Christian Vater Ute von Figura, Heidelberg

Dr. phil. Christian Vater

  • Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)
    Department für Geschichte
    Neuer Zirkel 3
    76131 Karlsruhe


  • Philosophy, theory and history of artificial intelligence
  • Philosophy of science and history of science
  • Media science, material culture studies, science and technology studies
  • Research project: "Drawing the Future - Technical Images as an Element of Historical Technology Futures in Early Artificial Intelligence", HEiKAexplore Research Bridge 2019/2020 "Autonomous Systems in the Field of Tension between Law, Ethics, Technology and Culture".
  • Doctoral project: "Alan Turing and the difference between man and machine" (working title) (University of Heidelberg, Department of Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and History of Science, Prof. Peter McLaughlin).



  • since October 2021: Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz, Digital Academy. National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI4culture) - Coordination Lead
  • Since January 2020: Research associate in the HEiKAexplore research project "The Future of Drawing - Technical Images as an Element of Historical Technology Futures in Early Artificial Intelligence" (KIT - ITZ - History of Technology)
  • July 2014 - August 2019: Research Assistant at the Collaborative Research Center 933 "Material Text Cultures" of the DFG at the University of Heidelberg (Subproject Ö "Script-carrying Artifacts in New Media")
  • January 2012 - June 2014: Scientific advisor in various StartUps for artificial intelligence and semiconductor technology.
  • February 2011: Master thesis in philosophy on "Are machines able to think? - Artificial Intelligence and the Turing Test" (University of Kassel, Institute of Philosophy, Prof. Dr. Gottfried Heinemann, Prof. Dr. Dr. Kristian Köchy).


Conferences, workshops and lectures (selection)

3rd Culture Community Plenary NFDI4Culture, March 29, 2023 - March 31, 2023, Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz. (Local Organizing Committee)

June 2021: "'Electron Brains & Cyborgs' - Artificial Intelligence Revolutionizes the World." Panel discussion at KIT21 (link to video).

"The story of 'AI' as automation of brainwork. Thoughts on the question of 'AI' in museums. Practices. Artifacts. Cultural Techniques.". Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, 2nd network meeting of the curatorial "AI Network", keynote (link to video).

May 2021: "Eine digitale Geisteswissenschaft vom digitalisierten Geist", lecture, 1st Workshop of the AG Digitalitätsforschung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Philosophie (DGPhil) (link to lecture).

May 2021: "Wissenschaftliche Weltsicht und mechanisierte Logik: Bausteine der Möglichkeit einer Frühen KI im deutschsprachigen Raum - Wien/Berlin, Münster, Karlsruhe", evening lecture, 2nd Tandem Workshop on the Early History of Artificial Intelligence, Deutsches Museum München together with KIT (link to lecture).

April 2021: "Ontology, Hypertext, Interface - Building Blocks of a Glossary of Digital Humanities in Systematic Intent", expert talk at the day workshop: "Glossary of Terms: A Collaborative Writing Experiment of the Digital Humanities Theory WG" on vDHd2021 - Experiments (report:

December 2020: "Karl Steinbuch's 'Man or Automation in Space?'", lecture, AI and Intercultural Robotics, KIT + Tongji (DAAD) (download flyer for conference, link to video).

November 2020: "Digital Technology Futures. Digitalization as a Universal Cultural Technique", St. Gallen, SmartFeld (link to lecture).

Workshop: "The Early History of Artificial Intelligence in the German-Speaking World - Manuscripts, Artifacts, Sources, Methods. (Internal Tandem Workshop 1)", jointly with the IGGI working group of the Deutsches Museum München at KIT, 17.09.2020 - 18.09.2020(link to conference).

"Artificial Intelligence and World Understanding" - Spring Meeting of the Center for Science Research of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina September 30 - October 02, 2020, Halle. Co-Chair, Program Committee.

January 2020: "Turing's machines - a re-evaluation between symbol manipulation, diagrammatics and cybernetics". Conference "Hacking the Computable" (Annual conference of the German Society for Aesthetics - platform 2 - Stuttgart).

May 2019: "On sealing and opening black boxes - dispositives and artefact arrangements as instruments of analysis" - Interdisciplinary author workshop, 3 days (guests from German-speaking countries). Organization, jointly organized by SFB933 "Materiale Textkulturen" subproject "Schrifttragende Artefakte in Neuen Medien", KIT ITZ History (Prof. Dr. Marcus Popplow) and INSIST Network.

April 2019: Lecture "{Singularity} as Concept and Myth of Research on Artificial Intelligence". Heidelberg Spring, "Castor && Pollux" - Future Talks.

May 2018: Lecture "Turing's machines, a lie test and thinking about thinking. A proposal on how AI research and philosophy can work together". 1st Villigster Dialogue on Artificial Intelligence (Heidelberg, Begabtenförderwerk).

August 2017: Session "Two Years of Cooperation. The University of Heidelberg, the CRC 933 and Wikipedia". 13 WikiMania, Montréal (World Conference of Wikipedians). (Collaboration Community, University and Wikimedia, together with cooperation partners).

WiSe 2015 - today: workshops on Wikipedia for university members (different target groups, different topics).



2020: Eckhard Geitz, Christian Vater and Silke Zimmer-Merkle (ed.) (2020): Black Boxes. Interdisciplinary perspectives on sealing contexts and opening attempts. Berlin and others: De Gruyter (= Material Text Cultures 32).

2017: Michaela Böttner, Ludger Lieb, Christian Vater and Christian Witschel (ed.) (2017): 5,300 years of writing. Heidelberg: Wunderhorn. (extended web publication with digital additions: (OpenAccess).

2016: Spektrum der Wissenschaft - Special issue: The magic of writing. Researchers use new methods to make old writings speak (Spektrum Spezial 3/16 - Archaeology, History, Culture). (With Friederike Elias: Concept. project management. Responsible editorial office for Collaborative Research Centre).

2015: Charlotte Lagemann, Tina Schöbel and Christian Vater (ed.) (2015): LebenDingeTexte. Booklet accompanying the exhibition. Heidelberg: heiBOOKS (Heidelberg University Museum. Catalogues) (OpenAccess).



Vater, Christian (2023), Turing's Machines. Eine Problemstellung zwischen Wissenschafts- und Technikgeschichtsschreibung, Heidelberg: Manutius.


Professional articles

Christian Vater (2020): "Turing's Machine and Black's Box - Mechanical Intelligence after Feedback," in Eckhardt Geitz, Christian Vater u. Silke-Zimmer Merkle (eds.) (2020): Black Boxes - Sealing Contexts and Attempts at Opening. Interdisciplinary perspectives. Berlin u.a.: de Gruyter (= Materiale Textkulturen 31).

Eckhard Geitz, Christian Vater u. Silke-Zimmer Merkle (2020): "Introduction: Black Boxes. Building Blocks and Tools for their Analysis," in: Eckhardt Geitz, Christian Vater u. Silke-Zimmer Merkle (eds.) (2020): Black Boxes - Sealing Contexts and Attempts at Opening. Interdisciplinary perspectives. Berlin u.a.: de Gruyter (= Materiale Textkulturen 31).

2020: "Alan M. Turing and the computing dispositif 1950", in Geitz et al. (2020): Black Boxes. Interdisciplinary perspectives on sealing contexts and opening attempts. Berlin and others: De Gruyter (= Material Text Cultures 32).

2019: "The Wikipedia and the software dispositif. A digital cooperative online encyclopaedia for the 'Turing Galaxy' and the history of hypertext", in Eva Gredel, Laura Herzberg and Angelika Storrer (2019) (ed.): Linguistic Wikipedistics (=Special Issue Discourses - Digital), pp. 1-25 (online, OpenAccess).

2017: "Hypertext. A script for networked, dynamic typewriters", in: Böttner et al. (Hgg.) (2017): 5,300 years of writing. Heidelberg: Wunderhorn, pp. 166-169 (print and online, OpenAccess).


"A critical look can lead to more caution" - Goethe-Institut, [online] [22.06.2020].

„Ein kritischer Blick kann zu mehr Sorgfalt führen“ - Goethe-Institut, [online] [02.07.2020].

"Interview zu Technikängsten - Ein kritischer Blick kann zu mehr Sorgfalt führen" -, [online] [01.07.2020].

Functions and memberships
  • February 2019 - today: Program committee "artes liberales - universitas", philosophical and humanities venue, Heidelberg.
  • July 2015 - August 2019: Participant in the Round Table "Communication and Marketing" at the University of Heidelberg.
  • WiSe 2015 / 2016 - WiSe 2017 / 2018: Council of the Department of Philosophy of the University of Heidelberg (representative of the Mittelbau).
  • WiSe 2003 / 2004 - SoSe 2004: Member of the Senate of the University of Kassel.
  • DGPhil (German Society for Philosophy)

  • INSIST (Interdisciplinary Network for Studies Investigating Science and Technology)

  • MAD HD (methods & applications in the digital humanities | Heidelberg)

  • AG Digital Humanities Theorie



  • 2016: Wiki-Owl in the category "Swing Owl". Community Prize of the German-speaking Wikipedians for exemplary cooperation between university and community.



SoSe 2021 - today: KIT Department of History - Institute for Technological Futures. Lectureships on the history of the encyclopedia, the history of man-machines, and the history of digital humanities, among others.

2014 - today: University of Heidelberg, Department of Philosophy and Max Weber Institute for Sociology. Lectures on the theory of science and history of technology of artificial intelligence and hypertext. Concepts, history and theory of "network" and "program". Artifact theory and diagrammatics. Exercises on scientific work in Wikipedia (between lexicography and digital literacy).

2012 - 2014: University of Kassel, Institute of Philosophy. Teaching assignments on logic, sign theory, truth theory and artificial intelligence.



Christian Vater has put the genealogy of artificial intelligence as the automation of brainwork into a cinematic narrative form. The science video "300 Years of Mechanical Intelligence. Von Rechenknechten und Denkfabriken" was produced as part of the Science Year 2019 "Artificial Intelligence" at the Technoseum in Mannheim and the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe.




Podcast: "Karl Steinbuch - Pioneer of Artificial Intelligence" in the current dossier "Technology.Consequences.Visions. Technology futures in the focus of research".

Artificial intelligence is ubiquitous these days; hardly any other topic is the subject of so much research and publication. One of the pioneers of artificial intelligence in Germany was Karl Steinbuch, who was appointed Professor of Communications Engineering at the Technical University of Karlsruhe in 1958 and is considered the inventor of the word "computer science." Christian Vater, historian of science at the KIT Institute of Technology Futures, deals with him and his achievements.

Author: Almut Ochsmann

Narrator: Moritz Chelius and Almut Ochsmann

Duration: 9:58 minutes

Publication date: 12.01.2021

Interviewee: Christian Vater, historian of science at the Department of History of the Institute of Technology Futures.

With original sounds by Karl Steinbuch from the KIT archives.




Podcast: Self-aware AI #4: "The founding fathers of AI didn't think about consciousness. Karsten Wendland in conversation with Christian Vater "For Christian Vater, a historian of technology who conducts research in Heidelberg and Karlsruhe, research on AI has archaeological qualities. He digs up finds that shape our understanding of AI today, even if they were meant differently in their time. He explains the perspective from which human consciousness could be understood as a "Turing onion" with an empty core, and the role of female researchers in the early AI days.

Questioner in this episode: Jennifer Heier, Head of UX-driven AI, SIEMENS

Author: Karsten Wendland
Editing and field recording supervisor: Konstantin Kleefoot
Production: Tobias Windmüller

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: https: //




List of publications in KITopen media library