The Research Group

What is fascination, how can it be generated, represented or staged and what role does it play in today's media and information society? That something fascinates often seems beyond dispute, however the specific ways in which this happens and what prerequisites have to be created to generate fascination are largely unknown. Is fascination an artistic, social, biological or cultural phenomenon? What role does fascination play in cognitive processes? How does fascination relate to neighbouring concepts, such as enthusiasm and motivation, or to (seemingly) contrary areas, like boredom or indifference? And finally – how, if at all, can fascination be directed or measured?


Fascination can be used in very deliberate ways to generate – say, for advertising purposes – a certain desire or to evoke a sense of community that has an identity-establishing effect. At the same time, fascination raises the question of the connection between ethics and aesthetics, which surfaces in the strong appeal of certain media events in the digital age. What are the limits (if any) to fascination; what may, or may not, cast a spell over us?

The Research Group deals with these and other questions, and it investigates 'fascination' from an anthropological, sociological, psychological, literary-artistic and cultural studies perspective. In doing so, the focus is on the significance of fascination in today's information society.

2016: Fascination with the Unknown: The Other

Understanding others is one of our basic abilities and fundamental to social life. Yet, the question of how we understand and feel with others has been approached and answered differently by the scientific disciplines. The arts follow different strategies in putting their respective audience in the position of others.

The conference “The Fascination with the Unknown: The Other”, organized by members of the German Young Academy, brings together artists and scientists from different fields to enter a dialogue on the common yet mysterious phenomenon of understanding each other.

With the workshops, performances and talks, the symposium aims at integrating each participant’s valuable insights into an experience that is more than the sum of the individual contributions.

The conference is fully funded.

Special issue on "Empathy and Understanding Others" (Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Volume 43, 26 April 2018)

2015: Fascination with the unknown: Time

The interdisciplinary conference "To boldly go where no man has gone before: The Fascination with the Unknown: Time" took place in Berlin on July 9-11, 2015.

Call for Papers (pdf)
Programme (pdf)
Abstracts (pdf)
Poster (pdf)

2014: Fascination with the unknown: Space

Ever since the spatial turn the subject of "space" is booming in many disciplines - especially in the social, literature and culture sciences. The interdisciplinary conference by the RG Fascination on the topic took place on the 30th and 31st of May 2014 in Berlin.

Programme (German, pdf)
Abstracts (German, pdf)
Plakat (German, pdf)
Bericht im Junge Akademie Magazin 18 (German, pdf)

2013: photo contest „Visions and Images of Fascination“

© Oday Mansour

The research group Fascination organised a photo contest entitled "Visions and Images of Fascination: Sciences and Humanities Visualised" together with partnering Young Academies. For more information, please visit the contest's website  Visions and Images of Fascination.

Results of the photo contest (German / English, pdf)