August 27th, 2019

The exploratory research project Technosphere 2015–2019 investigated the origins and future itineraries of technological agency in the Anthropocene.


After the twentieth century celebrated technology as a way to achieve planetary unity and control, the twenty-first demonstrates how technology, nature, and human culture seem to combine in increasingly disorienting compositions. What governs this constitution (or collision) of forces? What are the contingent, strategic, or cascading events and networks that form durable apparatuses among them? The exploratory research project Technosphere 2015–2019 investigated the origins and future itineraries of technological agency in the Anthropocene in a series of inquisitive, multiday events taking place annually at HKW and several publication outlets.

Is it possible to grasp the world at the planetary scale? Perhaps the challenges of the Anthropocene make it a necessity, despite how impossible the task might seem to be. Caught between the rapidly shifting baselines of global climate and ecospheric stability, amidst cultural, political, and economic tumult, the increasing interdependency of natural environments, human culture, and global-scale technologies is difficult to comprehend. Technologies have already shaped the world as a metropolis of fossil energy and an entangled industrial metabolism, but now go on to increasingly determine what forms of existence are possible to start with. From satellite networks to domestic-care techniques to cultural forms of expression to engineered bacteria, they challenge established worldviews and the values these are based upon. How can we produce new forms of action that enable us to steer these dynamics? And what forms could life take within the frame of these actions?

Scientists and thinkers introduced the term “technosphere” to describe the technical mobilization and hybridization of energy, materials, and environments into a planetary system comparable in scale and function to the biosphere or hydrosphere. The term emphasizes the driving role of the technological in the transition to the Anthropocene. At the same time, its appellation encompasses the enclosure of human populations, forests, rivers, and other traditionally nontechnical entities within systems of technical management and productivity. But where is that ominous technosphere to be found? How does it operate? What impact will it have on the everyday concerns of humans and their experiences? And how did we all end up in this world of technological vertigo?

Five different aspects of these questions brought together actors from the arts, sciences, and society in a series of multiday events at HKW between 2015 and 2019. investigated how planetary-scale apparatuses and emerging modes and functions of the technological can be characterized. Technosphere Knowledge—a public event accompanying the Anthropocene Campus: The Technosphere Issue—focused on how the technosphere and knowledge production condition, sustain, and multiply each other. The event identified the mid-twentieth century as a decisive moment when rapid changes in micro- and macro-technologies, economics, industry, and policy set up the conditions to propel the technosphere’s agency. Finally, navigated the many interrelationships between “life” and “form” by inquiring into the different understandings of them in science and society. In addition, materials from these events, alongside original scholarly and artistic contributions, were brought together in the Technosphere Magazine, in a series of online thematic dossiers, as well as a final compilation of texts in the book Technosphäre.