Working Groups

Photo by Max Richter

Group work is the heart of ISWI. We offer 30 working groups, each dealing with a certain aspect of the main topic ‘tradition and transition’. There are thematic groups and art groups. Soon you can find an overview of the groups. Within the group sessions, you will have the possibility to share your experiences and views, discuss in detail and work towards solutions for current problems. Within the application process, you are asked to decide which working group you would like to join during the conference. You can state your three top preferences, but you will only be able to take part in one group, according to our capacities.

1. Philosophy

Traditions are the values, customs, and ideas that are passed on from one generation to the other. The purpose and the process of passing on traditions are dependent on a range of factors related on the individual, communities, geography and history for example. Humans have developed and carried forward traditions from the very beginning of civilization, and this process continues today. Traditions may evolve over time or may need to be rectified or even be completely rethought based on collective realisations and agreement. They inform us about how things worked in the past. However, with changing circumstances even long-held traditions may wither. Future transitions might require breaking with traditions and past beliefs. How do different traditions evolve and/or prevail? What are the different tendencies in dealing with traditions? What purpose do traditions serve today in a globalised, connected world? How do traditions define our identity? Should all traditions be challenged, if so how can we do that constructively? Our ability to adapt and take actions to change have contributed to our survival. Global issues such as war and climate change demand an unprecedented global transition. How can we balance traditions and transitions to pursue the vision of a fairer and sustainable future? Participants of this group can engage in a philosophical enquiry on traditions and its interrelation to our collective transition.

2. Human Rights

A right to life, to freedom, to equality before the law, to education, to freedom of assembly and association, to asylum, to the prohibition of torture and nevertheless, human dignity – these and 24 other fundamental rights, which apply equally to people worldwide, were established by a United Nations resolution in 1948. However, the history of human rights dates back much further in history: the first roots can already be found in antiquity and since the Enlightenment, fundamental rights have been declared in various agreements. Over the centuries, there has been an evolution of human ethics and thus our conception of human rights. For example, the abolishment of slavery in certain parts of the world was only possible with the transition of values within those societies. The group can discuss the extent to which human rights are respected in various parts of the world today, 70 years after they were adopted by the UN. Which traditions violate human rights today? How well is human rights compliance being monitored? How can new monitory bodies be created or the influence of existing systems be improved? What is the role of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and how can we all support the fight for universal human rights? Furthermore, participants of the group can discuss whether the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in their current form correspond to their understanding of dignity for all humans and whether it is a suitable instrument to realise a fairer world.

3. Gender Equality & LGBTQIA Rights

A binary division of all humans into women and men is common almost everywhere in the world. Almost always, our biological sex influences how we are raised and educated. We get to know, adopt and reproduce typical behavioural patterns and preferences that seem intrinsic to our gender. People belonging to the LGBTQIA community (LGBTQIA = lesbian, gay, bi-, transsexual, queer, inter-, asexual) often stand out because they do not relate to these social expectations based on only two genders and because they often evade socially standardised behaviours. Queer movements try to find ways for all people to feel equally recognised and fairly treated in our society in their very personal gender and sexual identity. Is it enough to demand that all people should be treated equally by society and by law? What should equal treatment actually look like when we humans are not born equal? Especially through traditions, gender-specific expectations are often reinforced. Should we, therefore, discard certain traditions or can they be adapted to ensure gender equality? When people decide to have children, it is often the female who faces losses in her private and professional life. Can there be real equality here and if so, how could it look like? Is there a need for legal regulations such as women’s quotas in management positions or men’s quotas in nursing professions? How could legal support for women and LGBTQIA be formulated? This often diverse emotionally and ideologically discussed topic affects all humans. In the context of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the participants should dare a discussion, address questions such as the above and gather ideas for a fair and mutually supportive coexistence of all humans.

4. Equal Opportunities

Our birthplace, gender, colour, religion, and the social status of our family; these circumstances, into which we are simply “born” and over which we have hardly any influence, determine the possibilities in our lives. Gender, sexual or religious minorities, and people with migrant backgrounds, for example, are often deprived of opportunities. Traditional ideologies may give rise such discrimination. Unequal opportunities exist both on global as well as local levels. With a substantial population being less wealthy than the rest, how can we break the cycle of poverty which may be passed on from generation to generation? Social security can make an important contribution in preventing at least existential threats. Is there a realisable model consisting of public healthcare systems, insurances and pensions, that benefits everyone equally? How can we create educational opportunities for all people and prevent children from financially weaker families from having much more difficulty in obtaining higher educational qualifications? How can discrimination against minorities be reduced by contributions on an individual as well as a societal level? Are quota systems appropriate and desirable means of abolishing discrimination? An equal and fair world would ideally guarantee equal opportunities. The participants of this group can engage in a discussion on ways to achieve this.

5. Sexuality

Since its genesis, humanity has been significantly influenced by sexuality. Sexual orientation and reproduction were not only crucial for survival, but also with regard to the definition of social norms and roles. Different cultures around the globe have dealt differently with sexuality. While in some cultures sex is considered a sin, others have made sexual freedom possible. Often – and also in liberal societies – people with a sexual orientation and gender identity that deviates from the existing norm are socially outlawed, legally disadvantaged or even persecuted. The topic of sexuality is rarely openly discussed and is even a taboo subject in some cultures. This leads not only to a lack of understanding but also to misinformation, superstition, illness and unwanted parenthood. However, issues such as one’s own needs and limitations, the use of contraceptives, respect for sexual partners and sexual hygiene are crucial for the health and well-being of every individual. Sexuality means more than just sex – it’s also about role attributions, rules and rights. It is this group’s chance to take a critical and open look at sexuality in this context. The participants are encouraged to become aware of and question traditional views. Various forms of deviation and a potential, accompanying, social change can also be a subject of the group work. In addition, related topics such as pornography, prostitution, sex education and mono-/polygamy can play a role and be considered in the context of tradition and transition.

6. Animal Rights

Over time, humans have become highly attached to animals – whether as pets or as part of animal production to gain resources such as meat, milk or leather. Pets may have a high social importance and may receive special rights and are sometimes even treated as members of the family. Farm animals in traditional animal husbandry also enjoy a certain appreciation worldwide despite the fact that they are regarded as resources. In factory farming, they have much fewer considerations and usually poor living conditions. Coexistence between humans and animals also poses a further challenge, as many animals were threatened with extinction due to human intervention in their habitats. While religions such as Jainism prohibit harm to living organisms, several practices that violate animal rights for traditional, religious and entertainment purposes exist. What role do technical developments play in this context with regard to cultivated foods such as meat, milk, cheese or the replacement of leather with cork or other resources? Are there opportunities to dispense with animal testing, especially in medicine and the examination of new medicines? How can living together in villages, in the countryside and especially in cities look like? How can we change our existing human-animal relationship? How would humanity be impacted with the acceptance of basic rights for animals? In essence, as part of this group work, participants can question their view of animals and their rights as part of the larger ecosystem.

7. Family

Traditional family structures may vary, in some parts of the world, the classical family picture consists of a mother, father and child(ren). In other parts, however, a family also includes an extended group of relatives. Ideally, our family provides us with a sense of security, a sense of belonging and supports us for a lifetime. A traditional distribution of roles can still be found in many families. However, the desire to rethink is becoming ever greater and louder. Alternative forms of living together have emerged: blended families created by separations or divorces are no longer a rarity, in rainbow families e.g. with same-sex partners form a family and also the proportion of single parents is increasing. However, these forms of family are often structurally disadvantaged while many privileges are reserved for classical families. Which traditions have been consolidated in our minds? What do we question today in our own way of life? Which lessons and concepts do we draw on because they are valuable? How can our modern societies take care of each other and the elderly? Can the boundaries of families as caregiving communities be extended? Discussions about the composition and design of communities in the past and in the future can be part of the group work. As part of this group, participants can also share their personal notions of family and consider different related traditions and transitions.

8. Law & Justice

Can law and justice be reconciled? That is at least the declared aim of legislation in most of today’s states and at international level. However, ambition, intentions and reality sometimes paint a contradictory picture. In many cases, it takes decades before laws are questioned and adapted to the constitution. But what is perceived as just and unjust by societies is constantly changing. A few decades ago, for example, the official marriage of same-sex couples was out of the question for most societies, but now views have changed fundamentally in some societies. To what extent, however, is today’s dominant understanding of justice based on Western cultural influences? How can such discrepancies in the understanding of justice be resolved? How do we deal with the colonial heritage, which is partly reflected in the laws of the sovereign states that are still in force today? In the fight against discrimination, social movements have played and continue to play a very significant role as the voice of marginalised groups. They thus stimulated the discourse in society and questioned conventional traditions. For example, in many countries women won the right to suffrage and self-determination, homosexuals gained social recognition, South-Africans abolished apartheid. In some cases, judiciary enabled the necessary change of perspective in order to protect minority rights. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the international community of states has finally attempted to put collective values of justice into concrete terms and to find a common global legal basis for them. Can law bring compensatory justice? Or does a different distribution of power in practice lead to an asymmetry before the law? How can individual freedoms stand up to the expansion of state control? These questions paint the general idea of this group and should serve as the basis to discuss new concepts that ensure a just implementation of justice through law.

9. Consumption

Whether fossil fuels, rare soils, agricultural land or clean drinking water – the resources that our earth provides are limited. Almost every form of everyday consumption requires resources whose usage releases environmentally harmful CO2 into the atmosphere. According to Global Footprint Network calculations, our current demand of resources exhausts nature’s ecological budget by August itself, after which we deplete the reserves of our planet. Hence, there is an urgent need for action! But what can each of us do to take smalls step towards a more sustainable world? A major problem is the unequal distribution of resources. A majority of the world’s resources is consumed in industrialised and newly industrialised nations. How can we transition from our current consumption habits that exist at the expense of wealth inequality between the global north and south? An interesting approach is the so-called sharing economy, which tries to make the use of otherwise unused resources possible through different platforms. Can such concepts help to use resources more efficiently and fairly? The participants in this group can consider their own consumption, question and find out sustainable alternatives to conventional products or products that can be avoided completely. Alternative paradigms of production and consumption, like the Cradle-to-cradle design can also be evaluated and/or developed during the group work.

10. Environment

Our environment is constantly changing. While some changes happen over a long period of time through, for example, continental drift, some changes are sudden and dramatic. However, humans can also influence the environment over short or long periods of time. To discuss how the environment has changed over the last thousand years and how much of it was due to human impact, could be part of the group discussion and research. One step could be the identification of human activities that are responsible for environmental damage. What impact do urbanization, industrialization, pollution, overpopulation, and overfishing have? What role do deforestation, carbon emission, and natural resource depletion play? Climate change and global warming are the most pressing and discussed current environmental issues. Environmental change is an essential topic as its short and long-term consequences are pivotal to the very existence of nature. While rapid changes can be devastating, slow environmental changes make it possible for plants and animals to adapt. Since we as humans depend heavily on the environment, we invite the group to learn about it and discuss how we can improve our relationship with ‘mother earth’. As individuals and societies, we can question the wide-spread understanding of building ‘civilizations’ and ‘development’. How can sustainable development aid in the preservation of the environment? What can we learn from traditions in certain parts of the world that value our relationship to the ecosystem? Some damage that has been done to the environment may not be revertable. However, future decisions can be effective in limiting further damage. Around the world, active environmentalism is gaining support and policy changes are being implemented. How can we play our part in preserving the environment? We invite the group to consciously reflect and discuss current issues and solutions associated with environmental changes.

11. Energy Supply

Global energy demand has risen dramatically since the industrial revolution. Fossil fuels, in particular, have been a primary resource for meeting our various energy needs. However, since the past few decades, we have begun to notice the adverse effects of using fossil fuels like air pollution and global warming. Yet the need for a decline in the consumption of these non-renewable fuels has only been realised in recent years. On the other hand, with the expanding global economy, electricity, long-distance transport, and automation, for example, are driving the quantitative demands on energy supply. Energy production must always keep pace with consumption. The challenge, however, is to find a balance between the two and to enable environmentally friendly energy production. A transition towards renewable energies can help to reduce CO2 emissions. Yet renewable energy sources have their limitations. What transitions are necessary and possible to address these problems? The group can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different energy resources, the limitations of alternative energy production and possible solutions and approaches. The focus may be on the production costs, environmental impact, rapid availability and energy storage. Is it possible to reduce energy consumption on a personal level? Would incentivising lower energy consumption help in reducing demand, for example through social schemes? What policy changes can we seek to alter our energy habits? We invite the group to identify challenges within the topic of energy supply and to collectively discuss potential transitions.

12. Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurs seek to tackle social problems and especially in the backdrop of the latest financial crisis, there has been an urge to rethink our ideas of profit-making and value creation. The concept of the social entrepreneur thus combines the idea of an honourable business person with someone who gives due importance to social impact and responsibility. The Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus is one such example. He founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 to provide microloans to people in Bangladesh. The question of tradition is important to understand the notion of social entrepreneurship. While on one hand, it turns away from the traditional profit-oriented approach, ways to ensure economic viability must be considered. Do social entrepreneurs fall back on traditional concepts in this sense? How can the balancing act between entrepreneurial thinking and social aspect be mastered? What are the goals of social entrepreneurs and how can they be achieved? Do social entrepreneurs need to find adequate answers to social problems with new approaches or should this continue to be the task of governments, institutions and existing social organisations? Is there a history of social entrepreneurship? With this group, we would like to offer the participants a platform to discuss these and other related questions. The group could discuss the theoretical aspects, forms, developments and critique of social entrepreneurship. Participants are also encouraged to share their own ideas and experiences within their communities and share tips on meaningful and effective social impact through entrepreneurship.

13. Food

Food defines our cultures and lifestyles well beyond its role as a means of sustenance. The variety of food and beverages found around the world is indicative of traditions, of geography, of history, climate and a range of factors. There is a strong interest in culinary arts, and through social media, food continues to contribute to pop-culture. How has globalisation changed local cuisine? How has cross-continental shipping shaped eating habits around the globe? Even as food production has sky-rocketed over the past decades, malnutrition and starvation is the dire reality of millions. How can we provide food security for all? Given our current ways of storage and consumption, a significant portion of food is wasted. How can food wastage be tackled on a local, community and global level? How effective are community-based food distribution projects? In the light of the debate about the harmful nutritional as well as environmental impacts of meat consumption, should a complete transition towards a vegan/vegetarian diet be advocated? Innovations like hydroponic systems of growing plants, artificially grown meat, genetically modified organisms can offer solutions for meeting our demands for food. However, these developments must be evaluated and discussed. This vast system of agricultural production, food processing, storage, transport, sales, consumption, and wastage gives participants of this group a vast scope for discussion and engagement.

14. Transport & Mobility

Transport and mobility are essential to the modern, connected world, allowing the movement of goods and people across the world. With rising population, while the need for more infrastructure has increased, harmful environmental impacts are also being noticed in our quest meet these needs. The transition towards sustainable transportation in the sense of a socially and environmentally friendly impact has gained relevance today. A major shift in transportation happened with the invention of the wheel and the subsequent building of roads. The journey from traditional to modern day transportation started with the invention of steam and combustion engines. Today, aeroplanes have made it possible to travel anywhere in the world within a day. How has the global connectivity benefited us in terms of international understanding and cultural exchange? How have our social dynamics evolved through the possibilities of seamless mobility? To improve access to mobility for all citizens, the idea of making public transportation free for everyone is being tested in different cities. Developments such as ride-sharing, bike-sharing programmes, and on-demand “pop-up” bus services are sure to change our transportation landscape. Which novel concepts of urban planning can be implemented to improve our quality of life while enabling easy mobility? Futuristic transportation systems like self-driving vehicles, elevated buses, and the Hyperloop will perhaps make movement even easier and faster. Furthermore, space travel may be achievable in the near future and promises to completely change the course of human exploration. Ethical and safety issues of these concepts could be part of the group’s discussion. Participants can evaluate the different modes of transport, its role in the socio-economic development and future concepts.

15. Migration

Migration, the permanent desired or forced change of residence, has become a relevant and constant issue. Migration has always played an essential role throughout human history. For example, nomadic life was always present and has proven itself to this day, despite increasing urbanisation and globalisation. However, drawing of borders has been restricting traditional migration routes severely. Migration can occur due to a wide variety of individual reasons: educational and career opportunities, partnerships, relatives or the prospect of a better life are some of them. The decision to emigrate might not be willful. Millions of people are forced to flee their countries every year as a result of civil wars, political persecution, or natural disasters and climate change. A large proportion of migrants remain within their own country or culture, but more and more people are also emigrating to distant countries with completely different traditions and habits. Often, one’s own traditions and cultural habits do not fall by the wayside. Rather, there can be a desire to preserve them. After all, migrants are often faced with several challenges while adjusting in their new place of residence. These challenges could include social acceptance and participation, integration, language barriers, xenophobia or cultural contradictions. To what extent are local traditions and cultural characteristics challenged or changed by migration? Does intercultural exchange create a sense of global citizenship? How can cultural diversity contribute to a peaceful, conflict-free world? Is large-scale migration a sustainable solution for the countries and inhabitants of the Global South? How are the effects of ‘brain-drain’ and ‘reverse brain-drain’? The participants of the group could discuss these and further questions, the prospect of a world without borders and examine possible outlooks on the movement of humans in our globalised world.

16. Technology

Practical application of scientific knowledge to solve a certain problem or to perform a certain function can be termed as technology. The development and utilisation of technology have been a driving factor in the sustenance of humans. Longer lifespan, a huge increase in food production, a revolutionary advancement in communication, easy access to information and storage via digitalisation, and space exploration are some examples of technological achievements. However, with the boon of technology, there exists the bane. The destructive capacity of technology can be witnessed through the development of weapons of mass destruction and the severity of wars, for example. In recent times our world has been moving towards digitalisation and technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are shaping our future. The vision of an all-connected world, a world where robots liberate humans of exhausting labour, where transportation is primarily autonomous, where our biological bodies are enhanced using artificial devices, is perhaps only a few decades away from being realised. Right now, ethical considerations for the development of technologies like AI must be discussed. Technology in a way describes the evolving human ingenuity and as part of this group, several aspects could be discussed. What are the limitations of technology-based solutions to the challenges faced by humanity? How can we spread the benefits of technology to improve education and the standard of living? Does the omnipresence of devices make our life experience better or worse? Can we ensure that ethics and morals are adhered to in the development of technology? How do we prevent the possible threats due to AI-based technologies like autonomous weapon systems?

17. Education

Education can be described as a process of understanding our collective values, gaining knowledge and enabling us to further improve the state of our society. One aspect of it can be the transmission of culture from one generation to another. On the other hand, it may also be an instrument for questioning traditions and an enabler to rethink previously established ideas. Do the current educational systems enable us to become responsible citizens? Around the world, we find differences between public and private educational institutions. How can we address the inequality of opportunities and possibilities which is facilitated by an inherently unequal society? Additionally, to which extent does one’s family and surrounding influence their choices regarding education? Certain aspects of formal education may be argued upon, such as the standardisation of evaluation, restricted structure, high workload and so on. On the other hand, one might cite the role of these systems in meeting the needs of demands for a workforce. How does education help us in enhancing our creativity and talents? How much importance should we allocate to moral education? How can we better utilise the potential of education to develop a culture of peace and mutual understanding? With the availability of information over the internet and online lessons, traditional schooling is undergoing a transformation. Can web-based education supplement classroom teaching? The choices regarding higher education largely define the careers we have. However, how can we balance the practical value of education and its role as a means for curiosity-based exploration? Many revolutionary ideas are born out of student-led initiatives. How can engagement of students and the youth, in general, be encouraged? Also, should a culture of perpetual education and learning be pursued through the inclusion of informal and non-formal educational programmes? Education may well be the most effective tool to realise an egalitarian society. Participants of this group can share their own experiences as students and discuss its potential to make our world a bit better.

18. Media & Information

The different media to obtain and distribute information have evolved significantly in recent years. While a few decades ago traditional media including, radio and TV stations, regional and national newspapers and magazines prevailed as our sources of information, the digital revolution has brought a multitude of platforms where content is created and shared. Journalism is one of the pillars of democracy, and today, through the social media, each person can contribute to reporting news and events. Advertising too has been transformed by digitalisation, and one may consider the interrelation between journalism and advertising more critically. How can we ensure responsible journalism in the midst of too much information generated from too many channels? The concept of media today can be characterised by decentralisation and often brings an entirely different experience to the user. Is this shift always to be rated positively? How can we overcome and prevent censorship to ensure freedom of speech? The credibility and manipulation of media is another issue that can be discussed. The current debates regarding filter bubbles indicate that algorithms can lead users to a single perspective or the outcome they most preferred. To what extent are each of us susceptible to radicalised or polarised news due to the usage of social networks? How selective is our perception of the social environment in which we find ourselves? Is it possible to avoid the influence of specific interest groups and media owners? Right-wing movements, for example, try to attract attention through targeted border crossings and provocations. Should we counter this to prevent those small but loud minorities from playing a disproportionate role in our public perception?

19. Language

Language is always evolving to meet the changing needs of society and culture. It is a medium to express thoughts and feelings. A common language can bring people together and create a sense of belonging to a social group. English has largely established itself as a global language. More people are mastering English which might help to bridge the language gap among people from different backgrounds. Languages with few speakers are already being replaced or are facing eventual extinction. Would it be beneficial to keep these sparsely spoken languages alive? Or is a language worth preserving only if it is widely used? How does the loss of a language affect the cultural identity of an ethnic group? How does mixing foreign words in a language affect its evolution? Language is a powerful instrument since it influences our thinking. Slogans with strong inspiring words can lead to ideological and political movements. Language can also be manipulative e.g. election campaigns can be won with skilful rhetoric. Can linguistic images and expressions create social norms and/or prejudices? How strongly are gender roles influenced by language? Participants can discuss aspects of language change, the foundation of identity through language, shaping of language by society, discrimination through language, political correctness in language and much more. They may also get to know and analyse the differences and possibilities of their own respective languages.

20. Politics

Politics affects our lives at every level, from economic policies to the treatment of individuals. In modern history, several political ideologies have evolved, with there being no consensus about one perfect system that fits all. Political movements based on key issues faced by societies have been significantly altering political systems. Outcomes from these movements may be positive or negative from subjective points of view. Examples such as the movement to grant women’s right to vote, right to the sovereignty of nations, or the recognition of LGBTQIA rights have largely contributed toward a just society. Other movements like fascism can lead to harmful repercussions. To which extent does politics define our personal and social perspectives? Is political engagement a necessity for all individuals to bring about just societies? How can we help to maintain an open, peace-oriented policy, promote pluralism and at the same time to curb corruption and lobbying? In addition to the theoretical consideration of forms of governance, personal experience and evaluation play an important role in the discussion around these questions. Within this group, participants can reflect on the existing political systems and movements, identify their transition and evolution and ponder upon challenges that can be addressed through effective movements. Participants from different parts of the globe can share their views and experiences of living within different political systems. The group may also plan actions to be performed during the conference or after it at personal or community levels.

21. Religion

We live in a world with diverse approaches to faith and religion. The role that religion plays in public may vary, but religion has a diverse social influence, e.g. in the form of many traditions. Several nations claim to be secular today. Does secularism present challenges to religions? How can religious harmony be encouraged? When people feel confronted in their religious beliefs, they often try even more to fall back on their foundations. How can we perceive fundamentalism in this globalised world? A pluralistic society demands a different approach in which diversity does not appear threatening, but in which the coexistence of many religions and a possible interreligious dialogue is perceived as an opportunity. It is important to look at religious traditions in context to their historical background and dynamics – not just as a foundation, but as the result of an ongoing process of interpretation and change. How does one arrive at a reflective approach to faith in which both the appreciation of tradition and its questioning have their place? Another interesting aspect is that the vast majority of people are born into their religion. Should we all be more actively faced with a choice on the question of faith and how would this change our relationship to religion? How did the concept of truth and the role of access to knowledge change? What role does faith play in societies characterised by scientific rationalism?

22. Health & Medicine

The general health of a person depends on the physical, psychological and emotional well-being. What is good health and how can we achieve it? How do social norms affect mental health and how to change the traditional approach of societies to mental health issues? Which aspects of health deserve more attention today? How can we encourage healthier lifestyle habits? Modern medicine has made diagnosing and treating diseases easier. However, in some cases people might still trust and prefer traditional healers over modern medical procedures. How can we utilise traditional medicine to complement modern developments? Should research in alternative medicine be encouraged? How can we make healthcare and medical facilities accessible to remote places? Medical care could be considered a fundamental right, yet expensive insurance premiums and pharmaceutical costs may deprive many people of it. Should we enable or encourage development of cheaper alternatives of currently available expensive medicines and equipment? Or should the idea of financial profit-making by pharmaceutical companies itself be challenged? Examples and approaches on these issues can be discussed. Modern medicines have saved many lives, but they have side effects as well. How can we bring awareness about the unwarranted use of medicines? Advancements like prosthetics, stem cell research, gene editing, and so on are opening up promising possibilities for the future. However, these developments call for comprehensive ethical evaluation of the approaches and implications. Participants of this group can discuss the above questions and share possible solutions to the existing issues.

23. Economy

The global economy has grown rapidly since the industrial revolution which suddenly allowed unprecedented production capacity and consumption. Capitalism – the prevalent model of economics – from one point of view may strive to maximise profits for companies and promote the general development and benefit of people. However, ideas of limitless, eternal growth can be criticised in the context sustainability. Vast economic inequality between and within nations, and ruthless exploitation of natural resources and human labour can be considered as the main arguments for transitioning from the current system towards a more fair and sustainable form. In recent years, there has been a notable interest in rethinking economic policies and approach to human development in general. The prominent ‘degrowth’ movement seeks to shift the focus of economics to improving the well-being of humanity while maintaining ecological balance by reducing consumption. Concepts such as shared and circular economics call the notions of ownership and waste into question. What are the limits of a profit-driven free-market economy? Can we reinvent our economic system to improve the health of our planet? What are the pitfalls and shortcomings of ‘green economy’? Economy is a complex and multi-dimensional subject. In this group, the above-mentioned and more questions related to the meaningful transformation of our economic system can be discussed and evaluated.

24. Fine Arts

Among all other art forms, visual arts have existed for the longest time in documented history, which has progressed through constant change, continuous development and everlasting innovation within the genre and beyond its borders. It is almost impossible today to ignore the enormous wealth of artistic traditions while creating or interpreting art. More and more artists are choosing to refer explicitly to artistic and cultural traditions. The works of artists can portray both a positive and a critical picture of traditions in contemporary art, politics, and society. Through the use of modern technologies and media, art can reach to a large number of people in different regions and circumstances, thus influencing their ways of thinking and broadening their horizons. Besides the exchange about a synergy between art, society and especially the role of art in social change, the participants of this group are also given space to create their own artworks.

25. Literature

Throughout ages, literature has told the stories of contemporary times: those stories depict either a specific social class or combine a picture of the society as a whole. Literature has the capacity to enshrine tradition or it can be used as a tool to question and even break traditions. In the form of children’s books, short stories, novels, poems, etc. traditions can be written down without explicitly naming them. Similarly, literature can also change society by uncovering injustices and creating new perspectives. The scope of this group is to deal with these phenomena. Known and unknown works can be analysed, and classical books can be critically reviewed. How great is the influence of writers and how much responsibility can be attributed to them? How is a critical questioning of literature possible? The emergence and dissemination of literature can also be a topic. Which works are published, nominated and award-winning? Which authors were and are underrepresented and why? What role do traditions play here? The historical origin and usage of literature, for example as a means of propaganda, can also be examined. In addition to the theoretical discussion, the participants are also invited to transform their conversations and thoughts into their own texts in order to express their criticism, thoughts, and ideas. The closing event offers the opportunity to share poems or short stories with all conference participants.

26. Theatre & Performing Arts

The theatre is an art that is constantly changing, always responding to the latest developments and looking for new forms. At the same time and to an extraordinary degree, it is shaped by the traditions of classical tragedy and comedy, by an evolution from elitist court theatre to the popular theatre as well as by local peculiarities. Today’s theatre world has a wide range of traditional and modern, unconventional elements which are used in a variety of combinations. This world of theatre is open to the new drama genre and immersive theatre, but at the same time still lets the classical plays be a part of the regular program. The participants of the theatre group will be able to exchange their own experiences with theatre, the situation of theatre in their home country and their view on the various theatre traditions. They have the opportunity to talk about plays or projects that inspire them in particular. The depiction of current topics and pieces dealing with tradition and transition can be discussed. What role can theatre play concerning the change in society as a whole? Which social problems can be addressed in theatre in order to use it not only as an entertaining but also as an educational medium? In this group work, the participants can collect ideas on the topic and convert them into a stage performance. Through the high use of non-verbal means of communication such as gestures and facial expressions, the theatre offers the possibility of overcoming language barriers and creating a universally understandable play.

27. Dance

Whether the expressive power and passion of a tango, the joy and ecstasy of a Charleston or the harmony and calm of the slow waltz – humans can express their emotions through dances. Entire stories can be told through ballet and character dance. Other forms of dance, such as capoeira, are a form of social protest, point out grievances and are nowadays used for entertainment as well. Traditions are reflected and consolidated in dances and passed on to the next generation. Traditions determine how people dance, who dances and who does not. For example, certain dances that were originally used to prepare for hunting and war are still practised, even if hunting or war does not follow. The question is, how are these motives reflected today? Are dancers aware of the original relevance of their dances? When and why are dances discarded, reconsidered, redesigned? In addition, dance as a universal language also offers an excellent medium for bringing people from different cultures together. In the dance group, these aspects can be critically questioned with regard to known dances. Possible approaches to the future can be discussed. Since dancing is also an essential element to promote the interaction between people, there is the possibility to develop a group choreography that embodies the motto of ISWI 2019. This choreography can be performed during the Closing Ceremony. Ideas such as flash mobs can be performed to motivate the participants to dance along.

28. Music

Music plays a very important role in many people’s lives. It can evoke the most diverse emotions, contribute to relaxation, stimulate reflection and help with orientation and self-discovery. Music unites people in a unique way. Over the centuries, it has been an integral part of many traditions and is constantly undergoing changes that can be seen in pop music for example. Influenced by rock’n’roll and folk music, popular music has changed over the decades. Current technological developments such as the emergence of synthesizers play a role in electronic dance music and seem to replace analogue instruments. This raises questions: What developments can be expected further? Will synthesizers also be used in regional, traditional music? How does this change the relationship to music as a form of art that fosters community? How does the perception but also the access to music change when synthesizers are used instead of analogue instruments? Will there be a counter development that relies on analogue instruments or music styles of earlier centuries? Are there already elements that keep recurring? During the conference, these and other questions concerning the relationship between tradition and transition in music can be discussed. It is also possible to rehearse or write a piece of music and perform it during the closing ceremony. The participants can bring own instruments or use instruments that will be made available.

29. Photography

A picture is worth a thousand words. To capture great moments, events and moods, photography is often used. Documentation and accurate depiction of reality are combined with artistic aspects, allowing images not only to contain information and revive memories but also to evoke certain feelings and spread moods. By capturing a moment with a certain combination of one’s own abilities and the technique used, the photographer can capture and pass on the respective moment together with his or her point of view of the situation. The right photo can also point out unpleasant situations in a much-targeted manner and thus motivate people to take action. In this context, the photography group can also take up the topic of ISWI 2019. In addition to exchanging and discussing traditions and transitions in the field of photography, the conflict area between them can also be artistically countered. The group may be artistic and at the same time help to capture the most beautiful moments and most important events of the conference. For the group work, participants can use their own cameras. The group may provide images for press releases, publications, and an ISWI photo exhibition to share its photographs with the world. Photos can also be handed to the documentation group which will compile a documentation book of the conference.

30. Documentation

This group bears the responsibility of recording the many discussions, ideas and results from the events, lectures, and actions during the course of the conference. The main goal of this group is to compile a documentation booklet which all participants will receive after the Closing Ceremony. As part of this group, participants can utilize their creative skills to create the design, and write and edit content for the booklet. Apart from that, participants of this group can support the ISWI Organising Committee in its public relations campaigns. Contributions to update social media channels of ISWI during the conference can be made. The participants can also utilise the chance of working with broadcasting media by supporting the student radio (radio hsf) and the Ilmenau student TV channel (iSTUFF). These student-led associations will have programmes throughout the ISWI 2019. Tasks such as suggesting and conducting interviews with participants and speakers, producing and editing videos etc. can be undertaken by members of this group.

Have you found your favourite three groups? Then you might be ready to apply!