Technologies and Improvisation:
Tools and theories for uncertain futures

Nordic Summer University Ad Hoc Symposium
February 7-9, 2018, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Hosted by the Cybioses: Shaping Human-Technology Futures Group of the Nordic Summer University, together with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, at University of Gothenburg.

We invite scholars, artists, technologists and other professionals working or writing on future technologies to take part in our first Nordic Summer University symposium.

The aim of the symposium is to bring together theorists, designers and technologists. Together we want to discuss practices of making and the social and cultural impact of future technologies. How can philosophical questions support the development of technologies? How in turn can technological practices and development inform philosophical and sociological theories? And how can both making and theorizing help us imagining future technologies and their impact on societies? Guided by these questions we want to develop a philosophy for makers and a better practice for philosophy.

Our first symposium investigates the role of improvisation in technological development and philosophy. As technologists and theorists, we improvise when we don’t know how to continue. We improvise when we move in unknown territory or when time does not allow for a systemic investigation. And yet, improvisation follows patterns. Is there is good and bad improvisation, and good and bad improvisers? What role does improvisation play in the development of technologies? How can technologies improve improvisation? And what can different practices and theories of improvisation tell us about future technologies?

We explicitly want to foster exchange between humanities-based researchers, makers and artists. The interdisciplinary discussion of technological futures has yet to find its forms within and outside of academia. Our aim is, therefore, to test different forms of presentation. We encourage participants to briefly present one particular technology or one particular theory about a technology. The individual presentations will be complemented with open discussion rounds and documentation rounds. The focus on brief showcases, together with the small format of the workshop allows for extended and deep discussions, and prevents endless boring paper sessions.

Topics we hope to discuss during the symposium include:

  • philosophy of improvisation
  • the relationship between technology and improvisation
  • designing for improvisation
  • improvisation, technology and survival
  • technology and improvisation in conflict and crisis management
  • improvisation in design
  • design fictions
  • improvisation in previous futures (historical case studies)
  • cognition and improvisation
  • improvisation and AI
  • improvisation in engineering
  • prediction and improvisation in future studies
  • improvisation in the art world

How to participate

We are looking for brief technological and philosophical showcases limited to 20 minutes. You could either present a particular technology, particular theory or case study you are working on.

To submit a proposal please send via email to the coordinators

Palle Dahlstedt

Rafael Dernbach

Johan Söderberg

  1. A written short proposal (max. 300 words) with a title
  2. A short bio (max. 200 words)

It is possible to attend the symposium without presenting. In this case, please just email a short bio.

The deadline to submit proposals is January 5th, 2018. Notifications of accepted presentations will be sent before the preliminary program is announced on January 8th, 2018 on

Registration and Fee

Students, freelancers, unemployed: 30€
Those associated with institutions:  45€

This cost includes meals (lunches, coffee breaks, and conference dinner) as well as conference materials.

Arrival: 7.2.2018
Departure: 9.2.2018


A limited number of participants with low income (i.e. students and unemployed) can ask to have the fee waived. Subsidies are conditioned on available funds. A limited number of free accommodations in private homes are also available. Please mention in your application, if you want to be considered for a scholarship and/or private accommodation, together with a motivation.

The Nordic Summer University (NSU) is a Nordic network for research and interdisciplinary studies.

NSU is a nomadic, academic institution, which organises workshop-seminars across disciplinary and national borders. Since it was established in 1950, Nordic Summer University has organised forums for cultural and intellectual debate in the Nordic and Baltic region, involving students, academics, politicians, and intellectuals from this region and beyond.

Decisions about the content and the organisational form of the NSU lay with its participants. The backbone of the activities in the NSU consists of its thematic study circles. In the study circles researchers, students and professionals from different backgrounds collaborate in scholarly investigations distributed regularly in summer and winter symposia during a three-year period.

Note: a previous version of this call had incorrect dates for the symposium. This is the corrected version.