Astrid Schwarz – Technology in the Anthropocene: Is Homo Hortensis the »New Man«?

The word ‘Anthropocene’ was proposed by natural scientists to flag fundamental changes in the biochemical cycles of the planet. However, as yet, geologists have not agreed on how to empirically proof it as a concept. At the same time, the word is increasingly being used by artists and humanity scholars to kick off critical questions about the modes of human existence and to deliberate the options of how to mitigate or adapt our societies to the new conditions. This results in an apparently paradox situation that is the search for material evidence of a geological era while at the same time already living in the midst of a new age. In this talk I will try to unknot this paradox. In a first step, I’m going to trace the struggle of geologists and climate scientists to find the most suitable material for the proof of concept of the Anthropocene. Second, I will analyse those concepts and models in the Anthropocene discourse that turn around the language game of ‘gardening’. In a third and last step, I will use established gardening-practices as a vantage point to shift attention from a future-oriented technology design to already available techniques and concepts in the present. The local gardening practices as forms of life provide techniques and values that may contribute to manage global problems in the Anthropocene. All of this coalesces in the thesis of a transformation from homo faber to homo hortensis, the ‘new man’ that embodies in a sense attributes that have been raised in discussions on an ‘engagement with nature’, or as matters of concern about the human condition.

Schwarz is a philosopher of technology and science. She is interested in the practices and objects afforded in the process of generating, stabilizing and demarcating knowledge. In particular, Schwarz focuses on material models, on the constitution of research objects, and on the mode of pictorial representations as well as narratives. Consequently, she is also interested in theories and approaches common in cultural studies and political philosophy. Case studies might be drawn from ecology or nanotechnology, from environmental or climate change issues. Important books are Ecology Revisited: Reflecting on Concepts, Advancing Science (2011, co-edition), Experiments in Practice (2014), Research Objects in their Technological Setting (co-edition, in print).

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