Call: Cognitive Science & the Moving Image seminar

Cognitive Science & the Moving Image

Wednesday 30th March 2011
 2:00 – 4:30 pm followed by a wine reception

Red Room, Chelsea College of Art & Design, 16 John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU

Professor Murray Smith, The University of Kent
Professor Ian Christie, Birkbeck, University of London
Dr. Tim Smith, Birkbeck, University of London

CCW Graduate School is delighted to present three leading scholars, representing different perspectives and disciplines, who are now turning to science to expand the territory of film history and theory. They have been working with cognitive scientists, some using the latest brain imaging techniques, in order to better understand how people watch and comprehend film. The seminar will include practical demonstrations as well as discussions of the theoretical, cultural and scientific background to their research.

Professor Murray Smith: In this presentation I will review the emergence of cognitive film theory – film theory inspired by the interdisciplinary blend of philosophy, psychology, linguistics and computer science known as ‘cognitive theory’ – from the mid-1980s onwards. In doing so, I will offer some reflections on the relations between experimental psychology and traditional research in the humanities. I will also consider what cognitive film theory has to offer in respect of work in the avant-garde, experimental and artists’ film and video traditions. While better known for its contributions to our understanding of narrative cinema, I will point to a small but significant body of cognitively-oriented research on avant-garde filmmaking, and suggest how that research might be developed further.

Professor Ian Christie: I will sketch in some historical/methodological background beginning with the pioneer Münsterberg, and evoke the tradition of empirical or ‘experimental aesthetics’ that starts with Fechner, and continues with ‘psychophysics’. With the help of Steve Hinde, I will also discuss my work with the interdisciplinary Vision group at Bristol University, where I’ve been involved in advising on some very simple experiments to measure degrees of ‘presence’ as affected by shot length and 2D/3D. I will speculate as to where these tests might lead and how they tie up with questions that arise within film aesthetics.

Dr. Tim Smith: Film “more than any other art [is] the domain of the psychologist” (Münsterberg, 1916). This visionary proclamation during the earliest days of film was motivated by Münsterberg’s realisation of how both the similarities and differences between Film and Reality could be used to investigate the Psychology of its viewers and, in return further our understanding of how we watch Film. In this talk I will be approaching the issues of film spectatorship from the perspective of Coginitive Psychology and I will present an overview of my empirical investigations of how we watch film, how our attention, perception, and memory is influenced by film form, and how film has evolved to be compatible with cognition.

The event is free but advance registration is necessary, as space will be limited. Inquiries to:

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