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Enactive Screens. The Moving-Body and the Moving-Image

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 12:00pm to 2:00pm

In this talk I will critically discuss the relevance of an enactive approach to human cognition for film and media studies. Rooted in J.J. Gibson’s ecological approach to visual perception and in Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, enactivism is an emerging perspective in cognitive science that promotes the idea that perception and action are fundamentally inseparable in lived cognition and that the latter emerges from the coupling of an organism with its environment. According to enactivists, “cognition depends on an experience that derives from having a body, with its various sensory-motor capacities [that] are themselves part of a wider biological, psychological, and cultural context” (Varela, Thompson, Rosch, The Embodied Mind, 1991). Since the interaction between an organism and its environment through the mediation of technology is central in the analysis and interpretation of the contemporary media experience, enactivism has the potential to renew and re-launch the endeavor of film studies. Such a potential consists in an epistemological turn that enlightens a series of aspects that film theory has not considered for a long time: the centrality of the system of bodies involved in the film experience; the relevance of the biological and neurobiological substratum in the study of the cultural aspects of film viewing; the importance of multisensory integration and multimodal perception in the design and the experience of the film; the significance of kinaesthetic empathy in determining the intersubjective nature of film participation; the specific role of cinematic technology in extending the human faculties and in mediating between lived body and lived space. Conversely, problematic issues implied in the enactivist approach, such as its inherent anti-representationalism and the risk of ontological reductionism and of technological determinism cannot be denied and require further investigation. My argument will be explained and expanded through the analysis and the collective discussion of director Spike Jonze’s commercial Welcome Home (2018). 


Adriano D’Aloia is an associate professor of film and media studies at the Università della Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Italy. His research focuses on the relationship between audiovisual media theory, aesthetics, and cognitive science. Among his publication, Neurofilmology. Audiovisual Media and the Challenge of Neuroscience (Cinéma&Cie 22/23, 2014, co-edited with Ruggero Eugeni), and Enactive Screens. A Neurofilmology of the Moving-Image (forthcoming). He is also curator of the anthology of Rudolf Arnheim’s Italian writings on cinema (2009).