Dr. David Kirsh, University of California San Diego

 

Dr. David Kirsh, University of California San Diego

Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) Howard P. Isermann Auditorium

January 16, 2018 2:00 PM - January 16, 2017

Where does thought, creativity and understanding come from? For the past seven years, I have been studying the creative practice of a super expert choreographer. I have also been studying problem solving, design thinking and new approaches to situated cognition. A common element running through these studies is that in natural contexts people use resources of all sorts to think with. They use their bodies, their gestures, instruments, tools, representations and everyday objects. The simple thesis I advance is that people often think through their ideas by modeling them. The models they create are partial and personal. Sometimes these models are encoded in recognized forms: words, drawings, writing. But often people use their body to create a partial model of the thing they are trying to understand.

For instance, when thinking through the structure of a movement, dancers will usually 'mark' the movement rather than dance it full out. Marking is a movement reduction system like gesturing. This external modeling is itself a form of thinking because it is directed, interactive and representational. It should be regarded as much a part of thought as other expressive modalities, such as speaking, writing or drawing, all usually recognized as enactions or encodings of thought.

To defend this view, I describe how thought often relies on active perception enhanced by mental projection. Because interacting with things, including moving our bodies, can improve projection it forms part of an interactive strategy for thinking. This explains how we can harness the analog computation performed by moving objects to share the computational effort of thought, and so keep thought moving forward.

 

 

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