The Mitteleuropa Foundation came into being in Bolzano in 2001, on decision by the municipal council, and its premises are located on the second floor of the ancient City Hall, in Via Portici 30.
The University of Bolzano and the University of Trento are associate members of the Foundation. Its founder and scientific director is Professor Liliana Albertazzi (University of Trento, Rovereto Branch, Faculty of Cognitive Science, Department of Cognition and Education Sciences). Co-founder and director of a research line is Professor Roberto Poli (University of Trento, Faculty of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Social Sciences). The Foundation's honorary president is Professor Edgar Morscher (Director of the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Salzburg and erstwhile Rector of that university).
For around fifteen years, researchers at the Foundation have organized a series of events of advanced scientific nature at Bolzano, in particular in the area of the cognitive sciences (see the Foundation's website: www.mitteleuropafoundation.it under the heading 'Past events', and below). Unlike other centres of cognitive research, intrinsic to the Foundation's activities is their focus on Central Europe. In European culture, the term 'Mitteleuropa' usually carries a historical and/or literary connotation. The interpretation given to Mitteleuropean culture by the Foundation is very different, however; for none of the members of its scientific committee is a historian or a literary scholar. Rather, the scientific committee comprises distinguished representatives of the so-called exact sciences: mathematicians, physicists (among them J. Jan Koenderink, founder of the Helmholtz Instituut of Utrecht), experimental psychologists (including one of Metzger's last pupils, Alfred Zimmer, currently Rector of Regensburg), two philosophers, and cognitive linguists.
On visiting the Fondazione Mitteleuropa, the notion of Mitteleuropea carried forward by the Foundation becomes even clearer. In accordance with the Foundation's scientific programme, the sections of the specialist library currently under construction cover theory of perception, language, mathematics, logic and geometry, art and design. Almost all texts are in English. Those on philosophy are clearly Central European in their subject matter, in that they comprise the works of Brentano, Meinong, Ehrenfels, Stumpf and Twardowski. The library also contains the works of the exponents of Gestaltpsychologie and an antiquarian section, currently being assembled, which comprises literature on Gestalt psychology, including the original journals.
The specialist library commemorates the name of the late Karl Schuhmann, a former member of the Foundation's scientific committee. The electronic cataloguing of the library's stock has recently begun in order to facilitate its use by readers. Under agreements with the University of Trento, moreover, on-line access is availabe to that university's databases and electronic journals.
From the foregoing information it is therefore obvious that the name 'Mitteleuropa' given to the Foundation denotes an original conception of that cultural area. Firstly, the cultural borders of this Mitteleuropa are not exactly those of the Habsburg Empire. Although the area's cultural core was Vienna and it encompassed, in concentric circles, Prague, Lvov, Warsaw and Ljubljana, this ideal geographical region also includes cities like Berlin, Würzburg, Leipzig, Florence and Padua.
The Mitteleuropa Foundation was born from awareness, as Albertazzi has written, of the enormous richness and theoretical complexity of the European tradition, and specifically as regards certain theories (philosophical and epistemological) which arose between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, before the so-called 'linguistic turn' and in certain respects in connection with it. These theories conducted pioneering analysis of problems that are currently the focus of debate in the cognitive sciences and artificial intelligence: the problems of reference, representation, 'model and categorial classification', ontology, and the cognitive analysis of natural language. In several cases, moreover, these theories seem to display clear awareness of the complexity of problems and of the interrelations among different areas of inquiry. And they also seemingly offer elements for the solution of problems currently under investigation. As a consequence, when analysing the contemporary literature, the 'Continental' scholar often has a curious feeling of déjà vu: that of 'having already encountered the question,' as if in many cases contemporary research is rediscovering phenomena and issues already widely known and thoroughly discussed at the beginning of the twentieth century. The examples abound, and they are just as frequent in the literature on the auditory stream (temporal apprehension) as they are in the literature on visual perception (point of view, three-dimensional construction of objects), on intentionality, on imagery, on categorial classification (prototypicity and typicity), or on semantics (conceptual spaces). A typical example of the situation that arose between 1870 and 1930 - although traces of it are obviously apparent in the whole of European thought - is provided by a group of theories developed within a particular cultural setting and which we may broadly term Central-European. These theories are generally unknown to Anglo-American scholars (sometimes to European ones as well) for various reasons, most notably the fate of numerous European intellectuals during and after the Second World War, the lack of translations from German, and the decades-long dominance of an alternative scientific paradigm.
These authors addressed issues still central to current debate in the cognitive sciences: from the perception of form to the nature of images and their modelling in different formats of representation, as well as the problem of measuring psychological experiences.
These various theories - which concerned not only philosophy but also mathematics, psychology, physics, logic, aesthetics, ethics, and even literature - display a set of distinctive features, most notably a phenomenological and descriptive approach, also in experimental practice, and the use of an exact method in metaphysics similar to that of the natural sciences. There is, in fact, a close connection of style and topic among theories developed by the philosophers, psychologists and physicists of the time.
More generally, all these theories conduct analysis of the foundational concepts or primitives of various disciplines. Indeed, whether their focus is the concept of number, local signs, intentional reference, existential judgements, Bild (a Kantian concept which emphasises its character as a mental construct by which reference is made to empirical contents), direct factors, objectual traits, particulars, forces and Gestalten in the perceptual field, the general pattern that emerges is that of a group of scientists whose work centred on the concept of representation and who sought to draw a boundary between the internal and external psychophysics inherited from Fechner and mediated by the philosophy of Lotze. More generally, these theories shared a monistic assumption, given that independently of their specific fields of inquiry, they all assumed the inner nature of representation. The basis for this assumption was Johannes Müller's theory of specific energies, which for different reasons and in different ways exerted just as much influence on physicists (Helmholtz, for example) as on philosophers (Lotze, for instance, or Brentano via Trendelenburg).
The Non-independent Pieces of Central Europe
An idea of the complexity of the frame of reference is provided by the fact that between 1870 and 1930 some of the most brilliant, though less-known, theories produced by European thinkers were produced. They were preceded a few decades earlier by two works, by Bolzano and by Lotze, published respectively in 1835 and 1856, which acted as a sort of prelude. Beginning with Brentano, the impact of these two texts was varyingly reflected in the theories in question and traversed the boundaries of Europe to influence the work of Bradley, Stout, Moore, Russell, James and Santayana, amongst others. Echoes of the theory, although at the moment no close dependence can be demonstrated, are also to be found in Whitehead's ontology of processes.
However, the influence of Brentano's thought extended beyond the bounds of philosophy to play an important role in the psychology of his period and the years that followed. Highly regarded by James, and one of the first critics of Fechnerian psychophysics on the concept of order and of the qualitative trait of phenomenic experience, Brentano engendered several currents of psychological thought, outstanding among which were the schools of Graz and Berlin; while, after various derivations, traces of his ideas can be detected in the Florence school (De Sarlo, Bonaventura), in the Würzburg school (in particular Otto Selz), in the Vienna school (Bühler and Brunswik), in the Leipzig school of the Ganzeitspsychologie (Krueger, Sander), the Rostock school (Jaensch), the Marburg school (Katz), the Hamburg school (Stern, Werner, Muchow), and subsequently in the schools of Louvain (Michotte, Fraisse), Frankfurt (Metzger, Rausch) and New York (Ash, Wallach, Arhneim). The tradition of his thought still continues in Italy and the schools of Padua (from Benussi, Musatti, Metelli onwards), Trieste (from Kanizsa onwards), and in Germany, at Bremen (Stadler, Kruse) and Regensburg (Zimmer). The change of perspective was announced in further studies by Schlick, Carnap and then Neurath, among others, which appeared in Erkenntnis in the 1930s, and, for all their differences, sowed the seeds of what became a general cleavage. In fact, the previous interweaving of metaphysics and psychology characteristic of the decades between 1870 and 1930, the boom years of the formal revolution, was considered 'off limits.' As for Reichenbach and Felix Kaufmann, they sat on the fence, so to speak: for example, the Berlin Society for Scientific Philosophy had several contacts with the Stumpfians, while Kaufmann's work reflects the influence of Husserlian phenomenology. One of the last works produced in the previous theoretical climate was Boring's History of Psychology, published in 1929. After 1930, the scene was dominated by analytic philosophy and by behaviourism, which in many respects are two sides of the same coin.
I am entirely aware that this claim for the relevance of Central-European theories to current developments in science - both from a theoretical (broadly Brentanist) and experimental (Gestaltist) point of view - may be attributed to a 'Continental' bias. And yet, when reviewing the history of cognitivism, Gardner himself asks whether we have truly moved forward from Gestalt psychology and the Würzburg school, or whether in fact we are merely rediscovering what they already knew. Support for my thesis is provided by Murray, for example, who as a historian of psychology has found several reasons for emphasising the importance of Gestalt analysis, both as an anticipation and as a reference for the development of the contemporary cognitive sciences. But what is it that make these theories so interesting to contemporary science? What are the old and new issues on the agenda?
New and Old Topics
One of the starting-points of mainstream contemporary cognitive science is the assumption that knowledge essentially consists of the manipulation of inner representations, variously defined as brain states, mental images or symbolic codifications. The main question is this: Are these different approaches to the topic of representation antagonistic, or may we instead speak of levels of representation, and in particular of levels of actual representations?
Among the problems immediately arising from the analysis of representation are the following: (i) are there primitive aspects of representing connected to a type of concrete representation which differentiates its format with respect to abstract, mnestic or symbolic representations? (ii) is there a continuum between the two (or more) levels and/or it is possible to draw a demarcation line, at least descriptively, between the different aspects of the representation? In other words, is it possible to identify aspects of the structure and of the perceptual content that differ from substantially symbolic and definitional aspects of the representation? When addressing the problem of representation one is compelled to take account of the multigranular processes and hierarchies of knowledge representation, as researchers currently working in artificial intelligence know very well.
Another question raised by the assumption of the inner nature of representation is the difference between the object, the content and the act of a representation: a question of considerable importance, given that it drove the development of the school of Brentano.
In fact, the inner nature of the representation engenders a multitude of inner objects of various kinds and diverse modalities of ontological existence, in which the distinction between 'object' and 'content' is often blurred. In what way are acts components of the representative structure, what kind of spatio-temporal events are they and what kind of 'energy,' if any, do they express? The importance of this component of presentation, which relates to the temporality and the modality of the appearance of objects, was clear to the scientists working at the turn of the century. Several hypotheses were erected upon it (from Brentano to Köhler to Husserl), but it has been almost entirely eliminated from contemporary scientific research.
Of particular importance are those aspects of knowledge representation more closely tied to phenomena of assimilation and of perceptual organization, as evident, for example, in phenomena of 'amodal' perception (in Kanizsa's sense) which shed light on the characters of emergence at different levels (within the actual representation itself) of multiscaled levels of cognitive integration. Stout's concept of 'presentation' as perceptual appearance should be understood in precisely this sense.
In cognitive science, sensorial presentations and mental presentations are often viewed as mutually exclusive, and they are also given separate treatment by brain scientists and by cognitive scientists, whereas it seems that some phenomena (like anomalous surfaces or various types of imagery) comprise both aspects in a continuous and functional manner. Another important concern of current research on information processing is the issue of imagery, which for decades has been ignored by behaviourist research. The revival of interest in this theme has been due to certain problems arising in computer science and psycholinguistics and to the birth of the cognitive sciences, in particular research in the theory of vision. Since the pioneering research of Shepard and Cooper, whose first studies were published in the 1960s and 1970s, the theme has undergone major development from the point of view of experimental analysis, which has concerned itself mainly with psychological and brain research. Developed in particular has been analysis of the quantity of information processed, flanked by research in the theory of vision. There has been less interest, however, in what we may call the conceptual level of phenomenological description and classification of images as mental contents, the laws of dependence between contents and objects, among objects, contents and their parts, or their role in a theory of intentionality: questions which have been largely left in the background. The focus has been instead on finding answers to such questions as the type of representation constituted by images, their role in the dynamics of information processing, and the level of processing at which they make their appearance.
Starting from the assumption that representation is internal, it is obviously of great importance to determine the form taken by imagery phenomena with respect to their physical and/or brain correlates, and the manner in which they differ, for example, from more properly perceptive phenomena. Does imagery constitute a common background for every type of representation of objects (concrete, perceptive, actual, but also mnestic, ideal, symbolic, etc.), or does it only concern the configuration and representation of substantially absent objects (mnestic, anomalous like Kanizsa's triangle, fictitious like the golden mountain, impossible like the round square, merely epistemological, etc.)? In other words, is every act of presentation at least in part imaginative or is it not? When we speak of images, are we referring to mental contents understood as pictorial representations, to forms of linguistic symbolisation, or to something else? And in the construction of an image, of any form of image, what role is played by, for example, the anticipation of the objectual form of the content?
A careful re-reading of these authors also throws light on the complex theoretical core of Gestalt, which, despite a set of generally accepted assumptions (viz., the apprehension of form is a specific psychic process not reducible to others; Gestalten are wholes characterised by the non-summativeness of their parts and transposition of structure; apprehension of the whole determines the order and the connection of the parts, and certain fundamental laws of the organisation of the percept), comprises a variety of positions anticipated by those who may be regarded as its predecessors, like Brentano, Mach or Stout. However, the peculiarity of Gestalt theory did not prevent the onset of various problems centred on the problem of the relation among the parts of a whole (Husserl) and the nature of this relation as 'objective modification' (Stout), as 'perceptive contents' (von Ehrenfels), as 'unitary forms' (Stumpf, Koffka), or as 'components productive' of cognitive completion in the presentation of the whole (Meinong and Benussi versus Köhler).
These issues also relate closely to the hypothesis of the presence of phases in actual representation, a question which still today divides scholars, in particular those who support Gregory and those who support Gibson. In various respects, however, this question too was addressed by experimentalists like Benussi and by descriptive psychologists like Stout, who joined the debate begun by Helmholtz on unconscious perceptions to offer innovative solutions. In particular, one finds in these authors the first clear confutation of the bundle or mosaic hypothesis and of associationism, theses which later became integral to Gestalt theory.
Another important aspect developed by European scholars between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth concerns the theory of relations. In those years, substantially three different points of view were taken up on the mechanisms that compose the relations between objects and individuals.
The first point of view was sustained by logical atomism (Russell and the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus), and it envisaged a mechanism which composed relations from the bottom up, or in other words, from the 'atomistic' components. It was the point of view that predominated in the first years of the century and for many decades thereafter.
The second point of view was the holistic position taken up at the end of the nineteenth century by Hegel, certain exponents of British idealism and (between 1890 and 1920 circa) by Driesch and Uexküll in experimental biology. It conceived a mechanism which composed relations from the top down, or in other words not from the atomistic components but from the totality (Totalität, Ganzheit), a theory which found its main supporters in the Ganzheitpsychologie of Leipzig.
Again at the turn of the century, a third conception of relations, entirely original and anti-atomistic, developed which viewed them in molar terms, being opposed to both elementarism and structuralism. The molar conception of relations (in certain respects already present in James, who talked of a 'feeling' of relations in the sense of figural qualities) was developed by Brentanism as a whole, and also by its exponents in Britain, notably Stout. In this case, assumed as paramount were the inner relations among the components of the whole (Ganze) which constitute a variant on the laws of ontological dependence. A classic formulation of the theory was propounded by Husserl, in particular in his Third Logical Investigation with its distinction between part and piece (or between non-independent part and independent part of the whole). A variation on the theory was offered by Ehrenfels in his essay on the figural qualities and by Meinong in his essay on the higher-order objects, which emphasised the presence of components in the apprehension of the whole, albeit not in the elementarist sense. In psychology, the molar point of view merged naturally with the conceptual core of Gestalt.
As these various theories show, the problem of the structure of the relations, of its components, mechanisms of apprehension and composition, was closely connected with other problems, and therefore analysed together with them - the problems of truth conditions, of the nature of meaning and language, of abstraction - which subsequently characterised a large part of twentieth-century thought, though in an entirely different manner. Independently of individual positions, the essence of the problem was perhaps best grasped by Wertheimer in his book of 1920 and a series of essays which in many respects reflect the theories of Husserl. In his Second Logical Investigation, when analysing the relationship between the experienced sense of a statement and its correlative state of affairs, Husserl had emphasised that the objects we deal with, and as they 'phenomenologically appear,' are not reducible to the sensorial data. The Würzburg school had conducted significant analysis of the connections between mere 'sensations' and contents, images, acts of thought and feeling. In discussion of some problems connected with the teaching of mathematics, Wertheimer showed that the components of a whole (for example the lines of a rectangle or of another geometric figure) had a role and a function such to determine the inner relation, the operations and the final outcome in a functional hierarchy. Indeed, we perceive the shape of an object relative to (and simultaneously with) with its position in space, its direction, distance, velocity, etc., and these latter relational qualities are one condition for the (phenomenal) identity itself of objects.
On another occasion, Wertheimer started from the conventional principles that 'it is propositions that are true or false,' and that the presupposition of formal logic is that all propositions are distinct, to argue instead that states of affairs are not independent of each other in the real world, and that consequently a truth theory should take account of every statement and its corresponding object as parts of the related wholes. He emphasised that it may be the case that something can be true in the piecemeal sense and false as a part in its whole. It was therefore extremely important, in the theory of knowledge as well as in ontology and logic, to distinguish the object as a piece (a), the object as a part of its whole (a in the series abc), the object as part of another whole (a in the series amn): in fact, even in linguistic statements, as in the epistemological sphere, there may be phenomena analogous to the perceptive ones of masking analysed by Gottschadt and Köhler, or ones of optical deformation. In short, truth does not consist solely in the correspondence between a proposition and an object, 'its' object taken in isolation: if the object turns out to be a part in a pattern of a definite situation, the truth of a proposition is such when it corresponds not only with the part, but with the role that it plays in the whole.
From a more general point of view, these observations by Wertheimer are a critique against the ontological existence of 'atomic facts' in isolation from each other; a conception which in logical terms had been expressed both by traditional logic and logistics, neither of which, Wertheimer points out, distinguished between content as 'piece' and content as 'part,' and both of which had a substantially summative view of relations. Moreover, a distinctive feature of traditional logic was its emphasis on the correctness of every step of the proof, not on finding solutions. More than a formal logic, Wertheimer argued, what we need is a logic of 'objects' and of their laws of dependence, to which Gestalt might be able to furnish a number of fundamental concepts. The cognitive counterpart to the 'objectual' aspect of logical relations is exemplified by the Graz school's analysis of the foundation of higher-order objects, as well as by numerous Gestaltist studies, starting from Rubin's classic analysis of the fundamental relation of figure/ground. But one may also cite Köhler's study of the ability of animals to recognise relations of clarity among different objects, Katz's analysis of the relationship between colour and area of the visual field, those by Cornelius, Krueger and especially Köhler on colour tone, and Asch's research into the base conditions for associative processes, which were usually restricted to processes of association among units. Asch's experiments extended the concept of associative conditions to particular types of perceptive relations, like the constitutive relation and those of figure/ground and inclusion which demonstrate that association does not have the primary function of joining unrelated contents of mental life as discrete, irreducible sense data - the hypothesis accredited by British empiricism - but is rather some sort of after-effect of the laws of organisation in immediate experience. The same conclusion was reached, for example, by Wever's tachistoscopic research on the nature of attentive processes, which showed the prime importance of the concepts of 'clearness' and 'attentiveness' on the basis of their connection with the fundamental relation of figure/ground.
In this case too, therefore, psychological and cognitive research at the beginning of the twentieth century has an ontological, a semiotic and semantic counterpart, in the sense that analysis of the relations of perceptive organisation shed light on the psychological constitution of objects, and on the formation of the meaning relation as a specific case of molar 'conceptual unit' formation (Cf. L. Albertazzi, Introduction to The Dawn of Cognitive Science. Early European Contributors, Kluwer, Dordrecht 2001).
THE FOUNDATION AND THE COGNITIVE SCIENCES
This overview therefore highlights not the decadence but the excellence of a particular scientific period which saw the birth of numerous new ideas and of entire scientific disciplines, as well as the beginning of the experimental study of the mind. The image furnished of Mitteleuropa is therefore that of a ferment of exhilarating and profoundly modern ideas, and it was probably this feature that first attracted the scientists who joined the Foundation's scientific programme, and who over the years have given it greater visibility and a specific profile in the contemporary cognitive sciences. Indeed, the references to Mitteleuropa are not archaeological in nature but centre on a committed use (re-use) of Central European science and philosophy within contemporary science. By way of example, Liliana Albertazzi has recently designed a series of laboratory experiments using fMRI and drawing on Brentano's theory of continua and Benussi's theory of production. In short, The Foundation takes the following view. The contemporary cognitive sciences, despite the array of laboratories, experimental research and results that they have produced, seem to suffer from a certain theoretical weakness in their foundations. This theoretical weakness raises increasing impediments in various sectors of research. One of the reasons for this is that contemporary experimental research uses extremely sophisticated instruments but bases itself on an inappropriate scientific paradigm. The twentieth century was reductionist in science and analytic in its philosophical assumptions. These two aspects raised obstacles which channelled the development of the contemporary sciences in the wrong directions. In order to develop a different scientific paradigm, an entirely diverse categorial framework is required, one which is anti-reductionist and comprises both analytic and synthetic approaches.
LINES OF RESEARCH
The Foundation currently has three projects in progress, dividing between two lines of research, and a documentation centre. The first research line, "Natural Semiosis", coordinated by Liliana Albertazzi, aims at developing a unified viewpoint between linguistics, perception and cognition.
The "Natural Semiotics" research line is concerned with the analysis of (1) the basic semiotic sources of cognitive processes and in particular of cognitive space and time, from both a phenomenological and experimental viewpoint; (2) cognitive semantics, from the semiotic primitives of perception to the various forms of conceptualization embedded in natural language; (3) form recognition and understanding in perception and art.
In regard to this inquiry a research group has been formed on the perception of form. Coordinated by Liliana Albertazzi, this group currently comprises John Willats (Loughborough University), Frederic Fol Leymarie (Brown University), Gert van Tonder (Kyoto University), and Dhanraj Vishwanath (Berkeley University).
The second line of research, "Tao - Theory and Application of Ontology", coordinated by Prof. Roberto Poli, is concerned with development of a general ontological framework suitable for both the traditional interpretations of ontology and the new interpretations recently developed in the field of information science. Like the first line of inquiry, this too is grounded in Mitteleuropean culture.
Developing categorial frameworks for a non-reductionist view of science - for example the theory of the levels of reality - is one of the priority goals of this line of research.
A number of grants will be available for next year's lines of research. Finally, the Documentation Centre on Central-European Culture (DOCET) collects both published and unpublished sources related to the scientific and philosophical ideas developed by Central-European culture. Further details about the research lines are available at the Foundation's website.
The Mitteleuropa Foundation mainly engages in advanced scientific research and has an extremely broad network of scientific relations with institutions in the United States, Europe and Japan. It performs various roles in its regional setting. It collaborates with the Universities of Trento and Bolzano in sectors within its scientific remit. Visiting professorships and research posts are further opportunities for contact between the teaching staffs and student bodies of the two universities. The international events organized annually at the Foundation, and which are attended by scholars from every part of the world, provide easy access to advanced resarch to both Italian researchers in general, and researchers from the region in particular. Moreover the presence in the Foundation of the region's two universities of Trento and Bolzano provides a forum for scientific collaboration and discussion in addition to conventional channels. The Foundation disseminates information about scientific advances in the twentieth century and developments in the cognitive sciences, in particular by means of its Serate Mitteleuropa Abende. These meetings, which are held in Italian and German, are organized in two cycles, one in the spring and one in the autumn. A further part of the Foundation's programme is the organization of training courses (mainly at higher and postgraduate level), for example for teachers Since 2005, moreover, the Foundation has hosted students from the University of Trento on work experience placements.
International events scheduled for the near future are workshops on Conceptualization in Bi- and Multilingualism (May 19-21) and on Projected Reality. At the Edge of Natural and Artificial Perception and Abstraction (September, 1-3) (see www.mitteleuropafoundation.it under the heading Forthcoming Events).
Numerous important international publications are associated with the name of the Foundation, among them the following:
R. Poli ed., In Itinere. European Cities and the Birth of Modern Scientific Philosophy, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 1997.
L. Albertazzi ed., Shapes of Form. From Gestalt Psychology to Phenomenology, Ontology and Mathematics, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1998.
R. Poli ed., The Brentano Puzzle, Ashgate, Aldershot, 1998.
L. Albertazzi ed., Meaning and Cognition: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam 2000.
L. Albertazzi ed., The Dawn of Cognitive Science. Early European Contributors, Kluwer, Dordrecht 2001.
L. Albertazzi ed., Unfolding Perceptual Continua, Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam 2001.
L. Albertazzi ed., The Legacy of Gaetano Kanizsa in Cognitive Science, special issue of Axiomathes 2003.
L. Albertazzi ed., Visual Thought: The Depictive Space of Perception, forthcoming by Benjamins.
Jan Koenderink (Utrecht University) George Lakoff (Berkeley University) Ron Langacker (University of La Holla, California) Giuseppe O. Longo (Trieste University). Jean Petitot (CREA, CNRS, Paris) Roberto Poli (Trento University) †Karl Schuhmann (Utrecht University) Len Talmy (University of New York at Buffalo) Alfred Zimmer (University of Regensburg)
Dott.ssa Paola Benevento Tel:++39-0471-3237734 Fax:++39-0471-309371
PAST EVENTS (ESSENTIAL)
The Depictive Space of Perception. A Conference on Visual Thought June, 7-9 2004 Perceptual space and depictive space have close similarities. Both are characterized by a sort of extendedness which unfolds dynamically, and which displays the close analogy between the performance of an act of perception and an act of design. Neither art nor vision are, in fact, veridical copies of the world, rather both seem to be operating on the representational structures of vision. On these premises, a scientific phenomenology, experimentally oriented, seems to be a more appropriate paradigm in vision science, especially in order to understand the dynamics of the ongoing perceiving. The conference as a starting point drew on the results of the artistic and cognitive theories of Klee and Arnheim and Gestalt theory, and explored their application to contemporary research in vision science. Speakers: Liliana Albertazzi (Trento University), The Depictive Space of the Mind Jan J. Koenderink (Utrecht University), The Geometry of Pictorial Space John Willats (Loughborough University), Some Structural Equivalents Shared by Paul Klee's Paintings and Children's Drawings Barbara Tversky (Stanford University), Visions of Thought Alfred Zimmer (Regensburg University), Visual Art and Visual Perception: An Uneasy Complementarity Gert van Tonder (Kyoto Institute of Technology), Order and Complexity in Naturalistic Landscapes Steve Zucker (Yale University), Visual Computations and Visual Cortex Mario Zanforlin (Padua University), Trajectories and Surfaces of Stereokinetic Objects Irving Biederman (University of Southern California), Where in the Brain do we First Become Aware of a Visual Experience? How is that Experience Coded? What is its Aesthetic Basis? Charles E. Connor (John Hopkins University), Shapes Representation in Neural Populations Frederic Fol Leymarie (Brown University), The Computation of Visual Fields in Arts Thanos Economou (Georgia Tech), Studies in Complexity, Ambiguity and Emergence in Design Dhanraj Viswanath (UC Berkeley), Perceptual Representation of Surfaces and Objects and the Implications for Design Timothy Hubbard, Jon R. Courtney (Texas Christian University), Evidence Suggestive of Spatial Visual Dynamics in Perception and Memory Marco Bertamini, Luke Jones (Sheffield University), The Perception of Space in Bounded Scenes Jana Holsanova (Lund University), Picture Viewing and Picture Description: Two Windows on the Mind Klaus Rehkämper (Oldenburg University), Pictures, Perception and Mental Models Heinrich Herre (Leipzig University), Levels of Reality and the Ontology of Space and Time Jacek Turski (Houston University), The Initial Stage in the Brain's Visual Processing: An Efficient Representation of Cortical Images Markus Graf (Max Planck Institut Tübingen), Form and Space in Perception and Art Mark Wrathall (Brigham Young University), Paul Klee and the Role of the Body in Motivating Perception Marek Maciejczak (Warrsaw University of Technology), Perceptive Normalization David Grandy (Brigham Young University), Merleau-Ponty's View from Everywhere in Light of the Double-Slit Experiment Sergio Dansilio (Montevideo University), Figure Coping and Perspective in Illiterates Natalya A. Burdina (Ural State Academy of Architecture), The Effect of the Characteristics of an Architectural Space on Subconscious Choice of its Functional Directionality by Man Kazuhiro Tamura (Brain Science Institute of Riken), Alignment Effect and the Role of Landmarks in Spatial Navigation John Webber (Sheffield University), Hallucination as 'Seeing in'
Creativity and Conceptual Change. A Cognitive-historical Approach Nancy J. Nersessian (Program in Cognitive Science, College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology, Chair of the Cognitive Science Society) October, 27-28, 2003 Sessions: Model-based Reasoning Practices in Conceptual Change The Cognitive Basis of Model-based Reasoning Conceptual Change in Doing and Learning Physics Interpreting Practice: The Challenge of Integrating the Cognitive, Social, and Cultural Dimensions
The Pictorial Space of Vision. Representation in Perception August 20-30, 2003 First meeting of the research group on form: Where Vision Science, Computer Science, Aesthetics and Theory of Representation Meet Participants: Liliana Albertazzi (Trento University and Mitteleuropa Foundation) Osvaldo Da Pos (Padua University) Frederic Fol Leymarie (Brown University) Gert van Tonder (Kyoto University) Dhanraj Vishwanath (Berkeley University) The meeting focused on the concept of representation in perception, its modelling and its relevance for aesthetics. Each participant had at his/her disposal two days to present and discuss his/her research Titles and topics Liliana Albertazzi, The space-time continua of vision; The window of representation: Unfolding the now; The pictorial space of cognition; Primitives: A blind alley?; The identity of perceptual objects Frederic Fol Leymarie, Shape representation in 2D and 3D based on a directed graph substrate for the medial axis; Motivation from the fields of perception, computer vision, computational geometry; Definitions and computations Applications Gert Van Tonder, On self-similarity in visual perception; Self-similarity in ecological vision; Revisiting Gestalt principles of vision; Curvature-symmetry dualism: a dualism of self-similarity?; Revisiting self-similarity, in aesthetics and design; Non-computational machine vision through self-similarity generating feedback Dhanraj Vishwanath, Epistemological issues in perceptual representation: relevance for aesthetics and design; Epistemological status of computer vision; Epistemological issues in Vision Science; Perception and the contemporary art project; Representation in perception and it's relevance to Design