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Thanks to the brutal winds that blow in from the Russian steppes, Berlin’s winters can be notoriously chilly. Fortunately, the city’s abundant venues and expansive creative scene often combine to provide refuge against the frosty post-New Year blues.

Alongside such other renowned winter staples as the Berlin Berlinale and Berlin Fashion Week, one of the city’s most exciting events is the Transmediale Festival. The annual five-day event, this year running from 29 January to 3 February, was founded in 1988 and has gone on to draw from the city’s vast reserve of artists, tech-geeks and digital visionaries to become one of the city’s most cutting-edge events.

Built around an enlivening (and enlightening) flurry of presentations, collaborations, lectures, conferences, films and exhibitions – all of which revolve around themes of digital culture and media art – Transmediale is today big and professional enough to be globally relevant and genuinely thought-provoking, yet way more manageable than, say, Austin’s SXSW or Barcelona’s Sonar

Since 2002, aside from a brief spell at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste, Transmediale has been held at the distinctive oyster-shaped Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures), where this year’s main action will again take place. The 2013 theme is “Back When Pluto Was A Planet” – a metaphor for the fluid, sometimes arbitrary shifts in the supposedly stable realms of knowledge and classification, and the first part of a new conceptual program called the Imaginary Museum, which aims to connect all upcoming Berlin festivals and their annual changing focuses.

Mixing up lectures, performances, film screenings and poetry readings, this year’s programme include talks on the cultural significance of paper; a series of music performances led by Berlin sound artist Boris Hegenbart; a showcase of Mail Art in the GDR; artistic insights into the “medial communication of reality”; the continuous re-making of films for new audiences; and a post-digital publishing workshop.

Not only does Transmediale give insights into Berlin’s local art and digital scenes, it profiles the city’s world-renowned club culture and electronic music scenes too, via the parallel Club Transmediale event which showcases more than 150 artists – local and international – in unique venues like Berghain, HAU and Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien.

Highlights include a live performance of the album the Narcissist by Dean Blunt, enigmatic member of “post-pop” changelings Hype Williams; a presentation and live show from the diverse producer, musician and educator Terre Thaemlitz (Soulnessless); DJ sets from a range of techno, dubstep and other electronic luminaries including Skream, Simian, Mobile Disco and Sun Worship; and Berlin-based techno acts such as A Guy Called Gerald and Pantha de Prince.

Tickets are available for specific events, day passes or the entire five days. See respective websites for  programmes and the full range of ticket options.

Paul Sullivan is the Berlin Localite for BBC Travel. He also runs/writes slowtravelberlin.com

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