Berlin · Sep 30 - oct 1 · 2016:

IGNORANCE: The Power of Non-Knowledge

Art & Evidence” conference series by Disruption Network Lab

Artists, scientists, researchers, activists and journalists present and discuss ways and strategies to explore, unveil and unmake ignorance and its political, legal and social uses in everyday life.

The 9th event of the Disruption Network Lab

Studio 1, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin. Directed by Tatiana Bazzichelli. Co-curated by Daniela Silvestrin.

Funded by: Der Regierende Bürgermeister von Berlin, Senatskanzlei, Kulturelle Angelegenheiten / City Tax.
In partnership with: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
In cooperation with Kunstraum Kreuzberg /Bethanien. In collaboration with SPEKTRUM, The Resistance Studies Network and the Resistance Study Initiative, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA.
Media partners: ExBerliner, Furtherfield.
Pre-Lab 14.9 at SPEKTRUM, Bürknerstraße 12, Berlin.

Entrance 5€ / day. In English language.

Friday September 30 · 2016

16:00-17:15 – KEYNOTE

Matthias Gross (sociologist and science studies scholar, DE). Moderated by Daniela Silvestrin (curator, Disruption Network Lab, DE).

17:45-19:15 – PANEL

Joanna Kempner (sociologist, US), Jamie Allen (artist and researcher, CA/CH) and Jan Willem Wieland (philosopher and researcher, NL). Moderated by Teresa Dillon (artist and researcher, IE/DE/UK).

19:30-21:15 – SCREENING

Documentary “Merchants of Doubt”, directed by Robert Kenner (2014, 1h36min, OV). Introduced by Daniela Silvestrin.

Saturday October 1 · 2016

17:00-18:15 – KEYNOTE

Karen Douglas (social psychologist, UK). Moderated by Martin F. Robbins (researcher and science writer, UK).

18:45-20:45 – PANEL

Ippolita group (activists and writers, IT), Hannah Jane Parkinson (digital culture journalist and writer, UK), and Vladan Joler (SHARE Foundation director and chair of New Media Department at the University of Novi Sad, RS). Moderated by Tatiana Bazzichelli (artistic director, Disruption Network Lab, IT/DE).

IGNORANCE: The Power of Non-Knowledge

"Art and Evidence" Series by Disruption Network Lab 2016

Artists, scientists, researchers, activists and journalists present and discuss ways and strategies to explore, unveil and unmake ignorance and its political, legal, technological and social uses in everyday life.

The second event of the “Art & Evidence” series by Disruption Network Lab 2016 will investigate the political, economic, technological and social uses and dimensions of ignorance in everyday life, manifested as different forms of what has been termed “non-knowledge”. Definitions of ignorance as mere voids or gaps in the growing sea of knowledge, as well as the common use of the word for referring to a state of deliberate or willful disregard for important facts, are oversimplifying and failing to recognize the manifold reasons, forms and dynamics behind its existence or maintenance. Claim of knowledge always requires its dissociation from what it is not, or what lies outside of it’s boundaries, and a growing number of scholars has begun to study ignorance as a field of inquiry of its own right, thereby demonstrating that understanding what ignorance is, how it comes to be and how it is or can be used in the pursuit of different goals requires an engagement and analysis as differentiated and complex as that related to knowledge and its production.

Many reasons for the existence and persistence of ignorance have been identified—such assecrecy through classification, maintenance of controversies through denialists’ claims, “balanced reporting” routines in the media that misrepresenting the level of consensus within the scientific community, PR strategies specifically developed to cast doubt on scientific research that indicates health risks of products marketed by powerful companies and big business, the non-transfer of existing knowledge or even dismissal of knowledge that is regarded as too sensitive, controversial or taboo to be produced. Within jurisdiction, the principle “ignorantia juris non excusat” stipulates that the law—and therefore penalization for wrongdoing—applies also to those who are not aware of it. But what if the wrongdoing is a moral one, not penalized by law? What strategies and experimental approaches can help us to create more awareness of the limits of knowledge, of their implications and of our moral and ethical, if not legal, responsibilities related to not knowing?

The areas of research and topics presented will range from phenomena in scientific practice and research to the current political scenario that we are witnessing; the study and closer look at strategies behind the deliberate production and spreading of ignorance for political agendas, such as the creation and dissemination of conspiracy theories or manipulative use of language, has gained more importance than ever if we want to understand the reasons for the growing success of populist campaigns. During the two days of keynote lectures, panel discussions and a film screening, scientists, artists, researchers and journalists will discuss and present the growing understanding of social and technical constructions of ignorance, and how ignorance defines what can be known by specific groups with different access to power and social status.

Pre-Lab @ SPEKTRUM · September 14 2016


In anticipation of the main event’s exploration of various strategies behind the production and maintenance of non-knowledge for various political, legal, technological and social uses, the pre-event hosted by SPEKTRUM will present a sneak peak of some of the dynamics behind the social construction of ignorance. Wicked problems, our “bullshit society” and blatant communication strategies in the media and PR landscape will be presented through a small selection of videos, followed by a Disruption Network Lab’s community getting together.

The event is presented by Daniela Silvestrin and will take place in collaboration with SPEKTRUM | art science community.


Friday September 30 · 2016

16:00-17:15 – KEYNOTE


Matthias Gross (sociologist and science studies scholar, DE). Moderated by Daniela Silvestrin (curator, Disruption Network Lab, DE).

In his keynote, Matthias Gross will present the publication and overview of inquiries within the field of ignorance studies he co-edited together with Linsey McGoey: Once treated as the absence of knowledge, ignorance today has become a highly influential topic in its own right, commanding growing attention across the natural and social sciences where a wide range of scholars have begun to explore the social life and political issues involved in the distribution and strategic use of not knowing. The field is growing fast and this handbook reflects this interdisciplinary field of study by drawing contributions from economics, sociology, history, philosophy, cultural studies, anthropology, feminist studies, and related fields in order to serve as a seminal guide to the political, legal and social uses of ignorance in social and political life.

17:45-19:15 – PANEL


Joanna Kempner (sociologist, US), Jamie Allen (artist and researcher, CA/CH), Jan Willem Wieland (philosopher and researcher, NL). Moderated by Teresa Dillon (artist and researcher, IE/DE/UK).

While it is difficult enough to develop what has been termed “negative knowledge”, that is, knowledge about the limits of knowledge (Karin Knorr-Cetina), also later in the process it continues to be a challenge to understand how to deal with these identified fields of non-knowledge. This panel will deal with such known unknowns, and present experimental methods of investigation as well as the resulting question related to the responsibility for not-knowing in moral and ethical terms:
While Joanna Kempner will present her exploration and work within the territories of “forbidden knowledge” in medical science research, Jamie Allen will give insight into his artistic work and research related to “apocryphal technologies” as examples for ignorance through the false believe of being knowledgable. The ethical questions related to these and other forms of willful (that is, motivated, affected, or strategic) forms of ignorance, to what can and should have already been known, will be presented by Jan Willem Wieland. Taking new forms of slavery and our so-called slavery-footprint as an example, he will discuss the question of whether people who are willfully ignorant can be held responsible for it.

19:30-21:15 – SCREENING


Documentary directed by Robert Kenner (2014, 1h36min, OV). Introduced by Daniela Silvestrin.

“Merchants of Doubt” is a 2014 American documentary film directed by Robert Kenner that was inspired by the 2010 book of the same name by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. The film traces the use of public relations tactics that were originally developed by the tobacco industry to protect their business from research indicating health risks from smoking. The most prominent of these tactics is the cultivation of scientists and others who successfully cast doubt on the scientific results. Using a professional magician, the film explores the analogy between these tactics and the methods used by magicians to distract their audiences from observing how illusions are performed. For the tobacco industry, the tactics successfully delayed government regulation until long after the establishment of scientific consensus about the health risks from smoking. As its second example, the film describes how manufacturers of flame retardants worked to protect their sales after toxic effects of the retardants were discovered. The central concern of the film is the ongoing use of these tactics to forestall governmental action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in response to the risk of global climate change.

Saturday October 1, 2016

17:00-18:15 – KEYNOTE


Karen Douglas (social psychologist, UK). Moderated by Martin F. Robbins (researcher and science writer, UK).

In the context of the current political scenario, we are witnessing a widespread success of populist campaigns. Growing tendencies towards right-wing populist movements could be observed all over Europe during the past few months and years, recently finding a climax in the UK’s vote in favor of “Brexit”. Meanwhile similarly, on the other side of the ocean, Trump is winning over a growing percentage of American voters by blatantly constructing theories based on unproven facts and figures, to blame, shame, accuse and slander different minorities, single people or unpopular authorities, with the aim to spread mistrust, doubt, and disbelief in the other side, and to promote himself as the real and only “truth-teller” in the political arena. From afar, all seems to be crystal clear, and the Trumps, Farages, Wilders, and other figures on that stage seem to be as transparent as plastic foil — but how is it possible that the use of conspiracy theories could become and prove to be so useful for inducing ignoranceand disbelief among those who are addressed? If looking closer at both the strategies of inducing and maintaining ignorance among the population, as well as at the psychological mechanisms behind it, can we not only understand them better but also find ways to counteract them? Why are conspiracy theories so popular? Who believes them and why? What are the ways in which people can and do manipulate subtle features of their language in order to achieve social goals? These and other questions and reflections will be addressed by social psychologist Karen Douglas, and discussed with the researcher and journalist Martin F. Robbins.

18:45-20:45 – PANEL


Ippolita group (activists and writers, IT), Hannah Jane Parkinson (digital culture journalist and writer, UK), and Vladan Joler (SHARE Foundation director and chair of New Media Department at the University of Novi Sad, RS). Moderated by Tatiana Bazzichelli (artistic director, Disruption Network Lab, IT/DE).

Which strategies of manipulation are hidden behind the use of social media? What are the targeting methods used by Facebook during political campaigns? How does an algorithm quantify and influence our intimate lives? Who is controlling our data and for what are they used? Social media corporations have been basing their economy on trade of personal connections, targeting of users, and the commercial use of our sensitive data. This is a trade that most of the time we accept almost automatically, exchanging data for free services. But while we experiment the pleasure of being always connected and the playful dependence of exposing our intimate digital self, somebody else is profiting, and even trying to orient our political vote. As pointed out by the Ippolita collective, who will presents the contents of the book Anime Elettriche. Riti e miti social (“Electric Souls: social rituals and myths”, Jaca Book, 2016, it.), we are electrical souls permanently in ecstasy, practicing the discipline of emotional pornography in the media spotlight - without realising we are at the mercy of a doping and manipulative power. A power that knows how to use social media, as well as operate across them, as we read on The Guardian piece by Hannah Jane Parkinson, who will describe Trump’s social media strategy, as well as the post-fact problematic posed by the “Vote Leave” campaign by Boris Johnson in the UK. With Vladan Joler we will investigate what is at the core of the Facebook Algorithmic Factory, to map and visualise a complex and invisible exploitation process hidden behind a black box of the World’s largest social network. Furthermore, we will reflect on critical ideas and collective challenges to understand dominant technologies of today, and how they can be used responsibly to avoid being in-corporated by induced ignorance.


Matthias Gross (Sociologist and science studies scholar, DE).

Matthias Gross is Professor of Environmental Sociology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig and the University of Jena, Germany. His research focuses on renewable energy, experiment and innovation, and the changing role of civil society in environmental policy. His is author of several books including Ignorance and Surprise: Science, Society, and Ecological Design (MIT Press) and together with Linsey McGoey editor of the Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies.

Joanna Kempner (sociologist, US)

Joanna Kempner, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University, works at the intersection of medicine, science, gender, and the body. She has written extensively on "forbidden knowledge," which is the basis of her current book project on underground psychedelic drug research. Her award-winning book, Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health (Chicago 2014), examines the social values embedded in the way we talk about, understand, and make policies for people in pain.

Jamie Allen (artist and researcher, CA/CH)

IXDM’s Senior Researcher Jamie Allen’s interests lie in the ways that creative uses of technology teach us about who we are as individuals, cultures and societies. Born in Canada, and working primarily between New York, the UK, Copenhagen and now Basel, Jamie has been involved with emerging technologies as a designer, researcher, artist and teacher for over 12 years. He likes to make things with his head and hands – investigations into the material systems of media, electricity, and information as artwork, design projects and practice-based research.

Jan Willem Wieland (philosopher and researcher, NL)

Assistent professor in the Department of Philosophy at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Doing research on people's so-called slavery footprint, and specifically on whether people who are ignorant — willfully, strategically ignorant — of their footprint can be held responsible for it.

Teresa Dillon (artist and researcher, IE/DE/UK)

Teresa Dillon Teresa Dillon is an artist, researcher and Professor of City Futures at the Watershed, UWE, Bristol. Her performative, research and sound based work explores techno-civic interfaces and relationships with current projects focusing on sound re-enactments of the built environment, free-to-use Urban Huts and infrastructural literacies within Smart City contexts. She holds a PhD in social and educational psychology and has co-designed educational software at Futurelab/NFER and for the BBC. Teresa has published on various media and art related topics, and since 2013 directs Urban Knights, a program that promotes practical approaches to urban governance and living. Between 2014-2016, Teresa undertook a Humboldt Fellowship at the Technical University and the University of the Arts in Berlin, where she carried out work on artistic approaches to making the electromagnetic spectrum audible.

Karen Douglas (social psychologist, UK)

Karen Douglas is a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent. She studies the psychological factors associated with belief in conspiracy theories and some of the potential social, health and environmental consequences of belief in conspiracy theories.

Martin F. Robbins (researcher and science writer, UK)

Martin Robbins is a Berkshire-based researcher, writer and talker at the messy border of science and culture. He is a columnist at VICE, and blogs for The Guardian and the New Statesman about science, pseudoscience and evidence-based politics.

Hannah Jane Parkinson (digital culture journalist and writer, UK)

Hannah Jane Parkinson is a digital journalist at The Guardian. She is a writer on pop culture, music, tech, football, politics and mental health. She lives in London and previously lived in Russia, Oxford and Liverpool. She likes reading, sauvignon blanc, laughing and Liverpool FC. Twitter: @ladyhaja

Ippolita group (activists and writers, IT)

Ippolita is an indisciplinary research group active since 2005. They conduct wide-ranging research on technologies of domination and their social effects. Their essays include Anime Elettriche (2016), La Rete è libera e democratica. FALSO! (2014), In the Facebook Aquarium (2012),The Dark Side of Google (2007), Open non è Free (2005). The collective also run workshops on digital self-defense and convivial informatics for girls, children, academics, affinity groups, computer geeks and curious people.

Vladan Joler (SHARE Foundation director and chair of New Media Department at the University of Novi Sad, RS).

Vladan Joler is Associate Professor and Chair of New Media Department at the University of Novi Sad, Serbia and the director of the SHARE Foundation, nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting the rights of Internet citizens and promoting positive values of openness, decentralization, free access and exchange of knowledge, information and technology. In last 2 years Vladan is leading Share Lab – a research and data investigation lab for exploring different technical aspects of the intersections between technology and society. Share Lab is using various network topology, data mining and data visualization methods to uncover, visualize and independently monitor different aspects of Internet privacy and security. Their most recent investigation is about the Facebook Algorithmic Factory: Facebook’s data collection, storage, algorithmic processing, and targeting.