We are not alone in asking these questions. For that, we are lucky. Our approach at the Forum is to concentrate our sentient cognition on the interplay of Technology and Art, which, on the large scales of time, we view as a defining dynamic of human society.

At the heart of our forum is an invention: Vienna-Style Debates. In seeking debates that make a difference, that unite rather than fragment, we’ve fomented a style that synthesizes contrast and consensus. This is a spirit of empathetic collisions.

We have a view on people, too. We want a forum that represents humanity in the broadest and most compelling way. In the spirit of friendly collisions, we want to bring together individuals who ordinarily don’t meet but whose connection holds creative possibility. We seek enlightened solidarity. We believe that listening is the willingness to change.

Our vision is to create a worldwide movement of Vienna-style debates on matters that concern us all.

Join our movement.

The MIT Grafenegg Forum is by invitation only. For inquiries please contact Anine Ward anine@mit.edu.

2020 Debates

Debate Topics

The MIT-Grafenegg Forum will center its 2020 debates around Cultural Production and Curation. We will explore the ways “Social Imagination, Technology and the Arts”, and “Social Responsibility” emphasize the underlying social issues we face today. Through a close content collaboration with Center for Advanced Virtuality at MIT, the debates will examine the cutting-edge humanistic ethos that considers the social and ethical impacts of new technologies.

Cultural Production

Cultural Production will explore systems that revolve around shared values and practices as pertaining to the Arts, Technology and Culture. We use the term cultural production to refer to art and other forms of creative making that may be excluded sometimes by being given other labels such as craft, design, code, and popular media. In discussing cultural production, we shall explore how information technologies play crucial roles in creating culture, ranging from the everyday to fine arts contexts.

Cultural Curation

Cultural Curation will explore how we curate content and how that reflects our thoughts and actions. We shall explore the intersection of art and technology and the institutions that exhibit and promote them. It will be important for us to discern the impacts of influential institutions ranging from museums to festivals. At the same time, we need to look at the venues through which diverse cultural and vernacular cultural forms that may be overlooked by highbrow and mainstream popular cultural institutions alike.

Vienna Style Debates

Vienna-style debates is a new debate format developed jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Grafenegg. The goal of this debate format is to enable equitable social change through serious debate and meaningful consensus.

The term “Vienna-style debates” was coined at the inaugural MIT Grafenegg Forum in 2019, at the historic Grafenegg castle, located outside Vienna, Austria.

While many other debate formats, such as Oxford-style debates tend to be adversarial, the contribution and uniqueness of Vienna-style debates lies in the symbiosis of debate and consensus. This symbiosis is achieved through a design framework that combines and gives equal prominence to the roles of moderator, debaters, discussants, and stakeholders. The moderator sets up the debate and articulates its significance, debaters offer and collide their motions, discussants prioritize salient arguments and seek connections and commonalities among the opposing sides, and stakeholders articulate and vote on the consensus. These roles are equally essential. By virtue of this complex structure, Vienna-style debates are better suited for smaller groups to ensure time for active participation.

Vienna-style debates are a marriage of empathy and rigor. Colliding ideas is important, for this is how we find the best ideas. But consensus is also important, for progress demands our togetherness. For all these reasons Vienna-style debates are particularly relevant for complex debates with a social mission.

At the MIT Grafenegg Forum we believe in diverse, and often unvoiced, perspectives and invite others on this journey. This is how we will find actionable solutions that have universal support.

MIT Grafenegg Forum


MIT, in its action and imagination, is a harbinger of new technologies. The Institute celebrates new technologies, viewing them as tools for human progress. But creating technology is not the “raison d’être” in its own right. Rather, the mission is “to advance knowledge … that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” As such, exploring the human effects of technology, even when they are disquieting is our responsibility.

Grafenegg epitomizes in our context the historical meaning of the word forum––a physical space for public discussion. Historically a symbol of diplomacy and a venue of discussions that governed relations between powers, it is now a forum for peace-making of another kind, one between classical music and the present and future, and society and technology in a larger sense.

Grafenegg Castle is a unique, and perfect, setting for the MIT-Grafenegg Forum; private and secluded but just 50 minutes from the urban life of Vienna. A medieval castle next to a futuristic open-air stage. A modern outdoor stage in an English park. And a 19th century riding arena next to a brand-new concert hall.

At Grafenegg Castle, new construction projects and an international music festival are turning Austria’s most important complex in the style of historicism into a vibrant symbiosis of old and new. Seven centuries of history can be seen in the architecture of Grafenegg Castle. Extended in the 19th century, it has become Austria’s most important example of historicism. Here you can find stylistic traces from Gothic through Baroque and Biedermeier to elegant Neo-gothic.

MIT and Grafenegg look forward to the 2020 MIT-Grafenegg Forum, and the presence of global contributors in forging a new path for the human experience together.

Presented by

Honorary Hosts

Sanjay Sarma

Vice President of Open Learning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sanjay Sarma is the Fred Fort Flowers (1941) and Daniel Fort Flowers (1941) Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. He is the Vice President Open Learning at MIT. He co-founded the Auto-ID Center at MIT and developed many of the key technologies behind the EPC suite of RFID standards now used worldwide. He was also the founder and CTO of OATSystems, which was acquired by Checkpoint Systems (NYSE: CKP) in 2008. He serves on the boards of GS1, EPCglobal and several startup companies including Top Flight Technologies, Hochschild Mining (HOC:LSE) and edX. Dr. Sarma received his Bachelors from the Indian Institute of Technology, his Masters from Carnegie Mellon University and his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. Sarma also worked at Schlumberger Oilfield Services in Aberdeen, UK, and at the OATSystems.  He has authored over 150 academic papers in computational geometry, sensing, RFID, automation and CAD, and is the recipient of numerous awards for teaching and research including the MacVicar Fellowship, the Business Week eBiz Award and Informationweek’s Innovators and Influencers Award. He advises several national governments and global companies.

Tassilo Metternich

Estate Owner, Schloss Grafenegg

Tassilo Metternich was born in Austria and studied Business and Economics at the European Business School in Wiesbaden, Paris and London. After working with an environmental consultancy in London until 1998, he took over the family estates in Austria including Schloss Grafenegg. In 2005 the family formed a public-private-partnership with the State of Lower Austria to establish the Grafenegg Festival. Tassilo is also a Director of the Musikverein in Vienna and a member of the Advisory Board of the European Union Youth Orchestra.

MIT Advisory Committee


Tassilo Metternich

Estate Owner, Schloss Grafenegg Tassilo Metternich was born in Austria and studied Business and Economics at the European Business School in Wiesbaden, Paris and London. After working with an environmental consultancy in London until 1998, he took over the family estates in Austria including Schloss Grafenegg. In 2005 the family formed a public-private-partnership with the…

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Erdin Beshimov

Erdin Beshimov is a Lecturer at MIT and a Founder and Director of MIT Bootcamps. At MIT Erdin was also the founding Director of the MITx MicroMasters Program, which pioneered the model of “inverted admissions,” and the Incubation Group in the Office of Digital Learning. He co-created MIT’s first massive open online courses on entrepreneurship,…

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Max Jahn

As a friend of Grafenegg and MIT alumnus, Max Jahn connected Grafenegg and MIT, helping spark the MIT Grafenegg Forum. He now sits on the alumni advisory committee for the forum. Max is Managing Director of R&R Venture Partners, the venture arm of the Ronald Lauder and Dick Parsons family office in New York. R&R…

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MIT - Grafenegg Faculty Advisory Committee

D. Fox Harrell, Ph.D.

D. Fox Harrell, Ph.D., is Professor of Digital Media & Artificial Intelligence in the Comparative Media Studies Program and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT. He is the director of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality. His research explores the relationship between imagination and computation and involves inventing new forms of VR,…

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MIT - Grafenegg Alumni Advisory Committee

Tina Tallon

Tina Tallon is a Boston-based composer, computer musician, multi-instrumental improviser, and arts documentarian completing her doctoral studies in composition at the University of California, San Diego. Her music has been widely performed around the world by ensembles and musicians such as the LA Philharmonic, Ensemble Intercontemporain, wild Up, Talea, Tony Arnold, and the JACK Quartet,…

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Thomas Annicq

Thomas Annicq is an entrepreneur and investor. He just launched Aude Ventures to invest in human-centered post-surveillance technology companies. He is based out of New York where he most recently ran the US office of Swiss geospatial technology company Axon Vibe. Axon Vibe acquired Thomas’ day science startup Quantified Labs in 2015. Prior to that…

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MIT-Grafenegg Organizing Committee

Phillip Stein

Philipp Stein studied musicology, music education and management studies in Vienna and Hamburg. A variety of roles has taken him from the Wiener Konzerthaus via Klangforum Wien and Jeunesse – Musikalische Jugend Österreichs back to Germany, where he was Managing Dramaturg at the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. From 2011 to 2017 he was the personal consultant of…

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Vimala Palaniswamy

Vimala Palaniswamy is the Associate Director for MIT Bootcamps at the office for the VIce President for Open Learning. She joined MIT Bootcamps with 15 years of experience in social innovation, entrepreneurship, and mentoring entrepreneurs. In 2014, Vimala founded and lead Demeter Entrepreneurs Support Network, a global virtual network dedicated to improving the success rates…

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Anine Myrhagen Ward

Anine is a Senior Manager at MIT Bootcamps; leading global logistics and program developments. Anine started her career at MIT in 2010 as part of MIT’s collaboration with the Singapore University of Technology and Design, focusing on curriculum deliverables and program design. In 2014, Anine moved to MIT’s Open Learning initiative and has supported a…

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2019 MIT Grafenegg Forum


This video is a brief recap of the inaugural MIT-Grafenegg Forum. Viewing it will give you a sense of the spirit permeating through the forum. You will want to be there.



Located 50 minutes by car from Vienna, Grafenegg is set on 75 acres of historic gardens, and we will be utilizing much of this space during the debates, meals, and unique evening events that focus on connections and building memories. We will be staying in lovely cottages are on the castle property. The cottages have four bedrooms, each with their own en-suite bathroom, and a common living room with kitchen.

The Forum program starts the late afternoon on June 10, and ends in the early afternoon on June 13. We ask that all participants are present during the entire duration of the Forum, as the program is progressive and is fully participatory throughout.

For inquiries please contact

Anine Ward anine@mit.edu

Grafenegg 2020

Presented By | MIT Bootcamps