Open Self 2018
5-7 September
Technical University, Berlin

The Open Self – Investigating the Boundaries of the Self: Bodily, Social and Technological.

A three-day international conference that brings together the disciplines of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and robotics to investigate the open and transformative self. 

Conference Theme

Where do I end, where do you begin? Understanding the human self remains one of the greatest research challenges of our time. One of the most vexing issues in this respect has to do with the boundaries of the self. Recent developments in embodied and enactive cognition suggest that the self, like the mind, is no longer confined to our heads, but rather embodied and grounded in the sensorimotor and social activity of the organism. Being a self requires a body and self-experience arises through action and movement. From our own everyday experience we also know that boundaries of the self are quite flexible. The self is not a rigid entity, but plastic, subject to change, both in the face of temporality and of new situations and environments. We change as we grow older and we change because we are continuously affected and influenced by the world. These changes over time are commonly associated with the narrative self, and the stories we tell about our self, but the new developments in embodied cognitive science suggest that even the prereflective self, our basic embodied level of human identity, is plastic and adaptive. Humans are not islands but interconnected bodily beings, who extend and change their boundaries through social interactions and also through technology.

This interdisciplinary conference brings together experts from philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and robotics to investigate the challenges and opportunities of an open perspective on the self.  The background assumption behind this notion of openness is that the self is a distributed phenomenon whose mechanisms include neural, bodily and environmental components. Selves leak out into the world. What models, methods and outlooks are available to account for the self in its versatile relations to the social and technological world? How do we initially develop boundaries, and how can we account for change and adaptivity over time? If selves “include” the world, then how can we conceive of their boundaries? A distributed view of the self runs into a dilemma: how can the self be open and yet not get lost or immersed in the world it is connected to?

We are also interested in understanding the open self from a phenomenological and subjective viewpoint. If selves are open to others, and bodies are not merely means of setting up boundaries but also social interfaces, how does this affect our sense of self? What non-individualistic conceptions of subjectivity and the sense of self can complement the study of the open self? How do interactions with technologies and digital media enhance or limit our sense of self? What are experiences of the self at the border, in limit situations or moments of change?

It seems clear that the path towards a satisfying account of the open self needs to be interdisciplinary and pluralistic, yet it also requires clarification and integration. The conference encourages a fruitful dialogue between the different disciplines and seeks to achieve both goals: an understanding of the open self from a multi-level and interdisciplinary viewpoint and finding common ground by defining steps for a unifying, cross-disciplinary theoretical framework.

Topics of the Conference include:

  1. Philosophy, Phenomenology and Cognitive Science:
    • Theoretical, phenomenological and formal perspectives that emphasize an open and distributed outlook on the self, especially at the prereflective, bodily level (minimal, relational or dialogical accounts of self, extended self, distributed, or intersubjective self).
  2. (Life-Span) Developmental Psychology:
    • Development of the self and role of relational and contextual (both technological and social) processes.
    • Dynamics of stability and change of the human self at later stages of development.
  3. Robotics:
    • Synthetic approaches to the bodily and relational self (Can we build an artificial self? Can we develop a Turing Test for artificial selves and the sense of agency?)
    • How can robotics account for the dynamics of stability and change at later stages of development and help to model the mechanisms of self development?
  4. Neuroscience:
    • Neuroscientific accounts of self experience in social and technological interaction.
    • Neuroscientific accounts of stability and change of the self (e.g. in terms of predictive coding and self-organisation)
  5. Experimental Psychology:
    • Empirical research on bodily processes, human behavior and social interaction. The effect of sensorimotor and intersubjective factors on self-experience and agency.
    • Effect of (wearable) technology and VR on the sense of self and agency.



Our keynote speakers:

Anthony Chemero – Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

The Intertwined Self

Giovanna Colombetti  Associate Professor of Philosophy of Cognitive Science, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

The Open Affective Self

Karl Friston  Professor of Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK

Me and My Markov Blanket

Shaun Gallagher  Lillian and Morie Moss Professor of Excellence in Philosophy, University of Memphis, Memphis, USA

Tracking dynamics in the self-pattern: Narrative, psychopathology and predictive processing

Verena V. Hafner  Professor of Adaptive Systems, Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Prerequisites for an Artificial Self

Sara Heinämaa  Academy Professor, Academy of Finland, Professor of Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Understanding Others: A Phenomenology of Gazes, Touches and Voices

Hazel Rose Markus  Davis-Brack Professor in the Behavioral Science, Stanford University, Stanford, USA

You can’t be a Self by Yourself: A Declaration of Interdependence

Manos Tsakiris – Professor of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London, UK

Being ! With a body in mind

Wolfgang Tschacher  Professor of Psychology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Nowness of the Extended Self



The Open Self Conference will be held at the Technical University of Berlin.

The historic Technical University of Berlin is one of Germany’s largest and most prestigious education institutions. It is characterized by outstanding achievements in research and teaching. The range of services offered by the seven main faculties serves to forge a unique link between the natural and technical sciences on the one hand, and economics, social sciences and humanities on the other. Advancement of excellence and interdisciplinarity are at the core of the TU Berlin’s objectives and vision.

VENUE PAGE_TU Belrin_small

Conference Venue

The main venue of the Open Self Conference is at the TU Campus in Charlottenburg.
Hardenbergstr. 16-18, 10623 Berlin.

Public Symposium Venue

The Conference Public Symposium will be held in the Lichthof of the TU main building.
Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin.

Walk from Main Venue to Lichthof

Cross the street and enter Fasanenstraße on your right-hand side. After approximately 200m, turn left and walk towards the main building of the TU Berlin. You can enter the TU main building from the back entrance.

VENUE_walk from venue to lichthof


Scientific Organizers

Dr. Miriam Kyselo – Inter-Self Lab, Berlin Center for Knowledge Research, Technical University of Berlin

Dr. Laura Galbusera – Inter-Self Lab, Berlin Center for Knowledge Research, Technical University of Berlin

Advisory Board:

Prof. Dr. Guenter Abel – Theoretical Philosophy, Berlin Center for Knowledge Research, Technical University of Berlin

Prof. Dr. Verena Hafner – Adaptive Systems, Department of Computer Science, Humboldt University of Berlin

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Tschacher – Experimental Psychology and Dynamic Systems, University of Bern

Conference Assistants: 

Jenny Oliveira Caldas – Inter-Self Lab, Berlin Center for Knowledge Research, Technical University of Berlin

Elisabeth Simon – Secretariat H72,  Berlin Center for Knowledge Research, Technical University of Berlin