Events | Machines of Mistrust – The Fabric of Digital Cultures: Conversation with Soraya de Chadarevian, Claus Pias and Fred Turner

Los Angeles | July 9, 2022 | 4:00 PM (PDT)

2022 Thomas Mann Fellow Claus Pias, historian of science, technology and medicine Soraya de Chadarevian (University of California, Los Angeles), and media studies scholar Fred Turner (Stanford University) discuss the pressing interrelations between science, technologies, politics and trust in a world gone digital. The conversation in the garden of the Thomas Mann House will be moderated by Thomas Mann Fellow Ulrich Johannes Schneider.

There is a paradox at the heart of the ongoing digital revolution: On the one hand, we have more information at our hands than ever, yet, it seems more and more impossible to even agree on fundamental facts in partisan conflicts. In today’s digital media ecosphere, problems such as so-called echo chambers, a lack of transparency when it comes to the fact-checking of legitimate sources and the amplification of radical minority opinions by intransparent algorithms have led to fading trust in both traditional media systems as well as social media platforms. How did the very technologies that many thought would enhance our faith in one another in fact came to corrode it? Common ideas of trust in science and technology were constructed differently over the centuries and communicated through ever changing constellations of media – from personal witnessing to peer reviewed journal articles to Twitter’s news feed. Can we potentially draw conclusions for the future by looking at our historical relationship to technologies and digital media?

During his time at the Thomas Mann House, Claus Pias, Professor of History and Epistemology of Media, explores the beginnings of narratives around the digital age and its historiographical, economic, scientific and ideologic purposes. Together with Soraya de Chadarevian, Professor in the Department of History and the Institute for Society and Genetics at UCLA, as well as Fred Turner, Professor of Communication at Stanford University, they will discuss issues around our conceptions of today’s media environments.

The conversation will be moderated by Ulrich Johannes Schneider, a 2022 Thomas Mann Fellow and Historian of Knowledge.

This event will take place at the Thomas Mann House and is by invitation only.


© USC Press Room

Soraya de Chadarevian is Professor in the Department of History and the Institute for Society and Genetics at UCLA. She is a historian of science, technology and medicine with a background in biology and philosophy. Her main area of interest are the technical and visual practices of the life and biomedical sciences in the twentieth and twenty-first century. She came to UCLA from the University of Cambridge. Her research has been supported by numerous grants, including most recently by a scholar award from the National Science Foundation. Her most recent monograph Heredity under the Microscope: Chromosomes and the Study of the Human Genome (2020) is a study of the postwar history of human heredity, told from the vantage point of chromosomes and the visual evidence they provided.


© Stanford University

Fred Turner is the Harry and Norman Chandler Professor of Communication at Stanford University. He is the author of books such as Seeing Silicon Valley: Life inside a Fraying America (with Mary Beth Meehan); L’Usage de L’Art dans la Silicon Valley; The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties, and From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Before coming to Stanford, he taught communication at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He also worked for ten years as a journalist. Turner has written for newspapers and magazines ranging from the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine to Harper’s.


Claus Pias studied electrical engineering, art history, German literature and philosophy in Bonn and has taught at the Universities of Bochum, Essen, Vienna and Princeton. He is professor of History and Epistemology of Media at Leuphana University Lüneburg and director of the Center for Digital Cultures and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Media Cultures of Computer Simulation. His research focuses on the history of media in science, technology and art. He is currently working on the temporal and epochal semantics of digital cultures and their Cold War beginnings. Among other publications, Pias is the author of books such as Computer Game Worlds and The Oxford Handbook of Media, Technology, and Organization, with Robin Holt and Timon Beyes. Claus Pias is a 2022 Thomas Mann Fellow.


Ulrich Johannes Schneider is a librarian and historian of knowledge. Since 2005, he has been the director of the Leipzig University Library. From 1999 to 2005 Ulrich Johannes Schneider was head of the department of research projects and research planning at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel. Since 2004, he has been a professor of philosophy at the Institute for Cultural Studies of Leipzig University. Schneider’s multi-year project of a global library history of modernity examines the social status of libraries in different social contexts on the basis of library use. Ulrich Johannes Schneider is a 2022 Thomas Mann Fellow.



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