System as an interdisciplinary concept and the research on living materials systems
In this project, we aim to analyze the history and meaning of the concept of ‘system’. Its use is deeply intertwined with the emergence of modern western science and to this day it functions as an essential concept in almost every scientific discipline. Terms like Earth System, climate system, ecosystem, as well as emissions trading system, organisms as living systems and technologies as smart or living materials systems show both the ubiquity and huge interdisciplinary relevance. It is used to describe nature, technology and culture alike and therefore qualifies as a common ground for interdisciplinary research.
To succeed, such research is highly depended on concepts that enable scientists to transfer and integrate different forms of knowledge and on a mutual understanding of those concepts between the participating disciplines. To contribute to this, in a first step we will analyze the different meanings of ‘system’ and contribute to a systematization and reflection attributes such as autopoiesis, adaptivity, interaction and learning. Our focus will be the analysis of and critical reflection on the prevailing conceptions of ‘system’ in materials science and in the discourse on the Anthropocene. In a second step, we want to confront those with the New Materialisms, a recent trend in philosophy. This tradition offers new resources for the reflection of systems theories. Haraway’s notion of ‘sympoiesis’ for example is a crucial reworking to the notions of ‘allopoiesis’ and ‘autopoiesis’. These differences have fundamental implications for the way we should conceptualize the relation between society and nature, as well as the role of technologies within it. This connection between a change in ontology and the normative implications of such a change, will be the third part of our project.