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Marie-Theres Fester-Seeger, PhD

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Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät (Kuwi)
Akademische Mitarbeiterin Postdoctoral Fellow, Postdoc Network Brandenburg

Logenstraße 4
15230 Frankfurt (Oder)
🏠 AM 123
☏ +49 335 5534 2738


Consultations take place by arrangement. Both online and offline appointments are possible. Please send me an email for scheduling an appointment.


I am an interdisciplinary researcher who is deeply concerned with human complexity - what makes human living beings, in fact, human. Following nonrepresentational, dialogical and systemic approaches to cognition and language, I seek to investigate the underlying influences and dynamics that inform human perceiving, acting, thinking, speaking and learning. Pursuing a person-oriented view, I am interested in how human engagement with others and speech-enabled AI-technology enriches human becoming. Or, put differently, how our engagement with others and ‘things’ changes us as persons.

Research Interests

  • Distributed Language /Languaging Perspective
  • Systemic Cognition
  • Radical Embodied Cognitive Science
  • Human Presence /Presencing
  • Multiscalar Temporal Cognition 
  • Dialogicality
  • Cognitive Anthropology 
  • Human Interactivity 
  • Human engagement with speech-enabled AI-Technology

Current Memberships

  • Member of the Working Group 6 “Beliefs, Language and Ideology” in COST ACTION ‘Language in the Human-Machine Era’ (CA19102)

Past Memberships 

  • Research Center for Human Interactivity (CHI), University of Southern Denmark (September 2014 – July 2021).

Current Research Projects

How do people ‘talk’ to machines? A systemic ethnography of human engagement with voice assistants
This project offers a societal perspective on the digitalisation of all human life by asking, how together with AI, humans contribute to a functional digital society. The overall aim of the project is to show how human engagement engagement with Voice Assistants (i.e., Siri, Google home, Alexa) affects human agency. The project starts with lived human experience to rethink digital technology as part of a ‘coming together’ of human influences. It asks, first, how people think with and through technology and, second, how human-machine engagement changes a person. The project aims to explore how a user engages with a voice assistant in their home environment and how, over time, engagement with such devices changes human agency. Placing the project in the context of exploring human presencing in the context of non-representational approaches to cognition and language, I propose following research questions:

Research questions

  1. How do users engage with voice controlled digital tools? What role does the interplay of bodily pico- and micro dynamics (i.e., changes in gaze, body posture, manual gestures, voice dynamics and speech pauses) play in the engagement with such technology? 
  2. How does a user’s personally constructed understanding of a social system (i.e., household or family) impact their engagement with the digital tool? 
  3. How does using voice controlled digital tools change the user-as-a-person over time? 

Given an agent-environment perspective on cognition, I prefer to ask how technology enriches a human social cognitive environment. In other words, how digital ‘things’ are part of human cognition. In such views, cognition is irreducible to the inner workings of the brain and needs to be assigned to an organism’s direct engagement with its environment. Using a systemic ethnography, I explore how a user coordinates with digital tools as they draw from their own lived experience and that of others in a shared household. Moreover, I investigate how through recursive engagement with a speaking machine and with others of the same social system a user begins to adapt to the device and changes as a person. The question of how people move each other into becoming informs all my research. When investigating the use of speaking machines in an household environment, I give much attention to how our engagement with people of the same social system enable user engagement with speaking machines. Which circumstances precede giving certain commands to a speaking machine and how does the way of talking about the machine with others impact a user’s perception and action of a voice assistant.

This project is funded by the Postdoc Network Brandenburg.

PhD-Project: “Presencing: Rhythm and Human Cognitive Agency"

PhD, Language and Communication, University of Southern Denmark (February 2017 – July 2021)

In the dissertation, I propose and conceptualise the phenomenon of presencing. Presenting and putting forward a person-oriented view, I give great attention to how people bring about the influences of direct absent others. I define presencing as a narrow phenomenon of human social activity that enables a presencing person to re-evoke an absent other as they actualise a wider personally constructed social system. I investigate how past recursive engagement with direct others permeates greatly human action, perception, thinking, and learning. Inspired by a broad Heideggerian view, I propose an organism-extended view that shows that people act as part of a personally constructed social system. Seeing people as human cognitive agents, I argue that when people draw on or bring about the influences of direct absent others, they bring about a wider systemic temporal depth. In other words, people not only rely on body memory (or re-evoke someone’s voice) but rather they reevoke circumstances in which others are embedded. In this way, I argue that the underlying influences that inform situated actions can be traced to place and time. For this, I re-interpret Henri Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis and describe systemic interdependencies that bind people to each other as rhythm. The work led me to conclude that, among others, human skills, beliefs, and knowledge emerge from people’s past recursive active engagement with a direct other. The work highlights the dialogical and diachronic aspects of human agency as basis for intelligent behaviour.

Awarded Grant

Individual Grant, Postdoc Network Brandenburg, February 2022 – January 2024. Project: How do people ‘talk’ to machines? A cognitive ethnography of human engagement with voice assistants.



Gahrn-Andersen, R., Johannessen, C. M., Harvey, M. I., Simonsen, L. M., Trasmundi, S. B., Marchetti, E., Worsøe, L.B., Fester-Seeger, M.-T., Lebahn, M., Steffensen, S. V. (2019). Interactivity: Why, What and How? Rask, 50, 113-135
Fester, M-T. and Cowley, S.J. (2018). Breathing life into social presence: The case of texting between friends. Pragmatics and Society 9(2), 274-296
Cowley, S.J. and Fester, M-T. (2017). Voices in human agency: The power of presence. Reti, saperi, linguaggi 4(2), 303-320
Book chapter

Cowley, S.J. and Fester, M-T. (in press/2023). Coming to conceive: Radical Embodied Thinking in Action. In: Mark E. King & Paul J. Thibault (Eds.). Learning as Interactivity, Movement, Growth and Becoming, Volume 1: Ecologies of Learning in Higher Education. London and New York: Routledge.

Currently Under Review

Fester-Seeger, M.-T. (under review). Human Presencing: Why social presence is not an illusion. Submitted to AI & Society

Cowley, S.J. and Fester-Seeger, M.-T. (under review). Re-evoking absent people: what languaging implies for radical embodiment. Submitted to Linguistic Frontiers.


Fester-Seeger, M.-T. (2021). Presencing: Rhythm and Human Cognitive Agency. Unpublished PhD-Thesis. Odense: University of Southern Denmark.

Current Conference Organisation

30.-31. 02. 2023. International Workshop “AI-Technology as Interactional Human Culture: Language, Data Practice and Social Struggle”, organised with Britta Schneider,Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), funded by Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaften (ZeM). Speakers: Emily Bender, Andreas Hepp, Joanna Rączaszek-Leonardi, Nicolas Flores-Herr


“The system-in-the-person: how a Heideggerian view in systemic cognition illuminates the plurality of a languaging person’s lived experience” at Language, Languages, and Post-Cognitivism. July 14 -15, 2022. Venice, Italy.

Panelist, „Wie „sprechen“ Menschen mit Maschinen? Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion neugedacht aus Sicht der Languaging Perspektive“, Panel on „Was ist menschliche Sprache? Lautliche Kommunikation und ihre Konzeptualisierung im Zeitalter von Mensch-Maschine Interaktion“ at Posthumanismus.Transhumanismus. Jenseits des Menschen? 7. Jahrestagung der Kulturwissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft. May 25 – 28, 2022, Graz, Austria, organised with Dorothea Horst and Britta Schneider.

“Rhythm of others: a distributed perspective on human presence in global communication” at Unthinking Language – Paths towards Posthumanist Understandings of Human Interactions, March 24-26, 2022, Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder, Germany.
Schneider, B. and Fester-Seeger, M-T. “Borders beyond Humans – The role of Human-Material Entanglements in Creating Human Boundaries”. Border Challenge 2021, November 11-12, 2021. Bern, Switzerland
“Who’s behind the machine? Understanding AI-Technology as a conglomerate of human influences” at LITHME Whole Action Conference, October 20, 2021. Online.
“An investigation of a person’s lived temporality: a qualitative case study” (accepted as long talk) at 5th International Conference on Interactivity, Language & Cognition- Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in the Cognitive and Language Sciences, September 15-19, 2021, Warsaw, Poland/online.
Panelist, “A temporal-embodied perspective on mobile reading,” Panel on “Embodied Reading and Learning: Empirical Investigations” at conference Speaking Bodies: Embodied cognition at the crossroads of Philosophy, Linguistics, Psychology and Artificial Intelligence, May 13-15, 2021, Cluj-Napoca, Romania (online conference) (originally scheduled for May 2020 but moved due to COVID19-Pandemic).
Panelist, “Retrospecting: A temporal-embodied perspective on human presence,” Panel on “Multi-scalar temporalities (MSTs): the case of languaging,” at 4th Avant Conference Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies, Porto, Portugal, October 24-26, 2019.
“Embodied mediated intimacy: A case study of felt bodily presence in global communication,” at 2nd Symposium on Embodied Interaction: Gesture, Touch, and Embodied Meaning-Making. University of Southern Denmark, Odense, June 26-27, 2018.
“Anchoring the Unsaid and Unseen: The slow process of sensorimotor empathy.” 2nd LangEnact conference on “Meaning without Representation: Grounding Language in Sensorimotor Coordination”. University of Southern Denmark, Odense, September 25-27, 2017.
Cowley and Fester (2016). “Language, languaging and man-made coding,” CFP-Sixteenth Annual Gatherings in Biosemiotics, Charles University, Prague, July 2016.
“Visualised utterances ‘hearing voices’ – text-mediated dialogical psychology in an interworld,” Third International Conference on Interactivity, Language and Cognition: the tactility of thinking and talking, Kingston University London, June 2016.


Wintersemester 2022/23

Doing Language: The body, the other, and time (MA, Mo 11-13)

Former teaching experience

Digital Communication (fall term 209, undergraduate course, Instructor, Department of Language and Cognition, University of Southern Denmark,Slagelse).

Language Management (fall term 2019, MA, teaching assistant, instructed by Dr. Klaus Geyer, Department of Language and Cognition, University ofSouthern Denmark, Odense)

Other Research Experience/Projects

University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
Department of Political Science and Public Management
May 2021-July 2021
Research Assistant (part-time)
Supervisor: Dr. Chiara De Franco
Project: New conceptions of language and narratives in international relations and international practices theory
Task: Coding and analysis of diplomatic conversations from the Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) within the theoretical framework of Humberto Maturana’s notion of languaging and emotioning.
Project: “Out of Control: Living in Culture of Fear”
Research Centre of Computational & Organisational Cognition (CORG), University of Southern Denmark, Slagelse
March 2016 – May 2016
Research and Lab Assistant
Supervisors: Dr. Davide Seechi
Assisting with experimental work on “nudging”.
Project: Data Mining and Social Media
Project in cooperation with the Red Hen Lab. Department of Language and Communication, University of Southern Denmark, Slagelse
November 2014 – June 2015
Student worker