Thinking with Things: by The History of Distributed Cognition Project

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesPublic Engagement – Public lecture/debate/seminar


Thinking with Things: Lectures at the National Museum of Scotland

Taking place in the National Museum of Scotland, and organised by the History of Distributed Cognition (HDC) Project, this free event aims to provide new ways to be able to think about objects as well as useages of new technologies. Join us at the National Museum of Scotland to rediscover museums as the home of human mind tools. Humans have always used things to think. Digital comes from digit – like our fingers that help us count when we’re just learning. This event explores tools that supplemented our minds and bodies. When our own digits weren’t enough, we started using pebbles, but things soon got more sophisticated than that: just look at the device you're reading this on! Mind-altering masks Professor Peter Meineck, of New York University, will discuss the use of masks in ancient Greek dramatic performances. Prof Meineck will explain how and why these powerful 'mind-tools' were capable of eliciting deep emotional responses from those who gazed on it in performance. Professor Meineck is an expert in Classics in the Modern World and founder of the Aquila Theatre, an acclaimed American theatre company. This talk will include live performances with classical masks by Dr Malcolm Knight of the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre. Things we count on Our offloading of cognitive tasks onto technology is often associated with modern inventions such as computers and mobile phones, but curator Dr Tacye Phillipson of the National Museum of Scotland will explain the long history of devices to help people avoid doing mental arithmetic from counting devices to calculators.Fellow curator Dr Klaus Stubermann will explain how those in his profession can breathe new life into a museum exhibit or artefact, by exploring the culture behind the making of an artefact. Mind in Movement Professor Guillemette Bolens from the University of Geneva will illustrate her talk using three intriguing artefacts from the Museum’s collection: a Lewis Chessman, a 14th Century helmet and a photograph of Victorian firefighters. She will discuss how these objects gain meaning through cultural and cognitive interpretation. Such artefacts demonstrate the ways in which human actions are evident in objects. Just as we can infer the feeling of movements when we see gestures, and in representations of gestures, so we also infer these from gestures implied by objects.
Period8 Oct 2016
Event typeConference
LocationEdinburgh, United KingdomShow on map


  • Extended Mind