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Conference: Shifting AI Controversies

On behalf of the international research project Shaping 21st Century AI, the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and the ZeMKI, University of Bremen, in cooperation with the research group “Politics of Digitalization” at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), invite to an international conference on the topic of AI controversies. The conference will be held in English.


Shifting AI Controversies – Prompts, Provocations & Problematisations for Society-Centered AI
29 & 30 January 2024 | Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), Germany


Conference programme

Call for contributions (closed)


Controversies about AI abound, especially since ChatGPT took over the Internet by storm, becoming the most popular applications in the Web’s history within only a few months. The current excitement about the perils and prospects of general purpose AI applications like ChatGPT is only the most recent wave of public interest in the long history of “artificial intelligence” (AI). With its metaphysical imaginaries of human-machine symbiosis, anthropomorphic robots and machine thinking, arguably oversized scientific claims and technological developments in this field have always raised concerns. What the current debate makes much more visible than previous attention cycles, though, is that contemporary AI companies and scientists dominate not only the discourse promoting AI’s prospects but also that on AI’s perils. From engineers at OpenAI to research pioneer Geoffrey Hinton, technologists and industry-based scientists increasingly articulate warnings that AI might cause serious and fundamental damage to societies. With this move, the already dominant players are now also occupying the space of public critique, yielding the risk that activism, social science, critical journalism and the arts are pushed even further  to the margins of public and expert debates. Are we currently having the public controversies on AI that we should have, or is AI panic derailing us from actual and relevant concerns? How do we get to the controversies that we need and to the exploration and articulation of society-centered AI?

The conference will hold keynotes, panels and interventions from scholars, civil society and practitioners on the topic of AI controversies.



Monday, 29 January 2024

9.00 – 9.30am  Registration & coffee
9.30 – 9.45am  Welcome note & introduction
9.45 – 11.00am  Keynote panel

  Where do we stand? Patterns of thinking and talking about AI

• Louise Amoore (Durham University)
• Christian Pentzold (University of Leipzig)
• Sally Wyatt (Maastricht University)

11.00am – 12.00pm  Concurrent panels

  Labour and AI

  AI and education

12.00 – 1.30pm  Lunch break
1.30 – 3.00pm  Concurrent Panels

  Imaginaries of AI

  Public participation and art in the age of AI

3.00 – 3.30pm  Coffee break
3.30 – 5.00pm  Plenary panel

  Shaping AI: controversies and closure in media, policy, research


Tuesday, 30 January 2024

8.30 – 9.00am  Registration & coffee
9.00 – 10.30am  Concurrent Panels

  AI in media and news

  AI and regulation

10.30 – 11.00am  Coffee break
11.00am – 12.45pm  Concurrent panels

  Social science perspectives on AI and large language models

  Human-AI relations

12.45 – 2.00pm  Lunch break
2.00 – 3.30pm  Concurrent Panels

  Political economy and democracy

  AI controversies on ground truths and fakes

3.30 – 4.00pm  Coffee break
4.00 – 5.30pm  Closing plenary panel

  Where do we go from here?

  Future trajectories of AI controversies and developments

• Alison Powell (London School of Economics)
• Marek Tuszynski (Tactical Tech)
• Regine Paul (University of Bergen)

5.30pm  Conference closing


If you would like to attend the evening panel “Not my Existential Risk! The Politics of Controversy in an Age of AI” on the 29th of  January (Museum of Communication Berlin), please register here.



The conference is organised as a closing event of the project Shaping 21st Century AI, which is a multinational collaboration of partners in Germany, France, UK and Canada that examines the global trajectories of public discourse on artificial intelligence. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, Germany), the Agence nationale de la Recherche (ANR, France), the Economic and Social Research Council of UK Research and Innovation (ESRC, the UK) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC, Canada) in the Open Research Area (ORA) scheme.


Christian Katzenbach (ZeMKI, University of Bremen / HIIG)

Laura Liebig (ZeMKI, University of Bremen / HIIG)

Lena Marie Henkes (HIIG)

Alessa Eggeling (University of Bremen)


If you have any questions, you can contact the conference organisers via



To participate in this event, please register using the form below.


Eine Anmeldung ist für diese Veranstaltung aktuell nicht möglich.

Event date

29.01.2024 - 30.01.2024 ical | gcal


WZB | Berlin Social Science Center,  Reichpietschufer 50,  10785 Berlin


Christian Katzenbach, Prof. Dr.

Associated researcher: The evolving digital society


This high-profile lecture series thrives to develop a European perspective on the processes of transformation that our societies are currently undergoing.


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