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AIC Seminar Series

Making Sense of Cognition: Insights from skilled practice

Simon PennyUniversity of California, Irvine[Home Page]

Notice:  Hosted by John Murray

Date:  Monday, April 30th 2018 at 2:00pm

Location:  EK255 (SRI E building)  (Directions)

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In everyday practice, computing systems are connected to the physical world - via sensors, robotics and geo-located activities - as well as being attached to the bodies and activities of mobile, social humans. Thus, any paradigm of cognition that explicitly separates intelligence and the body (such as that which undergirds much computing and software research), will also obscure certain cognitive realities, which potentially hampers effective research initiatives in the area.

Conventional conceptions of cognition say little that is useful about the kinds of sensorimotor integration, which are fundamental to all actions in the world, whether by a robot, an animal, or a person. When it comes to artistic activity, traditional explanations of the cognitive dimensions of arts practices have been unsatisfying, because internalist paradigms provides few useful tools to discuss embodied dimensions of cognition. This problem has hobbled useful discussion of cognition and the arts for much of the last century.

The arts provide a foil here as they are centrally concerned with intelligent doing. The practices of the arts – plastic and performing - deal in direct sensor engagement with the body, with other people., and with material, artifacts, tools, and spaces. Practicing art epitomizes and refines these sensorimotor intelligences to a high degree. In doing so, such practices implicitly refute the paradigmatic separation of matter and information, of mind and body. Thus, internalist models of cognition only confuse attempts to discuss creative intelligent practice.

Happily, over the past 30 years, post-cognitivist concepts have emerged that help leverage the qualities of intelligent action in the world - which is what artists do. In this talk, I will explore how we might deploy concepts arising in Situated, Enactive, Embodied and Distributed paradigms (SEED) and explain how these fields can provide the basis for new ways of thinking being-in-the-world, which begin by refuting mind-body dualism, and acknowledging the performative, procedural and relational dimensions of practice.

   Bio for Simon Penny

Simon Penny has built custom interactive and robotic systems since the late 1980s. He is Professor of Electronic Art and Design at UCI. He designed and ran the Arts Computation Engineering (ACE) interdisciplinary graduate program there 2003-2012. Prior to that, Simon was professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon 1993-2000. He curated and produced Machine Culture - the first international survey exhibition of interactive installation - at SIGGRAPH93 in Anaheim CA. He edited Critical Issues in Electronc Media (SUNY press, 1995)

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