19 April 2023 @ 12:30 pm

Skill: know-how, artisanal practices and ‘higher’ cognition

This talk will focus on the question of Skill. In particular, on proprioception, skilled tool-use, cognitive ecologies and ecologial validity. In this work, I draw on a lifetime of practice, both artisanal and technological. To help situate my audience, I will begin with a short autobiographical summary – how I moved from sculpture to robotics and VR and robotics (with showing in images and videos) to a critique of computing and computationalism, to increasing focus on 4E discourses. From a philosophical perspective my purpose is to interrogate the (presumed) distinction between ‘intelligence’ and ’skill’, and argue that such dualisms stand in the way of a fuller comprehension of ‘skill’. Many practitioners feel that a mentalist explanation of the nature of skilled embodied practices fails to be adequately explanatory of lived experience. I hope to develop understandings of such practices that are explanatory and useful to practitioners. I’ll move on to a critique of discourses of the senses and expound on the idea that ‘proprioception is the sense that make the other senses make sense’. I’ll provide ethnographic and autoethnographic examples of skilled practices and how they might contribute to the development of more ‘abstract’ cognitive practices. I’ll connect this with question of the role of skill in pedadogy generally, and the observed denigration of skill in (most quarters of) the contemporary academy – especially during the pandemic.

This form is free to attend and will be live-streamed from the link below.

Watch the talk here

Simon Penny trained in sculpture at South Australian School of Art and at Sydney College of the Arts. He is a longtime practitioner in computer-mediated arts practices and commentator on computing and internet culture. He was professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon through the 1990s, where he built sensor-based embodied interaction environments utilising custom electronics and hardware. This led him to an extended crtitique of computing and AI discourses, especially with respect to human cognition and cultural practices, which in turn led into ongoing research in embodied, distributed and enactive cogntion. He established the Arts Computation Engineering (ACE) graduate program at UCI in 2003. He conceived and directed the A Body of Knowledge – Embodied Cognition and the Arts conference (UCI 2016), and published Making Sense – Cognition, Computing, Art and Embodiment (MIT Press 2017). He has published recently on internet culture and online pedagogy from a 4E perspecitive. He is curently professor in Electronic Art and Design, Music and Informatics at University of California Irvine. Papers, artwork documentation etc at simonpenny.net