To accept that cognition is embodied is to question many of the beliefs traditionally held by cognitive scientists. One key question regards the localization of cognitive faculties. Here we argue that for cognition to be embodied and sometimes embedded, means that the cognitive faculty cannot be localized in a brain area alone. We review recent research on neural reuse, the 1/f structure of human activity, tool use, group cognition, and social coordination dynamics that we believe demonstrates how the boundary between the different areas of the brain, the brain and body, and the body and environment is not only blurred but indeterminate. In turn, we propose that cognition is supported by a nested structure of task‐specific synergies, which are softly assembled from a variety of neural, bodily, and environmental components (including other individuals), and exhibit interaction dominant dynamics.
The notion that human activity can be characterised in terms of dynamic systems is a well-established alternative to motor schema approaches. Key to a dynamic systems approach is the idea that a system seeks to achieve stable states in the face of perturbation. While such an approach can apply to physical activity, it can be challenging to accept that dynamic systems also describe cognitive activity. In this paper, we argue that creativity, which could be construed as a ‘cognitive’ activity par excellence, arises from the dynamic systems involved in jewellery making. Knowing whether an action has been completed to a ‘good’ standard is a significant issue in considering acts in creative disciplines. When making a piece of jewellery, there a several criteria which can define ‘good’. These are not only the aesthetics of the finished piece but also the impact of earlier actions on subsequent ones. This suggests that the manner in which an action is coordinated is influenced by the criteria by which the product is judged. We see these criteria as indicating states for the system, e.g. in terms of a space of ‘good’ outcomes and a complementary space of ‘bad’ outcomes. The skill of the craftworker is to navigate this space of available states in such a way as to minimise risk, effort and other costs and maximise benefit and quality of the outcome. In terms of postphenomonology, this paper explores Ihde’s human-technology relations and relates these to the concepts developed here.
Purpose: To present an account of cognition integrating second-order cybernetics (SOC) together with enactive perception and dynamic systems theory. Methodology – The paper presents a brief critique of classical models of cognition then outlines how integration of SOC, enactive perception and dynamic systems theory can overcome some weaknesses of the classical paradigm. Findings: Presents the critique of evolutionary robotics showing how the issues of teleology and autonomy are left unresolved by this paradigm although their solution ﬁts within the proposed framework. Implications: The paper highlights the importance of genuine autonomy in the development of artiﬁcial cognitive systems. It sets out a framework within which the robotic research of cognitive systems could succeed. Practical implications: There are no immediate practical implications but see research implications. Originality/value – It joins the discussion on the fundamental nature of cognitive systems and emphasises the importance of autonomy and embodiment. Relevance: This paper draws explicit links between second order cybernetics, enactivism and dynamic systems accounts of cognition.
Borar P., Karnam D., Agrawal H. & Chandrasekharan S. (2017) Augmenting the textbook for enaction: Designing media for participatory learning in classrooms. In: Bernhaupt R., Dalvi G., Joshi A. K. B. D., O’Neill J. & Winckler M. (eds.) Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 10516. Springer, Cham: 336–339. https://cepa.info/7608
This work discusses the affordances of the textbook in current classroom scenarios, and identifies the need to design learning media that support dynamism and enaction, specifically in science education. We illustrate this by a learning tool we’ve developed – Vector canvas, an AR based application linked with the textbook and the curricula. This is a work in progress attempting to observe and articulate changes in learning practice brought by introducing mixed media.
Conrad M. (2000) Closure and anticlosure in the realm of quantum gravity: Why evolution needs no origin. In: Chandler J. & Van de Vijver G. (eds.) Closure: Emergent organizations and their dynamics. New York Academy of Sciences, New York: 244–256.
Dynamic systems with suitable nonlinearities yield self-organizing behavior. The evolution continues until the relationship among the components becomes self-consistent; that is, until it reaches closure. Disruptions of closure that allow for continued change are also characteristic of biological evolution. Are the requisite nonlinearities add-ons that give an essentially linear world the appearance of circularity, or do they have their origin in the underlying physics of the universe? The picture developed here fits to the latter view.
De Jaegher H., Peräkylä A. & Stevanovic M. (2016) The co-creation of meaningful action: Bridging enaction and interactional sociology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 371(1693): 20150378. https://cepa.info/7600
What makes possible the co-creation of meaningful action? In this paper, we go in search of an answer to this question by combining insights from interactional sociology and enaction. Both research schools investigate social interactions as such, and conceptualize their organization in terms of autonomy. We ask what it could mean for an interaction to be autonomous, and discuss the structures and processes that contribute to and are maintained in the so-called interaction order. We also discuss the role played by individual vulnerability as well as the vulnerability of social interaction processes in the co-creation of meaningful action. Finally, we outline some implications of this interdisciplinary fraternization for the empirical study of social understanding, in particular in social neuroscience and psychology, pointing out the need for studies based on dynamic systems approaches on origins and references of coordination, and experimental designs to help understand human co-presence.
Context: Challenges by embodied, enactive, extended and ecological approaches to cognition have provided good reasons to shift away from neurocentric theories. Problem: Classic cognitivist accounts tend towards internalism, representationalism and methodological individualism. Such accounts not only picture the brain as the central and almost exclusive mechanism of cognition, they also conceive of brain function in terms that ignore the dynamical relations among brain, body and environment. Method: I review four areas of research (perception, action/agency, self, social cognition) where enactivist accounts have shown alternative ways of thinking about the brain. Results: Taken together, such analyses form a comprehensive alternative to the classic conceptions of cognitivist, computational neuroscience. Implications: Such considerations motivate the need to re-think our understanding of how the brain itself works. They suggest that the best explanation of brain function may be found in the mixed vocabularies of embodied and situated cognition, developmental psychology, ecological psychology, dynamic systems theory, applied linguistics, the theory of affordances and material engagement, rather than the narrow vocabulary of computational neuroscience. Constructivist content: This account is consistent with an enactivist-constructivist approach to cognition.
This work represents an attempt to stake out the landscape for dynamicism based on a radical dismissal of the information-processing paradigm that dominates the philosophy of cognitive science. In Section 2, after setting up the basic toolkit of a theory of minimal representationalism, I introduce the central tenets of dynamic systems theory (DST) by discussing recent research in the dynamics of embodiment (Thelen et al. ) in the perseverative-reaching literature. A recent proposal on the dynamics of representation – the dynamic field approach (Spencer and Scho ̈ner ) – according to which the alleged representational gap between DST and representational theories of cognition needs to be bridged in order to explain higher-order cognitive activity will then be reviewed. In Section 3 I shall argue that Spencer and Scho ̈ ner’s attempt to bridge the representational gap may jeopardize the whole (antirepresentationalist) spirit of the DST project. In order to show why, I shall introduce the key concepts of ‘‘reliability of environment’’ and ‘‘primagenesis’’, and argue that DST can account for de-coupled, offline cognitive activity with no need of positing representational resources. Conclusions and directions for future research will follow.
Geyer F. (1995) The challenge of sociocybernetics. Kybernetes 24(4): 6–32. https://cepa.info/3854
Summarizes some of the important concepts and developments in cybernetics and general systems theory, especially during the last two decades. Shows how they can indeed be a challenge to sociological thinking. Cybernetics is used here as an umbrella term for a great variety of related disciplines: general systems theory, information theory, system dynamics, dynamic systems theory, including catastrophe theory, chaos theory. Also considers the emerging “science of complexity”, which includes neural networks, artificial intelligence and artificial life, and discusses the methodological drawbacks of second‐order cybernetics.
Kravchenko A. V. (2020) From “Observer” to “Observers”: The Multiplicity of Constructed Realities. Constructivist Foundations 16(1): 090–091. https://cepa.info/6823
Open peer commentary on the article “Construction of Irreality: An Enactive-Constructivist Stance on Counterfactuals” by Andrey S. Druzhinin. Abstract: Since an observer arises in the experiential domain of languaging, and because everything said is said by an observer, it would be misleading to refer to a single reality constructed in language. Rather, we should assume multiple realities whose construction depends on individual memories as complex dynamic systems of past perceptual experiences - this is where the target article falls short.