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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Matters of Activity. Image Space Material


The Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity is currently hiring outstanding researchers and designers.

The project Cutting especially encourages applications by:

  • Candidates with a completed academic education and practical experiences in Interaction Design
  • Candidates with a a completed academic education and/or PhD in Computer Science with focus on data visualization and with experiences in machine learning methods, who can contribute also to the projects Filtering and Object Space Agency
  • Candidates with a PhD in a subject related to Materials Science & Engineering including Physics and interest in Nanoscience, Device Physics or Instrumentation
  • Candidates with a PhD in Social Sciences and Humanities with a strong interest in history and theory of materials, crafts and technics
  • Candidates with a PhD and background in functional vertebrate morphology (or similar) that are familiar with state-of-the-art imaging techniques and visualization strategies who can contribute also to the project Material Form Function (Setting: “Tessellated materials systems”)
  • Candidates with a PhD in Cognitive Science, Language Science or Neuroscience and a strong background in behavioral & neuro-cognitive experimenting and neuro-computational modeling (see also project Symbolic Material)


The project focuses on the analysis of the material and virtual interface phenomena that occur during the process of cutting. It aims to redefine the cultural technique of cutting through collaborative interdisciplinary research that combines applied, design-based, experimental, and theoretical approaches. The project will foster the transfer of results between the different disciplines by focusing on intersections between analog and digital realities and the problems of interpretation, translation, synchronization, and feedback. It will analyze the technical and intellectual conditions for the simulation of complex structures and living organisms, and the epistemic and ethical effects of virtualized forms of cutting on ways of acting and thinking. The project will deconstruct historical and contemporary cutting procedures through precise observation and description, transferring them from one field of practice to another. New forms of both (re)presentation and cutting opening up new perspectives on materials and data will be investigated and developed. Cutting in this project is understood as a fundamental technique and a prerequisite for the analysis and modification of structures. Processing at material boundaries, cutting is a leading paradigm for the effects of division, contact, and translation that can be observed across scientific disciplines and technical applications. Our central research question is how cutting, as a mechanical material- or hand-guided procedure, converses, and interacts with digital information and may be represented via electronic interfaces or other means of virtual dissection. In particular, we propose to analyze how the properties, structures, and functions of a physical object can be represented by tangible and "haptic" interfaces for data input and output.
Research will be conducted in three initial experimental settings, in which medical doctors, design researchers, natural scientists, anthropologists, and media theorists will collaborate:

Drawing on interaction design, human-computer interaction, computational medicine, and data visualization, and their usage in the field of comparative anatomy, the setting Virtual Dissection will develop a tangible, augmented interface in virtual reality (VR) as a prototype cutting tool for merging and manipulating diverse anatomical imaging datasets.

The setting Adaptive Digital Twin will develop a functional model that takes into account the dynamic changes and the intrinsic activity of bodily tissue in order to make it possible to model and predict the effects of medical procedures in the digital world so as to enable safe procedures in the real world.

The setting Sensing Knife aims at prototyping a Sensing Knife, that examines the body by physically probing its properties and manipulates and cuts soft matter, acting on the nanoscale in real time "like a surgeon".

Principal Investigators: Bruhn (Art History & Media Theory), Müller-Birn (Computer Science), Nyakatura (Biology), Picht (Neurosurgery), Pulvermüller (Linguistics & Brain Research), Rabe (Physics), Ribault (Gestaltung), Zwick (Interaction Design)