SFB 1187 ›Medien der Kooperation‹ an der Universität Siegen

B08 - Agentic Media: Formations of Semi-Autonomy


By analyzing current machine learning-based AI technologies and the associated controversies, the project makes a fundamental media and social theoretical contribution to the praxeology of agentic media.



Executive Summary

The project “Agentic Media” investigates the formation and differentiation of new media technologies composed of both software and hardware components that act (semi-)autonomously as entities capable of independent action. In its first funding phase (2020–2023), the project engaged in an analysis of the actor/subject characteristics and capacities of synthetic agents. The orders of cooperation emerging between human actors and agentic media were analyzed as configurations of semi-autonomy. Building on this, the next funding phase of the project will focus on sensor-mediated relationships of and with agentic media. The latter both form the basis of the semi-autonomous capacities for action evinced by synthetic agents and structure the interaction with these agents. Sensors enable the generation of heterogeneous data streams that continuously determine and update situations. On the one hand, this technical form of sense-making allows the performance of semi-autonomous operations and generates new forms of knowledge. On the other hand, however, interaction and cooperation with synthetic agents poses a challenge, as the knowledge and actions of these agents appear inaccessible and unpredictable to humans.

The project encompasses complementary case studies about figurations of cooperation between synthetic and human agents, sense-making based on foundation models, and the development of synthetic agents in and for scientific contexts that collectively explore the relational interconnectedness and modular composition of agentic media. The objective is to empirically examine and theoretically conceptualize the sensor-mediated constitution and specific otherness of synthetic agents. Taking production and management as examples, the project considers models and practices of human-machine cooperation, analyzing them as emergent forms of sociality with synthetic agents. The project pursues a comparative study of the development and appropriation of generative machine learning models, which equally figure as the subject of public controversy and as fundamental components of autonomization. This consideration aims both to reconstruct these debates and to analyze practices of sense-making about and with machine learning models. Building on the empirical findings elaborated in the case studies, the project makes a contribution to a media and social theory-based analysis of agentic media by exploring the challenges, conditions, and forms of cooperation between human actors and synthetic agents and describing their participation in the formation of overarching cooperation practices in such heterogeneous fields as industrial production, the cultural industries, and science itself.


The project investigates and conceptualizes agentic media as a new type of digital media that appear as synthetic agents and are equipped with technical capacity of self-governance.

The aim is to explore the challenges, conditions and forms of cooperation between human actors and synthetic agents on the basis of:

  1. The interweaving of agentic media in socio-technical structures
  2. The otherness of synthetic agents within various  constellations of actors and controversies
  3. Forms and fields of action of agentic media

Fields of research: industrial production, creative industries and science


B08 examines cooperation of and with agentic media and the controversies associated with it by means of:

  • Practical studies on interaction orders of human and synthetic actors
  • Expert interviews
  • Digital methods on the appropriation of data and analysis of their controversies
  • Document analysis for media-historical localization


WP1 investigates figurations of cooperation between human actors and synthetic agents with a focus on:

  • Development and testing of models of human-machine collaboration
  • Situated development of synthetic agents
  • Cooperation with synthetic agents in industrial application contexts

WP2 researches how generative language models are cooperatively tested, used and made applicable with a focus on

  • Controversies about generative AI models and the distinctive otherness of synthetic agents
  • Practices of sense-making about and with generative language models by developers and users

WP3 conceptualizes the media and social theoretical implications of agentic media and examines their embedding in epistemic practices with a focus on

  • Autonomization of knowledge production
  • Development of media experimental systems in different disciplines



➔ Find the Project Archive 2020–2023 here





Bender, Hendrik, and Max Kanderske. 2024. “Consumer Drone Warfare: Practices, Aesthetics and Discourses of Consumer Drones in the Russo-Ukrainian War”. In Drones in Society: New Visual Aesthetic, edited by Elisa Serafinelli. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Bender, Hendrik. 2023. “Anhängliche Medien: Drohnen und die Erzeugung von Followability”. In Following. Medien der Gefolgschaft und Prozesse des Folgens. Ein kulturwissenschaftliches Kompendium, edited by Anne Ganzert, Philipp Hauser, and Isabell Otto, 263-74. Berlin: de Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110679137-025.
Bender, Hendrik, and Marcus Burkhardt. 2023. “Reinventing Drones: From DIY Experimentation to Professionalization”. Digital Culture & Society 9 (1): 125-52. https://doi.org/10.14361/dcs-2023-0107.
Förster, Susanne. 2023. “The Bigger the Better? The Size of Language Models and the Dispute over Alternative Architectures”. A Peer-Reviewed Journal About 12 (1): 120-34. https://doi.org/10.7146/aprja.v12i1.140444.
Föster, Susanne. 2023. “Small Talk: About the Size of Language Models”. Toward a Minor Tech: A Peer-reviewed Newspaper 12 (1): 2. cc.vvvvvvaria.org/wiki-to-print/pdf/Toward_a_Minor_Tech.


Bender, Hendrik, and Max Kanderske. 2022. “Co-Operative Aerial Images: A Geomedia History of the View from Above”. New Media & Society 24 (11): 2468-92. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221122201.
Burkhardt, Marcus, Daniela van Geenen, Carolin Gerlitz, Sam Hind, Timo Kaerlein, Danny Lämmerhirt, and Axel Volmar, eds. 2022. Interrogating Datafication. Towards a Praxeology of Data. Bielefeld: transcript. https://doi.org/10.14361/9783839455616.


Burkhardt, Marcus. 2018. “Version Control: Zur softwarebasierten Koordination von Ko-Laboration”. In Materialität der Kooperation, edited by Sebastian Gießmann, Tobias Röhl, and Jörg Potthast. Berlin: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-20805-9_4.