The INST-Conferences of recent years have been able to achieve a number of accomplishments in various areas such as scientific communication (use of the Internet), methodology (transdisciplinarity), language use ("Encyclopedia of Multilingual Cultural Sciences") and the way the sciences understand themselves ("The Unifying Aspects of Cultures"), thus establishing important foundations which further the study of subjects as well as of transnational cooperation. The importance of this research not only for the International Science Community, but also for society in general was clearly demonstrated by the 2003 conference "The Unifying Aspects of Cultures," in which 4000 academics and scientists from more than 70 countries participated and which was made possible by the cooperation of UNESCO, the European Council and the European Union as well as of the city of Vienna and other regions. The documentation of the project "The Unifying Aspects of Cultures" - hardcover book with notable contributions, DVD with a documentary film about the project, a CD with 1.050 contributions from 72 countries - has received very positive response worldwide. In addition, the book with its supplements has received the further recognition of being awarded the Bruno Kreisky Prize.
Goal of the Conference
The goal of the conference "Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies" is no longer limited "only" to drawing attention to the importance of culture and its examination in contemporary processes in order to create new premises for investigating the past, present and future. The expanded goal of the conference is to develop the foundations that will make it possible to participate in the shaping of the present and future. To accomplish this aim, the results of the conference will be disseminated to a broad public. For this reason not only scholars and scientists from the most varied disciplines have been invited to the conference, but also politicians, artists, teachers, etc. The main goal is to study knowledge together in a new way.
Innovation und Reproduction
In this process of studying knowledge, Innovation is understood as something that makes it possible to use previous knowledge to create new knowledge. In every area of human activity over the centuries this process has been the basis for not only making people's lives easier, but also on average extending them considerably. The premise for this process, which we call progress, was that knowledge no longer remain the prerogative of a small circle of the privileged, but that reading, writing, viewing art, interpretation, clothes, tools, heating, electricity, refrigerators, washing machines, telephone, medicine, new ways of organizing space, the arts, psychology and, above all, education be made available and put in the service of all people.
Innovation and Social Stability
To reflect on innovations and reproductions as such, will therefore be the central focus of the conference, but it must be kept in mind that without reproduction on a broad social scale, innovations are of only limited importance. In this connection, however, innovation is not being taken only in a positive sense. Since the Middle Ages reproduction on a broad social scale has led over and over to fundamental upheavals of the security of societies and has often caused people to question the possibility of planning one's own life goals. In this sense innovation has again and again been a negative force - not only when innovations were utilized by the destructive powers of violence and war.
Writing/Signs - The Central Elements in the Production of Knowledge
Reproduction, however, is not important only in terms of (mass) repetition. The most essential element for enabling the reproduction of knowledge for the benefit of society in general was the introduction of writing (or respectively in general of signs). Reproduction was also possible earlier, using sounds, etc. However, oral reproduction not only has the disadvantage of requiring the presence of a speaker and a listener, but also of the greater difficulty that in the "oral tradition" the text was not fixed and changes in the report could not be retained or verified. Consequently, while fragments of (orally transmitted) myths have been preserved, only the mythologies (documented in writing) reflect the changes in mind and feelings over the centuries. Written reproduction provides the possibility of a broader reception and, more importantly, also of criticism, since only a fixed text makes any kind of criticism possible. The question for us today is how we can create reproductions of knowledge that will guarantee optimal knowledge and, as a corollary, what do we consider optimal knowledge in contemporary processes.
Contradiction and Complexity
To understand the theme of the conference, therefore, means to examine the (Janus-headed) contradictions as well as the complexity of the processes. Accordingly, in the context of contemporary upheavals and radical changes (reading, seeing, gesture, interpretation, production, work, everyday life, and many other things), the question to be asked is how innovations and reproductions are to be shaped. This is an important issue precisely at a time when the attempt is being made to carry over structures from other areas (industry, administration) into creative processes, an effort that has already resulted in some damage globally. This negative aspect is, however, no uniform trend. For example, the new EU Commission considered the future working method of researchers, which was worked out at the INST Conference in 2003.
The Public and the Quality of Knowledge
Therefore relevant institutions recognize without question that the research and representations of contradictions and complexities require an appropriate organization that suits their needs. Where it is a matter of directly creative work, it is necessary to question the specifics of this work. However, the public in general might even be more important. For only a democratic functioning public can guarantee that in a society with a highly diversified labor force, which scarcely allows the possibility of an overview in a special area, knowledge has a high quality and is not reduced to headlines. In this context the INST discourse of recent years employed such central concepts as pluriculturalism, polylog, transdisciplinarity, among others.
Structure of the Conference, Public, Organization
In the organization of the conference INST is attempting to take into account the differences, contradictions, the multiplicity, the vast amount of information and the complexities. The preparation will again essentially be the responsibility of the Section Chairs from dozens of countries and disciplines. This structure not only creates plurality, but also the basis for a high quality of synergy. The INST provides the Section Chairs and Speakers with the platform (Homepage with approximately 60,000 users from over 100 countries per month) and the public for the presentation of the results of their research. The documentation of these findings and their application will again be disseminated worldwide in the WWW, as a hardcover book (INST Series: "TRANS-Studies on the Changing of the World", containing a CD with the contributions, by means of a documentary film as well as by presentations of the film and book worldwide. Furthermore, INST will also make an effort to ensure that the results become known in the social framework, as it has succeeded very well in doing in recent years primarily on the international level (UNESCO, EU, European Council).
In submitting a proposal to the Section Groups, which were prepared in 2004 in a broad framework, it is important to emphasize several aspects, which should also be considered in reviewing the proposals for the sections.
One important aspect concerns the relevance of the topic to people, to society (as earlier conferences have already demonstrated), because the conference does not only concern hermeneutics, categorizing or classifying. These elements of science and scholarship and of everyday organization, respectively - along with others - are used to some degree as instruments of power. The concept of relevance to life comprises considerably more understanding and organization, considers multiplicity and complexity in the contemporary of the uncontemporary.
The Section Group "Foundations" aims to make it possible to work out the specifics of the individual directions of knowledge production, which differ to some degree fundamentally from one another not only in methodology, subject, but also in their methods of communication and organizational structures.
The Section Group "Intellectual Premises of Social Innovations" has a similar goal, but in this section the question will also accordingly be, what effects do innovations have? In addition the section will focus on the particularities of thinking as an activity.
The Section Group "Centrope" will make the first attempt to develop new structures of knowledge on the basis of previous INST findings and to make these findings available to a broad public. In the framework of these Section Groups the results of a research project will also be made available in talks as well as in the form of an exhibit in the Information Center of the conference.
Arts, sciences, research - all creative areas - are innovative and constantly subject to changes. A number of Section Groups will therefore be dedicated especially to illustrate in detail how the process functions. The themes offer many possibilities to bring in one's special knowledge in varying ways.
A number of Section Groups further offers the framework to examine structures, changes, (social) consequences, forms, etc., in greater detail.
As can be seen from the foregoing, the conference "Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies" provides an opportunity for the sciences, research, arts, pedagogy, politics, etc., to work reciprocally and to examine each other in a new way with contemporary processes and thus make the contribution of expanding our understanding of complex and contradictory processes. Precisely at this moment in time to make it possible to shape social processes more humanely would be an important advance everywhere - even in one's own field of work. A broad public will be provided.
The INST Executive Committee