ZKM | Center for Art and Media
Basic Research


Scope and Objective Targets

"Unter Grundlagenforschung versteht die Kommission eine Erweiterung der wissenschaftlichen und technischen Kenntnisse, die nicht auf industrielle oder kommerzielle Ziele ausgerichtet sind." This is the EU-definition of "basic research" quoted in Supplement zum Amtsblatt der Europäischen Gemeinschaften, März 1996. A free translation may sound: The commission understands under basic research the extension of scientific and technical knowledge which are not justified by industrial and commercial intentions.

In practice we have a crossing of the frontier between applied research and basic research. This holds for the relatively young institute for basic research at the ZKM founded in Juli 1999, too.

The research activities concentrate on the investigation of complex systems. Although there still exists no precise definition for complexity, one has nevertheless a clear conception of the set of characteristics that have to be attributed to complex systems. Specifically, one has to deal with multi-compartment systems, where the parts most frequently interact in a nonlinear fashion which may lead to chaotic behavior.

Additionally, in systems that contain the impact of intelligent beings, one has to tackle the problem of bounded rationality. In order to describe such systems adequately one has to take into account the internal states of the agents. In other words, an adequate analysis of complex systems that contain observers has to include psychophysical models for cognition and other physiological processes. The tools used within our theoretical framework are neural networks and dynamical adaptive cognitive systems that have been developed in our institute.

The theoretical description of above-mentioned systems is flanked by experimental investigations. A convincing experimental tool in this respect is the bio-feedback mechanism. We use this experimental method to gain insight into neuro-esthetics which is of great importance for decision making processes. Eventually, we expect innovative technical spin-offs within the fields of creative cognitive systems used as control units for robots, for example, or within agent based systems.

Karlsruhe, March 2002

Hans H. Diebner

We apologize, that parts of the information on the basic research department are available only in German.