Thinking with Things

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Auditorium (Level 1)

National Museum of Scotland

Chambers Street

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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Thinking with Things

Humans have always used things to think. Digital comes from digit – like our fingers that help us count when we’re just learning. This event explores tools that supplemented our minds and bodies – when our own digits weren’t enough, we started using pebbles. It takes place in the National Museum of Scotland, home to many  ‘mind tools’: astrolabes, the Jacquard loom, and robot arms.  We give you a new way to think about objects in the museum as well as current technology: #cognitive enhancement and #prosthetics are what make us human. You are welcome to attend all or some of the event.  

In collaboration with the National Museum of Scotland, this event is brought to you by the History of Distributed Cognition Project: www.hdc.ed.ac.uk

 

Schedule

  • Welcome and Introduction to the History of Distributed Cognition Project (1-1:10pm)

Prof Douglas Cairns, University of Edinburgh

  • Mind-Altering Masks of Ancient Drama (1:10-2:25pm)

Prof Peter Meineck, NYU & Aquila Theatre with performances by Dr Malcolm Knight, The Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre

BREAK

  • From Material Culture to Maker Culture (2:40-3pm)

Dr Klaus Staubermann, Principal Curator, Science & Technology  

  • Time Changes Meanings (3-3:20)

Dr Tacye Phillipson, Senior Curator of Modern Science and Computing 

REFRESHMENTS BREAK

  • Mind in Movement (3:45- 4:45)

Prof Guillemette Bolens, University of Geneva 


Previews

Prof Peter Meineck, NYU & Aquila Theatre with performances by Dr Malcolm Knight, The Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre 

The mask is a foundational element of theatre and yet remains one of the most misunderstood elements of the ancient stage. In this presentation, Peter Meineck will use theories of distributed cognition to demonstrate that the ancient Greek dramatic mask was a powerful "mind-tool" and capable of eliciting deep emotional responses from those who gazed on it in performance. Far from being fixed emotionless faces, these masks were fully capable of seeming to change their emotions and also put the cognitive focus on the movements and gestures of the performers. This greatly enhanced the communication of what has been called "kinesthetic empathy" and led to viscerally felt and deeply moving dramas. Aristotle wrote that visuality was the part of theatre that could move the soul - and this was the realm of the mask maker. 

This will be an illustrated presentation and will include live mask demonstrations.


Dr Klaus Staubermann, From Material Culture to Maker Culture – or how can we bring ‘things’ back to life

Things, or objects, found in museums often appear dead. It’s the responsibility of the historian or curator to bring them back to life (in some instances literally). But how do we do that? Exploring archival sources, speaking to practitioners and, of course, exploring the ‘things’ themselves are essential ways for understanding them. But how can we move further and open up the hidden contexts and comprehend the tacit knowledge embodied in them? This talk explores familiar and new ways to access and understand things, thereby marking a shift from previous concepts of ‘material culture’ to more comprehensive concepts of a ‘maker culture’.


Dr Tacye PhillipsonTime Changes Meanings

Cutting edge, ubiquitous or obsolete?  From counters to the slide rule and electronic calculator, devices to help people avoid doing mental arithmetic have a long history.  This talk will look at some of these calculators, and how their meaning changes over time as they age from being the latest gadget to mysterious relics.


Prof Guillemette Bolens, Mind in Movement

While visiting a museum, enaction is at work when we watch and cognitively explore the artefacts on display. This talk will focus on three fascinating artefacts held by the National Museum of Scotland: the Pembridge Helm, one Lewis chess piece, and a photograph of Victorian firefighters. In order to unwrap the sensorimotor and cultural implications conveyed by these artefacts, Guillemette Bolens will discuss the way we rely on both embodied cognition and cultural knowledge to gain access to their pragmatic meaning. 

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Auditorium (Level 1)

National Museum of Scotland

Chambers Street

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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