In her doctoral thesis she investigated “Collective Action for Long-Term Access to Safe Water in Rural Uganda.”
In his doctoral thesis he investigated “Community-Based Ecotourism in Laos: Benefits and Burdens Sharing among Stakeholders”.
The Doctoral School of Sustainable Development which started in October 2011 ended on the 30th of September 2014.
A transdisciplinary play in 3 acts
Monday, 23.6.2014, 9:00: A normal working day at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) began. But hold on-was it really a normal working day? Posters with the title “Biosphere n+1” showing a person with a yellow spacesuit were attached all over the Exner – Haus and the Schwackhöfer-Haus of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU). So what was going on there?
Intrigued people who followed the poster-trail learned at the info/registration desk that Biosphere n+1 was the title of an event taking place as cooperation between students of the Art & Science (A&S) master’s programme of the University of Applied Arts and the Doctoral School of Sustainable Development (dokNE) at BOKU. Biosphere 2, an experiment implemented in the 1990s that tried to build a closed, independent system served as starting point to develop a transdisciplinary play that enacted “biospherian” versions of sustainability.
As soon as people registered they also transformed into “biospherians” by putting a “Biosphere n+1” badge on their clothes. This and the detailed information material they got ensured that they were ready to dive into the matter.
At 10:00 the event started with an official welcome and introduction lecture. After a short insight into the concept of the doctoral school by Andreas Muhar, the head of dokNE, and a description of the “A&S”-program by Virgil Widrich (leading the A&S master’s program), Bernd Kräftner (senior lecturer at the University of Applied Arts) focused on the concept of “Biosphere 2” and the developed “Biosphere n+1” that was based on the considerations of a closed ecological system. The introduction was complemented by an interview with Martin Schönhart (expert on sustainable land use, BOKU) who reflected on “Models and the Real”. This interview was conducted by the sustainability expert Christian Münchner.
After this background information, the transdisciplinary play began. The participants had the choice between seven interactive modules that were divided into three acts:
This module was dealing with decision making in constructing a sustainable landscape. Participants cooperated in small groups building landscape-sculptures and attaching specific properties to the materials involved. The different created landscapes were evaluated regarding their degree of sustainability using mathematical models. The collaborative action reflected scientific as well as artistic decision making and gave an idea of how those different approaches cross-fertilize.
In the position of world leaders the participants had to deal with an extreme crisis and thereby reflect on the rationality of global decision making processes.
Scientific theses from dokNE-students were transformed into edible taste experiences. The participants could try different food and guess which PhD project it reflects.
In the frame of a citizen conference participants were asked to develop strategies to enhance climate protection in agriculture. They learned only in the end of the module that they had been part of an experiment aiming on finding out to which extent priming in the beginning can influence people’s behaviour.
Based on the exponential growth of scientific publishing and artwork productions the approach of emissions trading as a market-based approach to achieve reductions in CO2 emissions was applied to publishing and artistic works. The consequences of such a system for various stakeholder groups were explored.
In the roles of different stakeholders participants discussed and decided on the replacement of 50% of meat consumption for the City of Vienna with meat substitutes and alternatives. Scientific as well as artistic analyses were used to reflect upon this discussion regarding different aspects.
Ralo Mayer, an artist dealing with real and model worlds,artistically investigated the experiment “Biosphere 2” in the context of socio-political and technological global changes of the past decades.
Apart from these 7 modules the “biospherians” also had the chance to take a look at the artworks from the A&S students. The following artworks were exhibited:
A slide show took the audience on a trip through the diversity of Viennese indoor plant environments and showed that, without visiting a botanical garden, many different tropical and subtropical plants can be encountered in the city of Vienna.
With the help of a Viennese indoor plants pocket guide participants were also invited to explore the vegetation of the Schwackhöfer-Haus.
The intervention explored the roles of experts in society and questioned how the controversial nature of expertise in society influences decision-making processes and shapes our identities.
Participants were asked to reflect on their relationship to nature (Human-Nature Relationship/HNR) by staging different ceramic sculptures in a human-nature theatre and document this.
A reflection whether punishment for eco-sins makes us more conscious about our actions or lets us rather feel obligated to find excuses for our actions without substantially changing them.
The event was closed with a wrap-up by Andreas Muhar and Vice Rector Josef Glößl who described the cooperation between dokNE and A&S as “positive and valuable”.
From the 23rdto the 27th of June all artworks produced in the modules as well as installations designed by the A&S students were exhibited in the Schwackhöfer-Haus.
The event “Biosphere n+1” built also the frame for dokNE’s final advisory board meeting. In a poster session that took place before the official event the dokNE students presented their main findings to the Advisory Board. These posters were then also exhibited together with the artworks. In the afternoon a reflection on the role of the Advisory Board within dokNE, their perceptions on career options of the doctoral students as well as recommendations for a future doctoral school were discussed.
Models and Realities: Versions of Sustainability
Transdisciplinary Play in 3 Acts: Monday 23 June 2014, 10:00–18:00
Exhibition: 24 – 27 June 2014, 07:00-21:00
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), Foyer of Franz Schwackhöfer Haus, Peter Jordan-Straße 82, 1190 Vienna
Registration for transdisciplinary play and further information:
Participation is free, but due to the interactive character of the transdisciplinary play, please register by 18 June 2014 in order to secure your place.
Envisioning a sustainable future of our planet leads to many attempts to integrate scientific disciplines and respective research methods. Biosphere 2 was a living model world with the aim to study the interactions between humans, farming and technology. The ecological experiment was implemented in the 1990s in the Arizona desert and tried to build a closed, independent system that resembled the most important factors of Earth’s ecosystem. Compared to today’s fine-tuned computational models, which are used to understand, simulate and control real-world systems and tackle transformation towards sustainability, the project of Biosphere 2 can serve as a model for an experimental and performative mode of living that dreams of new ways of doing the natural and the social. The cooperation between students of the Art & Science master’s programme and the Doctoral School of Sustainable Development uses Biosphere 2 as a starting point to develop a transdisciplinary play that enacts “biospherian” versions of sustainability.
Schedule of Transdisciplinary Play in 3 Acts:
Check-in / 09:00–10:00
Introduction / 10:00–10:45
Act 1 / 11:00–12:30
Act 2 / 13:45–15:15
Act 3 / 15:30–17:00
Wrap-up / 17:15–18:00
Welcome and introduction to Biosphere n+1:
Virgil Widrich (Art & Science, Angewandte)
Andreas Muhar (dokNE, BOKU)
Models and the Real: Alois Heißenhuber interviewed by Christian Münchner
Choice of modules for act 1–3:
Metaphysics of Opportunity Costs – Shaping Spaces of Sustainability
A participatory installation asking you to rethink an integrated modelling framework methodology, as well as enriching the notion of agricultural ecosystem management.
Meat the Action! Arena
Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes: Play the role of a stakeholder discussing and deciding on the issue of artificial meat.
The Green Storm
The future of our planet is in your hands. A participatory performance and cross-media installation.
maNature – The Missing Gap
Solution-oriented discussions on human-nature-relationships with a focus on selected dokNE projects.
An experimental implementation of market-based approaches to limit the flood of publications and artistic works.
Taste the Abstract
The transformation of scientific theses into edible taste experiences.
Lecture by Ralo Mayer
A lecture that contextualises the ecological experiment Biosphere 2 and addresses the method of “performative research”, transposing research into various types of media.
Christian Baumgartner (Naturfreunde International), Konrad Domig (Institute of Food Science, BOKU), Josef Glössl (Vice Rector for Research, BOKU), Katharina Gugerell (University of Groningen), Alois Heißenhuber (Agricultural Economics and Farm Management, TU Munich), Karl Hogl (Institute of Forest, Environmental and Natural Resource Policy, BOKU), Bernd Kräftner (Art & Science, Angewandte), Rodrigo Lozano (Corporate Sustainability, University Utrecht), Ralo Mayer (Artist), Andreas Muhar (Landscape Development, Recreation and Conservation Planning, BOKU), Christian Münchner (ReThink), Marianne Penker (Sustainable Economic Development, BOKU), Kumela Nedessa (BOKU), Christian Pohl (Transdisciplinarity, ETH Zurich), Michael Proschek-Hauptmann (Umweltdachverband), Martin Reinhart (Artist), Werner Schneider (BOKU), Patricia Stokowski (Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont), Virgil Widrich (Art & Science, Angewandte), Christoph Winckler (Sustainable Agriculture Systems, BOKU)
Michael Braito, Kerstin Böck, Margit Busch, Ana Daldon, Benedict Endler, Andrea Hermann, Matilde Igual Capdevila, Adrijan Karavdic, Mathias Kirchner, Martina Lang, Tamara Mitrofanenko, Hermine Mitter, Gerardo Montes de Oca Valadez, Kiengkay Ounmany, Anna-Sophie Santner, Katharina Schodl, Peter Walder
Bernd Kräftner, Andreas Muhar, Virgil Widrich
dokNE as host for this year’s Vienna Workshop on Sustainable Development for Doctoral Students
At the 20th November 2013 the Doctoral School of Sustainable Development (dokNE) welcomed 28 international PhD students from 6 different universities and many different disciplines in the Festsaal at BOKU University. They had come to take part at the dokNE-organized 3rd Vienna Workshop on Sustainable Development for Doctoral Students.
This workshop was previously hosted by the Institute for the Environment and Regional Development of the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) in November 2011 and by the Vienna Institute of Social Ecology (SEC) of the Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt-Wien-Graz in November 2012. Its main idea is providing a platform for young scientists working in the context of sustainable development to present and discuss their research projects in an informal but very productive setting.
In a short introduction round in the beginning the wide variety of topics became very clear. It showed that the issue of sustainability is not bound to specific disciplines but can be found e.g. in Sociology, Ecology, Economics as well as in Technology.
According to the participants’ disciplines and PhD topics the group then split up. In parallel sessions the projects were presented in lightning talks in the first round.
The participants had only 5 minutes to give an overview on their topic’s background, their research interest, their chosen methodological approaches and preliminary findings.
Thereby it became clear that people attending the workshop addressed several dimensions of sustainability and a very diverse area of topics. In the second part of the workshop several poster sessions fostered discussion and interaction among the participants. In each round the focus lay on another 4-5 projects, thereby each participant had about one hour to discuss her/his project and the most crucial questions in depth with the group.
Through this interactive format discussion and interaction among the participants was facilitated. Moreover the opportunity was given to broaden and deepen the understanding of sustainability in general and in the context of the single research projects in particular.
Towards the end of the workshop the head of dokNE, Andreas Muhar joined the event and gave a short introduction into the doctoral school as part of an integrative platform for sustainability at BOKU. A final feedback round should help next year’s organizers to tailor the workshop even better to the needs of the participants. In this round the participants considered the workshop as having been very productive and a good opportunity to learn about other researchers’ methodologies and ways of addressing complex issues. Especially the good working atmosphere leading to intensive discussions that went on the whole afternoon (even without any coffee breaks) was highlighted.
Based on this positive feedback it was seen as highly valuable keeping the “tradition” of the Vienna Workshop alive.
Link to Book of Abstracts.
dokNE-Advisory Board Meeting
The advisory board conducted its evaluation at June 24th 2013
As in the previous year the members of the external dokNE advisory board met in June 2013 to discuss the development of the doctoral projects, clarify open questions and provide feedback.
Vice-rector Prof. Glößl welcomed the scientific experts, practice experts and funding partners and thanked them for their willingness to accompany the research projects and evaluate their development.
Then the project updates or – as it was the case for our new colleague Michael Braito – the research concepts were presented.
The development of the doctoral school was evaluated as very positive. The advisory board suggested joint publications of the dokNE-students to strengthen the interdisciplinary character.
Project specific feedback served as food for thought as well as reinforcement for argumentation e.g. for the selection of methods.
The speaker of the dokNE-advisory board Johannes Fechner praised dokNE a “unique and valuable contribution” for sustainability research. The continuation of dokNE after the second three-year round in autumn 2014 was highly recommended.
The productive atmosphere of the meeting was summarized by the head of school Andreas Muhar in his final statement: “It is always remarkable to see how the advisory board manages to analyse and identify the strengths and weaknesses of projects students worked on a whole year.”
Since the beginning of the year 2013 dokNE II had a number of changes in the group composition.
Already at the beginning of the year Ilja Messner left the doctoral school. He had been offered a long-term contract as public officer with the City of Vienna and decided to put his PhD career on hold. We miss Ilja’s tireless efforts and critical remarks. Ilja’s project “Sustainable University“ will be completed as a third party funded research project by Thomas Lindenthal, Richard Kromp and Julia Buchebner (BOKU Centre for Global Change and Sustainability).
Our post-doc Iris Kunze also left the Doctoral School. Her research focused on “Concepts of Human-Nature Relationship”; in future she will deal with sustainability in practice. Iris enriched and supplemented our discussions with concepts and views from social science.
Katharina Gugerell, responsible for administrative issues, was offered a position as assistant professor at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. She will be particularly missed in terms of her organizational and motivational talent.
We wish the three former team members all the best, success and fortune in their new positions!
Michael Braito, who has been employed as senior lecturer and scientific project collaborator at the Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, is going to proceed with the research on “Human-Nature-Relationships” as a PhD project. Building upon the work of Iris Kunze he developed his own research concept. He aims at analysing motives for environmentally friendly behaviour and intends to include empirical surveys on photovoltaics in his work.
The new responsible person for the dokNE administration is Christina Czachs. She has been working for two years at the Institute of Landscape Development, Recreation and Conservation Planning in the management of various research projects.
We welcome Christina and Michael and are looking forward to collaborating with them!
Pictures of the opening ceremony