"Thinking with Our Body and Other Things," a Talk by Dr. David Kirsh, UC San Diego - Tuesday, Jan. 16

"Thinking with Our Body and Other Things," a Talk by Dr. David Kirsh, UC San Diego - Tuesday, Jan. 16

Date posted: 2018-01-10 16:33:48

The Department of Cognitive Science is pleased to welcome Dr. David Kirsh of the University of California, San Diego, on Tuesday, January 16, at 2:00 pm in CBIS Auditorium.  Dr. Kirsh's presentation, entitled  Thinking with Our Body and Other Things, is part of the Vollmer Fries Lecture Series

Kirsh's talk asks:  Where does thought, creativity and understanding come from?  For the past seven years, Kirsh has been studying the creative practice of an expert choreographer; problem solving; design thinking; and new approaches to situated cognition. A common element running through these studies, according to Kirsh, 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," he explains, "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, Kirsh describes 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. 

David Kirsh, Professor/past chair of the Dept. of Cognitive Science/UCSD, received a D. Phil.(Oxford), did post-doctoral work at MIT (AI Lab), and has held research or Visiting Professor positions at MIT and Stanford, and the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. He has written on situated and embodied cognition, how environments can be shaped to simplify/extend cognition, and how space, external representations, our bodies and even manipulable objects become interactive tools for thought.  He was co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and is on the Board of Directors for the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture. He is Adjunct Professor at and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

The event is free and open to the public.