Prof. Dr. Elena Esposito
DAAD Scholarship 1986–1990
Elena Esposito from Italy is seen as one of the leading representatives of systems theory. Born in Milan in 1960, she initially read sociology and philosophy at Bologna, including, among others, with the professor of semiotics and author Umberto Eco. In 1986, Elena Esposito was drawn to Bielefeld. She was determined to study under Niklas Luhmann, one of the foremost social scientists of the 20th century and the creator of sociological systems theory. The plan succeeded. Elena Esposito likes to recall her days as a DAAD scholarship holder in Bielefeld: "A very inspirational atmosphere prevailed there at the time." In 1990 Esposito did her doctorate under Luhmann, and in 2001 she wrote her venia legendi, (Habilitation), at the University of Bielefeld. She teaches communications sociology today at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
We must not allow ourselves to be completely monopolised by technology.
With works like Soziales Vergessen. Formen und Medien des Gedächtnisses der Gesellschaft about social memory and forgetfulness (2002) and Die Fiktion der wahrscheinlichen Realität about the fiction of probable reality (2007), Elena Esposito has driven systems theory forward. Her book on the social function of fashion has also made her well known outside specialist circles. In Die Verbindlichkeiten des Vorübergehenden: Paradoxien der Mode (2004) she describes fashion as a phenomenon full of contradictions: Those who behave fashionably would, for example, strive for originality, by behaving or dressing like others.
Her research focuses on the processes taking place in financial markets. Time and space are annulled there, the computer has taken control. "We must not allow ourselves to be completely monopolised by technology," she warns and has also drawn her personal consequences as a result. She still has an index card box on her desk with thousands of handwritten notes, just like her famous teacher, Niklas Luhmann, had.
The researcher has always maintained close links with the German-speaking countries. In 1998 she spent a year at the Freie Universität Berlin as a Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Two years later, she held a visiting professorship at the University of Vienna. Most of her academic texts have also been published in German. In addition, she has translated numerous texts into Italian, including a number by Luhmann. It should therefore come as no surprise that Elena Esposito was awarded the DAAD Mittner Prize in 2009 for outstanding services to German-Italian dialogue.
In 2013 and 2014 she returned to Germany as a fellow of the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie (IKKM) at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, where she focused on high technology media companies and the effective power of technological devices. She has also deepened her research focus with articles such as Algorithmische Kontingenz. Der Umgang mit Unsicherheit im Web (2014) and Beyond the Promise of Security: Uncertainty as Resource (2015).