Computer-based technologies for the production and analysis of data have
been an integral part of biological research since the 1990s at the
latest. This not only applies to genomics and its offshoots but also to
less conspicuous subsections such as ecology
But little consideration has been given to how this has changed research
practically. How and when do data become questionable? To what extent does
the necessary infrastructure influence the research process? What status
is given to software and algorithms in the production and analysis of
These questions were discussed for two days in September 2016 by the
biologists Philipp Fischer and Hans Hofmann, the philosopher Gabriele
Gramelsberger, the historian of science and biology Hans-Jörg Rheinberger,
the science theorist Christoph Hoffmann, and the artist Hannes Rickli. The
conditions of experimentation in the digital sphere are examined in four
chapters—“Data,” “Software,” “Infrastructure,” and “in silico”—in which
the different perspectives of the discussion partners complement one
another. The aim is not to confirm one's own point of view, but through
reciprocal interchange to gain a deepened understanding of the
contemporary basis of biological research.
Philipp Fischer is head of the Center for Scientific Diving and the
working group “Fishecology and In Situ Technology” at the Alfred Wegener
Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Helgpland and
Professor for Marine Biology at the International Jacobs University at
Bremen. His research focus is on fish behaviour, fish acoustic, underwater
observatories and scientific diving.
Gabriele Gramelsberger is Professor for Theory of Science and Technology
at the RWTH Aachen University. Her current research focus is on the
digitalization of science and research as well as on the machine
epistemology of artificial intelligence.
Christoph Hoffmann is Professor of Science Studies at the University of
Lucerne. His current research focus is on data work in biology and the
formation of epistemological concepts and values in academic training.
Hans Hofmann is Professor of Integrative Biology at The University of
Texas at Austin. He is an evolutionary neuroscientist, who uses genomic
approaches to uncover the neural and molecular underpinnings of social
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger is Director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for
the History of Science in Berlin. His research interests revolve around
the practices of experimentation in the sciences and in the arts.
Hannes Rickli is a visual artist. He teaches and researches as a Professor
at the Zurich University of the Arts. His main focuses are the materiality
of the digital, the instrumental use of media and space as well as media