Physical stimuli as agents for knowledge creation and knowledge transfer.

Scholars in philosophy of Cognitive Science have increasingly investigated the notion of embodiment and cognition over the last 20 years with various perspectives being discussed, what embodied cognition means and how it underpins human cognitive capacities. Varela, Thompson and Rosch coined the term ´Embodied Mind´ in 1991 and brought about a paradigm change in traditional cognitive science by focussing on phenomenological thinkers such as Merleau-Ponty and Husserl.

Theories of embodied cognition suggest that cognitive processing and the ways knowledge is acquired is influenced by direct physical experiences of the entire body and considers the physical body as an agent for knowledge generation and knowledge transfer. However, embodiment can be seen even more radically, by postulating the hypothesis that the brain is not the only cognitive resource available to humans to solve problems. Accordingly, the body and perceptually guided motions not only support cognitive processes to achieve certain goals, but replace the need for complex internal mental representations, meaning that embodiment is not simply another factor assisting otherwise disembodied cognitive processes. “From an embodied cognition perspective, cognition is seen as an emergent property of interactions between brain, body and the physical- and social environment“.

Culturesphere, Strategy, Workshop, Co-Creation, Prof. Oliver Szasz
Culturesphere, Strategy, Workshop, Co-Creation, Prof. Oliver Szasz
Culturesphere, Strategy, Workshop, Co-Creation, Prof. Oliver Szasz
Culturesphere, Strategy, Workshop, Co-Creation, Prof. Oliver Szasz
Embodied Sensemaking, Culturesphere, Ingrid Ruegemer, Oliver Szasz

The Embodied Sensemaking approach – Stimulating the interaction between brain, body and the physical and social environment (Illustration © Culturesphere)


In Symbio(s)cene, these ideas are developed further.

We propose an innovative approach to knowledge exchange and sensemaking by building on theories of embodied cognition and introducing an Embodied Sensemaking methodology, which features an embodied way of knowing as an alternative epistemological strategy and as a means to enhance art-science collaboration, interdisciplinary knowledge transfer and creative interdisciplinarity. Karl E. Weick’s research on organizational sensemaking presented Starbuck’s and Milliken’s perspective on stimuli in a sensemaking process and highlights that sensemaking involves placements of stimuli into a framework, whilst these frameworks could be anticipations, assumptions or categorizations.

The Embodied Sensemaking approach builds on the notion of physical stimuli as agents in order to trigger new thinking and perspectives, and is based on the agile, non-linear, iterative, participatory processes of the innovation methodology Design Thinking in non-design environments. In particular, the Embodied Sensemaking methodology focuses on specific methods from Design Thinking that support physical representations of knowledge as a means of reducing internal mental representations, physical experimentation and physical prototyping of concepts in order to allow feedback in a social setting.


Hummels, C., & Dijk, J.V. (2015). Seven Principles to Design for Embodied Sensemaking. Tangible and Embedded Interaction, 21–28, DOI: 10.1145/2677199.2680577

Kiverstein, J. (2012). The Meaning of Embodiment. Topics in cognitive science, Volume 4, Issue 4, 740-758. DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01219.x 

Varela, F., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Wilson, A. D., & Golonka, S. (2013). Embodied Cognition is Not What you Think it is. Frontiers in psychology, 4, 58. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00058
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Prof. Oliver Szasz

Fields of Expertise: Design Management, Design Theory