Weltentwerfen / Poiesis

Key topics:

  • Design creates possibilities and reduces possibilities (see the chapter »Technical Activity«)

  • Machine readable and machine writable world

  • To what should we adapt and to what not?

  • Modding or misusing existing technology

Adam Harvey: CV Dazzle

Poiesis, or: The Problem of Making

“We use poiesis (from ancient Greek ποιέω, English “to make”) to describe all operations and processes that bring something into being.” This processes produce things in the world that haven’t been there before. [Tro20](2)1

With technological progress comes the desire to control the own history. This means to develop systems which realize the desired future. [Tro20](3)

Based on Georg Picht [»Geschichte und Gegenwart: Vorlesungen zur Philosophie der Geschichte«]: “poiesis is the most primal faculty of humanity and the horizon of the world in which we live is not always a given, rather has the character of a draft itself, whose structures and possibilities should be examined and identified.” [Tro20](3)

“One of the biggest misconceptions in relation to technology is the notion that technical devices and machines are only there to ensure an easier life. The core of technological fascination is not in delegating unpleasant work to the machines and providing the essentials, but rather in expanding the possibilities of human action and thus creating new experience potentials and another future.” [Tro20](3)

1 Entwerfen ist das Gegenteil von Unterwerfen.

“Design schafft Freiheit, Design ermöglicht Handlungen, die zuvor nicht möglich oder nicht denkbar waren. Indem es dies tut, begrenzt es aber auch den Möglichkeitsraum, weil es neue Bedingungen schafft. Alles was gestaltet ist, entwirft und unterwirft. Diese dem Design inhärente Dichotomie ist nicht nur eine gestalterische, sondern eine politische. Sie bedingt Freiheit und Unfreiheit, Macht und Ohnmacht, Unterdrückung und Widerstand. Sie ist das politische Wesen von Design.” [vB16] (9f.)

1.3.1 Unterwerfendes Design ist entmächtigend.

“Unterwerfendes Design bringt Objekte, Räume und Kontexte hervor, die die Handlungsmöglichkeiten ihrer Benutzer nicht - oder nur in einem vorgegebenen Rahmen - erweitern. Unterwerfendes Design bestätigt bestehende Herrschafts- und Machtverhältnisse, indem es diese funktional und ästhetisch manifestiert.” [vB16] (21)

Adrian Ward: Signwave Auto-Illustrator (2000-2002)

Adrian Ward: Signwave Auto-Illustrator (2000-2002)

“Signwave Auto-Illustrator is an experimental, semi-autonomous, generative software artwork and a fully functional vector graphic design application to sit alongside your existing professional graphic design utilities.

Use it to explore a wide range of generative and procedural techniques in the production of your own graphic designs. Discover how easy it is to produce complex designs in an exciting and challenging environment that questions how contemporary software should behave.”2 Archived official website

“As the name, interface design and general functions indicate, it is related to the popular and commercially successful Adobe Illustrator. In fact, Auto-Illustrator was conceptualized as a competitive alternative to Adobe Illustrator, but it was also developed as a conceptual artwork to subvert the creative logic of such vector-based graphic programs. In opposition to the familiar and reliable functions in Adobe Illustrator, the functions in Auto-Illustrator are not only strange, bordering on the nonsensical, but also partly uncontrollable. The software tool more or less autonomously generates various effects of surprise and randomness in the design process. So the challenges and possibilities that Auto-Illustrator presents are to develop methods, sensibilities and vocabularies to negotiate the critical question that the use of any software tool poses, of handing over control during the creative act. Auto-Illustrator did not become mainstream, but its humorous and speculative take on graphic design in the age of software tools is still relevant to imagine what effect its use could have on the creative industries.” 3

Power: the social structures of making

“Those who make things nowadays do so not only within such technological possibilities and limits, but also always within given social structures, which on one hand make a lot available and thus present the individual with a solid basis for their own action, but, on the other, also prevent a lot. What also grows paradoxically in the course of increasingly complex technologies and increasing possibilities is a new form of voicelessness. The increased agency of the whole technological system is contrasted by the increasing powerlessness of the individual.” [Tro20](8)

Simon Weckert: Google Maps Hacks (2020)


Simon Weckert: Google Maps Hacks

“99 second hand smartphones are transported in a handcart to generate virtual traffic jam in Google Maps.Through this activity, it is possible to turn a green street red which has an impact in the physical world by navigating cars on another route to avoid being stuck in traffic.”4

Simon Weckert: Google Maps Hacks

1.3.2 Entwerfendes Design ist ermächtigend.

“Das entwerfende Design versucht deshalb, seinen Benutzern und Rezipienten echte Handlungsspielräume für ihr Leben zurückzugeben. Es stattet sie mit Technologien, Werkzeugen, Instrumenten und Symbolen eines selbstbestimmten Lebens aus.” [vB16] (25)

Adam Harvey: CV Dazzle (2010 - present)


Adam Harvey: CV Dazzle

Adam Harvey: CV Dazzle

Adam Harvey’s CV Dazzle offers styling tips to avoid face detection. ​ Within this he also shows us what features of our faces are of importance for the computer vision algorithms:​ Like the oval shape of the face, the distance between ears and eyes, the relation between mouth and nose, the overall symmetry. ​ Harvey shows that neural nets are trained to very specific tasks. They generalize the training data. Very special and rare features are ignored. He shows that it’s possible to bypass or mislead even sophisticated neural nets. ​ Technology shapes our behaviour. How will we adapt to the technology?

6.6 Weltentwerfen erfolgt nicht systematisch, sondern ist ein offener und suchender Prozess.

“Weltentwerfen muss von Offenheit geprägt sein, sich als immerfort suchenden Prozess verstehen und dabei Unvollständigkeit und Unabgeschlossenheit akzeptieren.” [vB16] (132)

The politics of artefacts

The question arises wheter the future becomes more predictable through the multitude of technical systems. “It is rather to be assumed that through the embedding of these, in and of themselves predictable, systems in reality and the links that then emerge, completely new potential spaces arise that cancel out the gains in prediction.” [Tro20](10)

6.6.2 Weltentwerfen ist unvollständig und ungeordnet.

“Weltentwerfen muss dem Wunsch nach Ordnung den Mut zum Ungeordneten entgegenstellen. Das Gedachte, Gestaltete, Entworfene muss auch verworfen werden dürfen, um Raum für neues Entwerfen zu geben. Wenn wir mit Freiräumen leben, wenn wir Unsicherheit zulassen, wenn wir nicht in geschlossenen Denksystemen agieren wollen, müssen wir Unvollständigkeit und Unabgeschlossenheit akzeptieren. Um die Welt zu entwerfen, müssen wir uns in der Unordnung einrichten.” [vB16] (133)

Plea for an anarchy of making

“Plurality in ways of thinking, in creative methods and in cultural access to technology and its contemplation is lacking thus far. That different access to technology via experiments, which are simultaneously theoretical, material and aesthetic, is theoretically possible, is shown by individual works in art and design. Their projects try not only to explore the thus far unused potentials of poietic practice beyond purpose-driven rational aims, but also to point out and criticise the current entanglements of the technological with the systems of economy, politics and sciences. For the individual it is about winning back responsibility and agency, dismantling dependencies and impotence in the face of technological mega-systems and instead to test new ways in their own small self- governing initiatives.” [Tro20](13)

Tobias Zimmer: Identical Walk (2021)


Tobias Zimmer: Identical Walk (2021))

Tobias Zimmer: Identical Walk (2021))

James Bridle: Do It (2020)

Image of the project Do It by James Bridle

“Open any web page on a computer. (If you’re already on the web, use this one). Right-Click anywhere on the page, and select “Inspect”. (Or press Command-Option-I or Control-Shift-I). In the new window, look for a button marked “Console” and click it (if you can’t find the console, ask the internet for help). In the Console space (marked by ‘>’), type the following:

y = document.body.getElementsByTagName('*'); function z() { for (i=0; i < y.length; i++) { y[i].style.fontSize = Math.random()*100+"px"; y[i].style.backgroundColor='#'+(Math.random()*0xFFFFFF<<0).toString(16); } } setInterval(z, 0);

Press enter. Next, write your own.”



Georg Trogemann. Reenacting Poiesis – More Anarchy in Technology! In Ralf Baecker, Dennis Paul, and Andrea Sick, editors, Reenactments in Kunst, Gestaltung, Wissenschaft und Technologie, number 1 in Salon Digital, pages 133–155. Textem, Hamburg, 2020. URL: https://georgtrogemann.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Reenacting_Poiesis_English.pdf.


Friedrich von Borries. Weltentwerfen. Eine politische Designtheorie. Suhrkamp, Berlin, 2016.


The headlines are taken from the corresponding passages of »Weltentwerfen« by Friedrich von Borries and ‘Reenacting Poiesis – More Anarchy in Technology!’ by Georg Trogemann.


https://web.archive.org/web/20090403174208/http://swai.signwave.co.uk/ (06.11.23)


https://transmediale.de/content/signwave-auto-illustrator (06.11.23)


https://www.simonweckert.com/googlemapshacks.html (06.11.23)