Thomas Nyckel, M.A.

Technische Universität Braunschweig

Thomas Nyckel

CAPTCHA if you can

The research project analyses the internet phenomenon CAPTCHA from a media studies and techno-feminist perspective. The concrete goal is the development and submission of an interdisciplinary and generally understandable monograph on the topic of CAPTCHA.

In it, the essential features of the development history of this Internet phenomenon as well as the associated social and societal implications will be elaborated and a research gap that has hardly been addressed so far will be closed.

The media studies perspective looks at the historical-genealogical development steps of CAPTCHA and its technical conditions in the sense of media archaeology. The techno-feminist perspective, following Karen Barad, includes the complex interconnections of CAPTCHA with phenomena such as micro-work or the gig economy/digitised work and the development of artificial intelligences.

In addition to gaining scientific knowledge, this analysis aims to elicit the possibilities of self-determination and co-determination in the design and use of CAPTCHAs’ internet services. Furthermore, the analysis will include consideration of the extent to which insights gained from CAPTCHAs can be generalised to prepare for future developments.

Research focus

  • Media Studies
  • Karen Barad’s agentic realism
  • Feminist critical posthumanism
  • Theory(s) of the digital
  • Hypercomputation

Curriculum Vitae

  • 2020: PhD programme “Configurations of Man, Machine and Gender”, Technische Universität Braunschweig
  • 2016: MA in Media Studies, Humboldt University Berlin. The master’s thesis “Berechenbarkeit als Sphäre digitaler Medien” was awarded the Humboldt Prize 2017.
  • 2013: BA in Philosophy/Musicology, University of Potsdam

Lectures and publications

  • Nyckel, Thomas: Karen Barad’s New Materialism and the Constitution of Man and Machine in the Practices of CAPTCHA. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Media Studies 2019 Media Materialities at the University of Cologne, 25-28 September 2019.
  • Nyckel, Thomas: Karen Barad’s Agential Realism and the Media Practices of Artificial Intelligence. Paper presented at the workshop On Sealing and Opening Black Boxes – Dispositives and Artefact Arrangements as Instruments of Analysis at Heidelberg University, 23-25 May 2019.
  • Nyckel, Thomas: CAPTCHA or: Are we training the digital media machines? Invited lecture at the University of Fine Arts (HBK) in Braunschweig on 15 January 2019.

Thomas Nyckel, M.A.

Technische Universität Braunschweig

Fellow at CAIS from January until June 2021