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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 Filtering especially encourages applications by:

  • Candidates with a PhD in experimental Physics, Biophysics, Physical Chemistry, Materials Science or a related discipline and with experiences in experimental work in the lab. Further qualification with respect to filtering is an advantage.
  • Candidates with a completed academic education and/or PhD in Computer Science, Mathematics or Interaction Design.


Filters select and extract, clarify and modify, yet at the same time, the underlying filtering processes are often opaque, incomprehensible, and sometimes—because of their ubiquity and embodiment—invisible. By studying these filtering processes, we will address the problem of what kinds of new filtering techniques should be developed and possibly combined in order to enhance or reduce information. The project Filtering will focus on essential physical mechanisms, symbolic dimensions, and cultural techniques of filtering as information processing ranging from the molecular to macroscopic scale. Filtering is both additive and subtractive: Filtering is enrichment by reduction. One of the project’s overall goals is therefore to re-invent the analog (filter) in the age of digital cultures.
The project will explore filters by applying historical, experimental, and computational approaches. The project addresses the following questions: How can filter processes be described on a material and on a symbolic level? In what sense might filtering even undermine or avert the common differentiation between the material and the symbolic? Since when and how have the common cultural techniques of storing, communicating, and processing data, images, spaces, and materials been transformed into filtering as subtractive and additive processes? What role do active structures play in filtering processes in different socio-material practices, and do these structures form emergent patterns? In a long-term perspective, the project will develop new design strategies for hybrid filters that exhibit dynamic structures and enrich material objects with symbolic dimension and vice versa.
The project starts with following experimental settings:

In the setting Molecular Filtering, filtering as combining subtractive and additive processes will be studied using the historical analysis of the diverse functions of chromatographic, analytical, and preparative processes of molecular filters as well as an experimental system based on a molecular filter platform.

The setting Filtering Things emphasizes the challenge of finding an interdisciplinary symmetrical way of understanding the ‘cross dimensional’ mechanisms and effects of filtering. The goal is to historically reconstruct filter concepts and find new ways of information processing inherent in the practices and materiality of filtering itself, and to make them productive.

The setting Digital Filtering will analyze physical, spatial, and logical filter effects in the cultural sphere aiming to model and design new types of digital filters and augmenting information by rejecting the dichotomy of the material vs. the digital.

Principal Investigators: Bruhn (Art History & Media Theory), Fratzl (Materials Science), Kassung (Cultural History and Theory), Müller-Birn (Computer Science), Niewöhner (Social Anthropology), Polthier (Mathematics), Rabe (Physics), Sieck (Computer Science), Zwick (Design)