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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - Multiple Viewpoints and Embodied Cognition: how we interpret multimodal artifacts

16th November 2015, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Barbara Dancygier (University of British Columbia, Canada)


David Hockney, a well-known contemporary artist, has reportedly said that a good painter sees with both eyes – he seems to suggest that good art by definition affords multiple viewpoints. In his own work, he constructs a multiplicity of viewpoints through various means (collage, photography, and painting). At the same time, literary texts have long been considered as relying heavily on multiple viewpoints. Professor Dancygiers’ interests lie in bringing various communicative modalities (including images and texts) into a conversation, to tap into some cognitive and viewpoint patterns we rely on in interpretation. 

In her seminar presentation, she will suggest that theoretical stances such as cognitive linguistics and embodied cognition help explain the nature of multiple viewpoints and may allow us to uncover correlations in processing visual and textual imagery. She will show three types of examples. First, she will consider some textual fragments where similar objects prompt different meanings as a result of different embodiment patterns profiled. Second, she will show examples of visual artifacts, such as street art, contemporary art, and photography; these artifacts re-construe typical interactions with material objects and space, through manipulation of embodied viewpoint. Finally, she will consider textual examples paired with visual examples; in each pair, embodiment and viewpoint configurations yield similar interpretive effects. 

Considering visual and textual artifacts side-by-side helps reveal salient mechanisms of meaning construction. Such a multimodal approach yields a renewed understanding of the concept of ‘imagery’, and may inspire interdisciplinary work on cognitive processes responsible for its interpretation. 

The central questions this project speaks to are as follows: 

  1. To what degree is interpretation of images and texts constrained by underlying embodied patterns of thought?
  2. Can we learn more from looking at multimodal artifacts than we have learned by looking at images and texts separately
  3. Can we identify processing strategies which describe a range of multimodal artifacts – from high art to digital discourse or street art?

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.