has also published widely in many venues including Critical Inquiry, Grey Room, and Journal of Visual Culture, and E-Flux. Her first book Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason (Duke UP 2015) investigates histories of big data, design, and governmentality. Her newest book with Robert Mitchell (MIT Press January 2023) is titled the Smartness Mandate. The book is a genealogy of our current obsession with smart technologies and artificial intelligence.

Travis Waller

Prof. S. Travis Waller is a Lighthouse Professor and Chair of Transport Modelling and Simulation at TU Dresden as well as a Professor in the College of Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics at the Australian National University. Previous positions held by Prof. Waller include Professor and the Head of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW, Sydney as well as a Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

His core research focuses on the modeling and simulation of human mobility with a particular emphasis regarding emerging technology (e.g., automating transport planning, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles) and digitizing social values (e.g., quantifying environmental justice, mobility equity, road carbon).

A selection of awards regarding Prof. Waller’s research include being named one of the top 100 innovators in science and engineering in the world under 35 years of age by MIT’s Technology Review magazine (2003), the U.S. NSF CAREER award (2004), the Fred Burggraf Award (2009) as well as the Pyke Johnson Award (2019), both from the U.S. Transportation Research Board (a division of the U.S. National Academies), and named a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia (2021).

Sven Engesser

Sven Engesser is Professor of Science and Technology Communication. He investigates human perception and social behavior at the nexus of media, science, technology, health, environment, and politics.

His research interests manifest themselves in the boundary concepts “autonomy”, “balance”, “participation”, “privacy”, “narrative”, and “trust”. Sven is part of the initiative „Disruption and Societal Change” (TUDiSC). He is also associated to the “Centre for Tactile Internet with Human-in-the-Loop” (CeTI) and he was involved in the Boysen-TU Dresden Research Training Group. He has published in a broad range of journals from various disciplines.

 

Axel Voigt

Axel Voigt is Professor for Scientific Computing and Applied Mathematics. His research focusses on computational materials science and biology with the aim to explore emerging macroscopic properties from phenomena on small length scales. Besides material defects and measures of order on the microscale, this also includes the effect of curvature for thin structures. He also regularly uses these results for art and design projects.

Gianaurelio Cuniberti

 

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Angela Mensing-de Jong

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Alexander Lasch

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Matthew McGinity

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Robert Fischer

Research Coordination 

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Maria Matthes

Organizational Coordination

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Michaela Büsse

Interdisciplinary Navigator, Social Sciences

Dr. Michaela Büsse is postdoctoral researcher at Technische Universität Dresden in the Chair of Digital Cultures and Societal Change and as Interdisciplinary Navigator at the Department for Speculative Transformation responsible for the development of interdisciplinary research projects in the humanities and social science. In her research she focuses on sociomaterial transformations in the context of speculative urbanism, climate change mitigation, and energy transition. Drawing on elemental anthropology and feminist science and technology studies, she investigates how design practices and technologies govern environments and define who and what is being rendered inhuman.

 

Michaela received her PhD from University of Art and Design Linz. In the dissertation she analyses land reclamation projects in Southeast Asia and the Netherlands and develops a performative reading of design based on sand’s granular physics. Next to the monograph, the project consists of two film works (Building with Nature, Prime Model) and one video installation (White Elephant) that address the recursive relationship between simulation practices and their sites of application, exploring the disjunction between future promises, their material premises and repercussions. She is currently preparing two new research projects that investigate the role of anticipatory politics in 1) the material transformation of former mining and military sites in German Democratic Republic and 2) the development of energy hubs in the North Sea in the course of the European Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy.

 

Michaela has lectured and taught internationally and held fellowships with TU Delft Department of Architecture and the Built Environment (2020/21), NTU CCA Singapore and MCAD Manila (“Acts of Life”—On Nature and Urbanity, 2018) as well as Strelka Institute for Media, Design and Architecture (“The New Normal” 2017). She is co-founder of Zurich-based OTHERWISE—a collaborative platform that explores the potential of artistic research to contribute to societal and ecological transformations—and was previously part of the editorial board of the award-winning Migrant Journal—a six-issue publication exploring the circulation of people, goods, information, fauna and flora around the world and the transformative impact they have on space. In collaboration with Johannes Bruder (Critical Media Lab Basel) and the Dutch collective Hackers & Designers, Michaela developed Cosmogrammatics.xyz, an online repository and experimental publishing platform for notes, documents and visual material collected in studying infrastructural aspects of environmental and energy politics (launch summer 2023).

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Lorenzo Guiducci

Interdisciplinary Navigator, Mat/Nat

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Katharina Porepp

Coordination COSMO

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Teresa Kamphausen

Public Relations & Science Communication

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Haiwen Han

Assistance

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Digital Anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush in Dresden this October!

Get ready for a double-dose
of digital insights! We’re thrilled to announce that renowned Digital Anthropologist and NY Times Bestselling Author, Rahaf Harfoush, is gracing us with her expertise in two not-to-be-missed events. Explore the intricate relationship between technology and society, and dive deep into the transformative power of digital tools in the face of global challenges.

 

🔹 Event 1: „Emerging Digital Culture – Invisible Aspects of Technology“
📅 Oct 19 |
📍 Kulturpalast

🌐 zur Anmeldung

 

🔹 Event 2: „Transforming Societies in the Polycrisis Era – Diverse Perspectives on Change and Leadership“
📅 Oct 20 |
📍 Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden

🌐 zur Anmeldung

 

Join us as we navigate the
digital frontier and envision a future where tech drives positive change.

Interested? Contact us for further information:
dst@tu-dresden.de

News

…are coming soon.

COSMO

COSMO, short for „Collaborative Science Moments,“ is a Science Forum located at the Kulturpalast Dresden. It serves as a meeting place to inspire people from diverse backgrounds about research and science. Visitors can explore changing topics, engage in hands-on experiences, and participate in talks and discussions with scientists from Barkhausen Institut gGmbH and the Department of Speculative Transformation, TU Dresden. COSMO is a collaborative effort with partners from Dresden Science Alliance DRESDEN-concept, Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Central Library. Starting from September 2023, COSMO will feature an exhibition focusing on „Artificial Intelligence”. Are you intrigued? By sending a brief e-mail to info@cosmo-wissenschaftsforum.de, you can sign up for the COSMO newsletter. 

Teaching Lab

The objective of the „PraxisdigitaliS“ project at TU Dresden is to enhance the fundamental computer science education for aspiring teachers. It involves comprehensive seminars, subject-specific workshops, and a specialized Teaching Lab, where future teachers acquire essential practical computer science skills and reflect on their teaching abilities. The knowledge gained from these experiences is integrated into the development of learning scenarios and teaching competencies, benefiting both future and current teachers. The ultimate goal of the project is to ensure that teachers possess a solid understanding of effectively using digital tools and are capable of preparing their students for the challenges of the digital age. 
Automated Transport Modeling for Societal Mobility Planning

Research teams led by Prof. Waller have developed novel methodologies that utilize machine learning (e.g., 20+ years of research on applied evolutionary algorithms) and data science to increasingly automated the process of building and calibrating models suitable for a range of transport planning questions. The core techniques leverage established principles of transport network supply and travel demand equilibration while relying on broadly available, pervasive, transport data. Early applications include:

Analysis of traffic behavior during the Ukrainian conflict (Waller et al., 2023) has been made possible via the automated approach since models can be established automatically within hours rather than months. Specific research applications include the rapid assessment of network loss to assist reconstruction planning as well as the development of scenarios to assist in the design of cities more resilient to natural disaster and human conflict.
NOTE: A more complete set of event data from the Ukrainian analysis can be downloaded from here.

ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE TACTILE INTERNET

The ETAC project, sponsored by CeTI, is set to investigate the incorporation of tactile internet into society, aiming for a responsible, equitable, and sustainable integration. The first module delves into the requirements and evaluates the potential repercussions of this technology on individuals, societal structures, and the environment. In the second module, an ethical framework is constructed, and the societal acceptance is examined. The third module concentrates on a bifurcated nationwide poll while scrutinizing the role of mainstream and social media. The Center for Social Science Methods is in charge of orchestrating the surveys and the experimental facets of the project. 

Energy Landscapes

The initiative titled „Energy Landscapes of the Future: Beyond Utopia and Apocalypse“ is focused on crafting novel methodologies for the evolution of the global energy sector.

 

By scrutinizing the detrimental landscapes and complex political scenarios that emerge from excessive resource extraction, the project employs a multifaceted approach, incorporating various disciplines and involving key stakeholders to conceive innovative narratives and visions for a greener and more sustainable energy future.

 

The project takes on the widely accepted notions of technological utopianism and aims to ignite comprehensive dialogues on the societal, ecological, and political ramifications of energy technologies. It strives to amplify awareness regarding the vulnerability of the workforce, the disparity in resource distribution, and the environmental consequences that are intertwined with the energy supply chain. Moreover, it delves into the examination of alternative trajectories that pave the way for a more just and environmentally conscious energy landscape. 

Against Catastrophe

WE APPEAR TO LIVE IN A CATASTROPHIC AGE…
Our lives are caught between climate change, pandemics, wars, market crashes, biodiversity collapses, and supply chain disruptions. The new normal, it seems, is one where apocalyptic narratives predominate and where precarity is to be expected or even embraced. Many efforts to head off catastrophe, meanwhile, often seem inadequate to the task, embracing status quo politics or hanging their hopes on salvation through technological disruption. What, then, would an anti-catastrophic project that takes our myriad crises seriously but does not fall into the trap of catastrophic thinking look like?

 

The aim of this project is to interrogate the concept of catastrophe – how it is defined, analyzed, and deployed – and anti-catastrophic practices in an attempt to envision alternatives to our present.

It does so through an edited volume, art and design commissions, and offline and online exhibitions that explore catastrophe and anti-catastrophe in practice around the globe. The focus throughout is on how novel thinking and practice in design, architecture, and technology can open possibilities for more equitably, democratically, and sustainably surviving a catastrophic world, but also expanding epistemic horizons beyond such apocalyptic thinking. The collaborators on the project include international scholars, artists, and journalists , and the project is committed to open collaboration and new partners and participants.

TUD Sylber 2

The objective of the project is to equip future teachers and active educators with the necessary skills to effectively utilize digital technologies within the classroom. This initiative involves the creation of courses, workshops, and online resources, alongside the evaluation of their effectiveness. The outcomes of this project are intended to enhance and refine teacher training in the digital era, ensuring continuous improvement. 

DIPCY

The DIPCY project investigates privacy issues in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance and substantiate research on privacy disruptions. By adopting an interdisciplinary approach and employing various research methods, the project examines privacy disruptions and their consequences. It aims to develop solutions that enhance privacy protection in interconnected environments and expand our knowledge of the privacy implications associated with IoT technologies. 
Governing Through Design

Governing through Design is a research project focused on exploring the influence of design on society. Our collaborative efforts involve investigating historical and ethnographic aspects to construct new narratives that illuminate how design practices and ways of knowing reshape global politics and the everyday lives of individuals.

 

Additionally, we are committed to developing educational approaches that aim to actively engage with and impact contemporary design practices. Our team consists of interdisciplinary researchers including design history, urban studies, media studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, and science & technology studies. 

Vector- and tensor valued surface PDEs

Research on PDEs on curved surfaces mostly focuses on scalar equations with weak coupling between surface geometry and the PDE. Existing numerical approaches for flat spaces can be adapted with minor modifications. However, for vector- and tensor-valued surface PDEs, these methods fall short. A research unit is bringing together experts from various fields to tackle this challenge. They aim to understand mathematical complexities by studying specific problems in biophysics, mechanics, and other areas. These problems involve nonlinear vector- and tensor-valued surface PDEs that arise due to surface geometry. Reliable simulations in these active research fields are expected to drive further progress. 

NARCISO

NARCISO is an interdisciplinary project that aims to utilize the natural instability of thin semiconductor films to create intricate patterns and nanostructures. These structures will serve as bases for growing light-emitting materials and as templates for imprinting metal oxides with adjustable properties onto various substrates. The project focuses on the application of these structures in photonic devices and micro-fluidic devices for sensing and water purification. By integrating state-of-the-art solid-state dewetting and nano-imprint lithography, NARCISO is pushing the boundaries of micro and nano-structuring on a large scale and exploring possibilities for industrial production. 
THEIAXR
The TheiaXR project aims to implement multimodal extended reality interaction design and technology in mobile machine applications. It addresses the shortcomings of current human-machine interfaces and brings together several research and development steps pushing the current state of research. The project considers three use cases: excavators, reach stackers, and snow groomers. A core topic of TheiaXR is the advanced mixed fidelity prototyping framework that is used to connect analysis, conceptualization, and technical development activities within the multi-domain project consortium. The project aims to improve the fit between user and technology, leverage XR technologies, and improve human-machine interaction in off-highway applications to improve the interaction between operators, machines, and the environment.   
Quantifying Ethics-related Metrics for Transport Network Systems

This project aims to identify ethics-related metrics for improving the design of transport network services and augment the social benefits of transport systems to relevant user groups. Tasks include the development of novel transport network planning methodologies that embed complex metrics for equity, fairness, environmental justice and sustainability. The outcomes of this project are expected to support the emergence of more ethical transport systems and to address fundamental societal and economic challenges induced by purely utility-driven transport services.

 

Critically, the objectives are innovative globally and will address critical issues in the ethical transport service domain over the longer-term by advancing the state-of-the-art in transport network systems and facilitating the expansion of current efforts on a larger scale.

Understanding and Regulating Equity in Mobility Systems: Joint Discriminatory Pricing and Mobility Resource Allocation with Multi-Dimensional Equity Constraints

The increasing availability of transport customer data has led to the thriving of data-driven decision-making algorithms in the transport industry. Emerging mobility service providers (MSPs), such as ride-hailing and Mobility-on-Demand (MOD) operators, widely engage in price discrimination and uneven vehicle dispatching tactics, by leveraging customers’ historical trip data and personal characteristics. Empirical studies have found that neighborhoods with larger non-white populations and lower incomes are associated with higher ride-hailing service prices and fewer vehicles, indicating discriminatory treatment to travelers.

 

We propose to design effective policy instruments to balance efficiency and equity. The research activity will include:


1. To develop a joint discriminate pricing and mobility resource allocation model for multiclass travelers under multi-dimensional equity constraints, and evaluate the impact of equity constraints on MSP, travelers and society.


2. To develop a game-theoretical model to measure the impacts of equity constraints under asymmetric competition and design policy instruments tailored for heterogeneous MSPs.


3. To design an equity-aware dynamic pricing algorithm with limited information about demand and conduct numerical experiments to demonstrate its performance.