Café des Sciences: The New Carbon Consciousness

Join us to learn from Karolina Sobecka, artist and researcher at University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, on how the concept of “carbon” is shifting today, coalescing a new carbon-conscious culture.

The current pandemic has influenced the environment for the better. Researchers at Columbia University, for instance, calculated that carbon monoxide emissions in New York City, mostly coming from vehicles, fell by 50 percent.

This image captured by NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites from Earth Observatory also tells the same story. Maybe the sudden clearer skies do not need to be temporary. And now is the perfect time to change our mindsets and behavior to alleviate past and ongoing environmental problems — a transition to the low-carbon world as a cultural transition. It starts by taking root through environmental awareness, and as the forms of energy and practices around them change, they profoundly reshape society, engendering a new energy-conscious culture.

Therefore, in this webinar, we have invited Karolina Sobecka to discuss research emerging from the Swiss National Science Foundation project Cycles of Circulation, which departs from design and media practices and creates new ways of relating to and representing ecology, and interventions in climate governance processes through creative and scholarly practices.

Karolina will talk about how the concept of “carbon” is shifting today, coalescing a new carbon-conscious culture. She will discuss the fieldwork conducted in Shanghai where she examines the agency of carbon in its new designations as a rhetoric, a new resource, and as material with new capacities.

Together with Karolina, we have compiled a list of relevant questions to think about before the webinar:

• How do media and culture influence the shift to emerging low carbon society?

• What kind of societal and cultural changes do the new forms of energy create? If contemporary society is organized around forms of energy and its products, what will the new organization be as the infrastructures, valuations and practices around energy forms and use change?

• How does “carbon” become a new resource – through engineering practices that capture carbon from the air or from emission sources, or through carbon market practices that put valuation on practices that conserve carbon (such as no-till farming or reforestation)?

• How do Chinese traditional culture, philosophy and religion integrate with the new concepts of carbon and environmental consciousness?

Event Rundown

16:00                               Webinar starts


16:00 – 16:05               Opening Remarks
(Percy Chen – Art-Science Junior Project Manager at Swissnex in China)


16:05 – 16:35                Presentation
(Karolina Sobecka – Artist and Researcher, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Academy of Art and Design)


16:35 – 17:00                Q&A Session


The Carbon Catalog

The Carbon Catalogue is a compendium of writings and artefacts, reflections on topics, objects, documents and experiences of carbon and its cycles. The contributions sample sites where humans intentionally intervene in the planetary carbon flows, forming a fragmentary record of mid-shift transformation of ‘carbon,’ as a collectively held idea. The project is developed through fieldwork in China, and collaboration with scholars and practitioners, scientists, designers, artists, students and researchers. The project is conducted through teaching and research collaboration with designer/researcher Francesca Valsecchi at Tongji University Shanghai, and research support from Low Carbon College Shanghai Jiao Tong University, College of Energy Engineering Zhejiang University, Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics Chinese Academy of Science, Plant Systems Biology Group Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing Normal University, PONY Testing, Shanghai Center for Energy Savings and Emission Reduction, Chronus Art Center, and Swissnex in China.

The Catalogue is edited by Karolina Sobecka and Jamie Allen, and initiates a new research project, Cycles of Circulations, which explores ecologies and environmental governance through art, design and media as knowledge practices. Sobecka and Allen are based at the Critical Media Lab Basel, HGK, FHNW.

Café des Sciences

Café des Sciences is a new format at Swissnex in China offering a monthly platform for Swiss Spotlight Scientists and Startups to present their projects and connect with the local community. The lectures will offer a casual setting in which speakers can present their work and engage with the attendees during a Q&A period. Audiences are welcomed to enjoy the networking reception with Swiss flavour after the talk. The lecture is scheduled to take place every third Thursday each month at Swissnex in China or our partner spaces.