This conference will bring together an interdisciplinary group including cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, philosophers of mind, physiologists, psychologists, philosophers, anthropologists, computer scientists, artists and designers to explore emerging cognitive neuroscience and theories of embodied cognition. The goal is to develop new discourses around arts practices by interfacing traditions of practice with emerging paradigms of Embodied (and Enactive, Situated, Distributed, Extended) paradigms of cognition.

The conference is motivated by an awareness that these new paradigms provide ways of thinking about intelligence-in-action which move beyond the strictures of the cognitivist paradigm of cognition which prevailed in the second half of the C20th. This paradigm substantially failed to provide explanations of the intelligences involved embodied nature of arts practices. The historical confluence of the rise of cognitivism, the rise of Artificial Intelligence and the spread of computing into all walks of life had the double of effect of reinforcing cognitivist explanation and influencing the theorisation of Human Computer Interaction and the development of Media Arts. The full impact of post-cognitivist theories of cognition are yet to be felt in these quarters.

The exchanges in this conference promise not only enrich the theory of arts and cultural practices, but also enrich cognitive science research and provide resources relevant to Human Computer Interaction and other aspects of design.

Central to the arts are practices of embodied doing and of thinking through action. All artists, dancers, musicians and actors understand that their intelligent practice subtly draws upon and orders materiality – with gestures, breathing, and the artful manipulation of instruments, tools and materials, each with its own qualities. Indeed, the majority of human practice has this dimension, from cooking to driving to building a dry-stone wall. The artisanal crafts – blacksmithing, weaving, potting – are paradigmatic in this regard. Laboratory and clinical practices and playing sports all share in this bodily, material and contextual integration.

Any useful attempt to understand cognition in such contexts demands consideration of these embodied, temporal qualities. The study of the ‘mental’ aspects of cognition separate from temporally ongoing, spatial, material and social engagement creates false dichotomies between mind and body, self and world. Such false dichotomies have characterised studies of cognition over the last century (gaining force with the rise of computing and computationalism in the second half of last century).

Explanations of ‘creative cognition’ and the ‘intelligences of the arts’ arising from such paradigms have lacked explanatory power. The new cognitive science discourses (embodied, enactive, extended, distributed, etc.) which have emerged and grown over the last three decades provide new perspectives from which to establish a new language for embodied creative cognition, which promises to provide new ways of understanding arts practices, broadening discourses about intelligence generally.

Structure of the Conference
The three day event will include several Keynote speakers and numerous themed panels including around 100 papers. In addition to papers, panels and keynotes, the conference will include performances, exhibitions and workshops as well as social events, centered around the CTSA Maya Lin Plaza, the Beall Center for Art and Technology, the XMPL media blackbox and the Cyberarts café. Expected registration 250-350. A full Proceedings will be published online.
The conference is directed by Simon Penny (Professor, Art, UCI) with the support of the Body of Knowledge Conference International Advisory Board. 


Panels and papers will be organized around themes – which may include:

  • Material engagement – doing stuff with stuff
  • Performance and the performative
  • New ontologies – being/doing as opposed to representing
  • Architecture, space and landscape
  • Sound and the body, embodiment and music
  • Virtual embodiment/embodied virtuality. VR, AR, MR avatars and all that
  • HCI and embodied interaction
  • Cognitive neuroscience and its relevance to art and cultural practices
  • Arts and Cultural practices as a challenge for cognitive science.
  • Embodiment and Pedagogy
  • Embodiment and Arts Pedagogy
  • Philosophical precedents – Pragmatism, Phenomenology, Ecological Psychology, etc.
  • Cultural and Historical modes of Embodiment. Embodiment in differing cultures and traditions
  • Sensorimotor realities and temporal coupling
  • Situated, distributed and extended – perception cognition and action in the world
  • Tacit knowledge and the arts – how to talk about what you can’t talk about
  • Biology, Ethology, autopioesis and enaction – about how we are animals before we are humans
  • Tools, prosthetics, telerorobotics. From the blind man’s cane to robotic surgery
  • Cognitive anthropology, cognitive archeology
  • Dirty bodies – Taboos of embodiment and embodied practices
  • Embodiment and ‘mental’ illness
  • Other – write in