Embodied (and nice) Time at NECS2018

Professor Ed Tan is one of the leading scholar in the psychology of the film experience (his works on emotions and movies are milestones of the cognitive approach in film studies). Today at the NECS2018 conference in Amsterdam he generously served as a respondent to our panel on the Subjective Experience and Estimation of Moving Image Time (SEEM_IT), delivered with Ruggero Eugeni and Federica Fimbrethil Cavaletti. Our research will benefit from his insightful comments and generous suggestions!

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Occhi, cuore, stomaco, cervello

In una magica e insolita sera d’inverno siciliano, gli studiosi e gli studenti che hanno preso parte al convegno “La cultura visuale nel XXI secolo” ottimamente organizzato da Andrea Rabbito all’Università degli Studi di Enna, hanno assistito a un reading tratto dal volume Teorie del cinema. Il dibattito contemporaneo, martedì 27 febbraio al caffè letterario Al Kenisa di Enna alta. Le voci di alcuni degli autori tradotti nel volume — Vivian Sochack, Patricia Pisters, Antonio Damasio, Murray Smith, Uri Hasson, Friedrich Kittler, Giuliana Bruno — sono state interpretate da Elisa Di Dio e Filippa Ilardo, accompagnate sullo schermo da alcune sequenze cinematografiche: l’apertura di Lezioni di piano di Jane Campion, la scena cruciale di Michael Clayton di Tony Gilroy,  la doccia cult di Psycho di Hitch, la cruenta amputazione di 127 ore di Danny Boyle, alcuni minuti de Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo del nostro Sergio Leone, l’ipnotico Koyaanisqatsi di Geoffrey Reggio e Line Describing a Cone dell’artista Anthony McCall. Un’esperienza per occhi, cuore, stomaco, cervello che ha dato concretezza sensibile al caleidoscopio degli sguardi sul cinema e i media audiovisivi che dibattono nel volume curato assieme a Ruggero Eugeni per Raffaello Cortina editore.

Qui alcune foto dell’evento

 

Nella cucina della teoria del cinema

Nella sua Postfazione a Teorie del cinema. Il dibattito contemporaneo (Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2017, 408pp.), Francesco Casetti usa un’immagine molto efficace per descrivere l’evoluzione storica e lo stato attuale delle teorie del cinema: una gustosissima torta a quattro strati. Quattro strati – “teorie”, teorie classiche, Grand-Theory, post-theory – che, per quanto distesi uno sopra l’altro, non sono da intendere come fasi diacroniche di una sostituzione progressiva, bensì come sedimentazioni sincronicamente presenti e attive. Gustare una fetta di torta oggi significa prendere tutt’e quattro le farciture assieme (magari distinguendo e apprezzando i diversi sapori). Il problema è capire se questa torta composita è una prelibatezza che segna la nuova vita della teoria del cinema oppure un “mappazzone” che ne decreta fatalmente il declino. Se pensiamo a cosa è accaduto a partire dalla metà degli anni Novanta (quando cioè la post-theory ha cominciato a essere lo strato più richiesto della torta) dovremmo parlare di destrutturazione. Proprio come in pasticceria (e più in generale in cucina), le ricette tradizionali hanno cominciato a essere rivisitate e i diversi ingredienti del dolce a essere proposti in una struttura diversa, se non persino separatamente, lasciando a chi l’ha ordinato il compito di ricomporli direttamente nell’atto stesso del gustarli. Per descrivere lo stato attuale delle teorie del cinema (approssimativamente gli ultimi vent’anni) potremmo restare in pasticceria e mantenere la metafora della torta, stavolta però montandola su una di quelle strutture a più alzate, tipiche delle feste che seguono le celebrazioni importanti – in particolare, non a caso, i matrimoni. Non a caso perché in fondo si tratta di descrivere alcuni sodalizi, almeno tre, tutti molto appassionati, spesso tormentati. La questione della (impossibile, possibile, consigliabile o necessaria) sopravvivenza della teoria del cinema va letta infatti come il segnale di un fenomeno più profondo: alla fine degli anni Novanta la teoria del cinema cambia pelle e si riconfigura come pratica di dialogo tra specialisti del cinema e studiosi di altre aree.

Leggi l’articolo integrale su Scenari.

Cognition of narrative events: a True detection

Schermata 2016-05-27 alle 11.04.51MediaMutations 8 (Università di Bologna, May 25-26) hosted the paper The boundaries of never-ending. Events cognition and complex TV series narratives, a first exploration and literature survey on the notions of cognitive events and event segmentation in contemporary popular audiovisual storytelling forms, such as films, serial films, anthological and serialized TV series. The project is developed in co-operation with prof. Ruggero Eugeni and within the more general framework of Neurofilmology, a theoretical approach aiming at a comprehensive interpretation of media experience through the intersection between semiotics/narratology/aesthetic and cognitive psychology and neurocognitive research.

What is an narrative event? How do we perceive, remember, predict a narrative event?  How do we organize our narrative experiences – nowadays more pervasive thank to quality TV – into events? What is the relationship between film editing and cognitive editing?

Schermata 2016-05-27 alle 11.05.03

As a case study, we offered a (bit provocative) comparison between two stylistically antipodean sequences of HBO’s crime drama True Detective. Whereas episode Who Goes There (01×04) “refuses” editing and is shot with a single 6-minutes long shot, episode Down Will Come (02×04) adopts intensified continuity and high-paced editing, with 300 cuts in 9 minutes… a very “gun shot”! Although radically different in terms of editing style, both the sequences help to reflect on critical issues such as causality, complexity, temporality and embodiment. Our aim is that of develop an embodied approach to “extended narrative temporalities”.

Our presentation design takes inspiration and materials from the marvelous infographic We keep the other bad man from the door, a tribute to True Detective by Nigel Evan Dennis.

Neurofilmology. Audiovisual Studies and the Challenge of Neuroscience

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Over the last two decades, discoveries made in the field of cognitive neuroscience have begun to permeate the humanities and social sciences. In the context of this intersection, Neurofilmology is a research program that arises at the encounter between two models of viewer: the viewer-as-mind (deriving from a cognitive/analytical approach) and the viewer-as-body (typical of the phenomenological/continental approach). Accordingly, Neurofilmology focuses on the viewer-as-organism, by investigating with both empirical and speculative epistemological tools the subject of audiovisual experience, postulated as embodied, embedded, enacted, extended, emerging, affective, and relational.

The special issue 22/23 of Cinéma & Cie, edited by Adriano D’Aloia and Ruggero Eugeni, focuses on major conceptual and epistemological arguments arising from the dialogue between audiovisual studies and neurosciences developed over the last twenty years. In fact, the contributors share the conviction that such a dialogue can be fruitful if and only if it is conducted within a common and consistent framework, including both epistemological and conceptual aspects. Such a framework should allow each of the research programs to contribute to a shared understanding of that particular and complex phenomenon that is the film and audiovisual media viewing experience.

CONTENTS

  • Adriano D’Aloia and Ruggero EugeniNeurofilmology: An Introduction
  • Temenuga TrifonovaNeuroaesthetics and Neurocinematics: Reading the Brain/Film through the Film/Brain 
  • Maria PoulakiNeurocinematics and the Discourse of Control: Towards a Critical Neurofilmology 
  • Patricia PistersDexter’s Plastic Brain: Mentalizing and Mirroring in Cinematic Empathy 
  • Enrico CarocciFirst-Person Emotions: Affective Neuroscience and the Spectator’s Self 
  • Maarten Coëgnarts and Peter KravanjaThe Sensory-Motor Grounding of Abstract Concepts in Two Films by Stanley Kubrick 
  • Pia Tikka and Mauri KaipainenPhenomenological Considerations on Time Consciousness under Neurocinematic Search Light 
  • Vittorio Gallese and Michele GuerraThe Feeling of Motion: Camera Movements and Motor Cognition 

    Cover image: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (Joseph Green, USA 1962). Poster by Reynold Brown

    © 2015 – Mimesis International
    ISBN 9788869770227 | ISSN 2035-5270

La vertigine e il volo. L’esperienza filmica fra estetica e neuroscienze cognitive

vertigine volo

Dalla camminata in precario equilibrio di un funambolo alla passeggiata spaziale di un astronauta sospeso nello spazio siderale, questo libro offre un vertiginoso percorso nelle forme con cui il cinema contemporaneo continua a coinvolgere lo spettatore intensificando le sue percezioni e le sue emozioni. Per la prima volta nell’ambito degli studi sull’esperienza filmica, il paradigma della cognizione incorporata e il concetto di simulazione incarnata vengono adottati per descrivere la relazione dello spettatore con i personaggi e con i mondi della finzione cinematografica, in un serrato dialogo fra teorie del cinema, estetica e neuroscienze cognitive. Acrobazia, caduta, impatto, capovolgimento, deriva sono le cinque tappe di questa esplorazione, quasi un unico movimento che si origina nella capacità del film di stimolare la corporeità dello spettatore e precipita verso il senso più profondo e umano dell’atto di partecipare empaticamente alle vicende del personaggio.

La vertigine e il volo. L’esperienza filmica fra estetica e neuroscienze cognitive
Fondazione Ente dello Spettacolo (Collana “Frames”), Roma 2013
43 immagini in b/n, pp. 396 | € 11,90
ISBN 978-88-85095-72-4

Scheda del libroAcquista online

Neurofilmology

brain_eaters

Neurofilmology
Film studies and the challenge of neuroscience

Cinéma&Cie. International Film Studies Journal
Special Issue no. 22/23
Edited by Adriano D’Aloia and Ruggero Eugeni

Call for Essays [pdf]

Over the last two decades, discoveries made in the field of cognitive neuroscience have begun to permeate the humanities and social sciences. In particular, the philosophical and psychological implications of the function of so-called ‘visuomotor neurons’ have caused a breakthrough in the understanding of the mind-body relation and of phenomena such as human consciousness, empathy, intersubjectivity, affect, and aesthetic response to works of art. This special issue of Cinéma&Cie aims to evaluate, from a multidisciplinary and critical perspective, both the relevance of the neurological approach for the psychology and the aesthetics of the film experience and, more generally, the epistemological consequences of this approach in the humanities.

The fundamental (and controversial) insight behind neuroscientific findings is that the complex processes of the human mind find in the brain’s architecture and functioning their neural correlates. This correlation is based on a functional link between observation of goal-directed actions or emotions and sensorimotor activation of the observer (Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia, Iacoboni). Unity of action and perception is allowed by an embodied simulation, a basic functional mechanism by means of which our brain-body system models its interactions with the world (Gallese). This proposal falls fully within the paradigm of embodied cognition, according to which cognition depends upon those experiences that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities that are embedded in a biological, psychological and cultural context (Varela, Thompson and Rosch). In turn, this paradigm is based on both a phenomenological account of the body and human experience (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty) and on the ecological approach to visual perception (Gibson).

Although at an intuitive level the activity of visuomotor neurons and the mirroring mechanism appear to constitute the ground for a new and empirically-based study of film participation, to date a few steps have already been taken in the direction of a neuroembodied theory of the film experience. Indeed, some neuroscientists not only consider cinema as a metaphor for the human mind (Damasio), but also carry out neuroimaging tests on audiences, aiming to outline a ‘neurocinematics’ (Hasson et al.). Since neuroscientific methods and procedures seem not suited to point out aesthetic, cultural or ethical implications, this proposal has been received with scepticism, as problematic and potentially subject to reductionism. Yet philosophical reflections drawn on neuroimaging experiments provide new tools of analysis and interpretation for film theory. For example, tests showing that human beings learn and relate with each other (and with fictional worlds) on the basis of an immediate pre-reflexive and empathetic kind of comprehension would give empirical consistency to the intuitions of the first aesthetic film theories (Epstein, Balázs, Eisenstein) and would revitalised classical filmology (Cohen-Séat, Souriau, Michotte).

In fact, the project of a new multidisciplinary approach to the film experience – Neurofilmology – would remain unproductive if not concretely applied to film aesthetics and viewer participation. More than metaphorically conceivable as an experimental laboratory setting, the film experience offers a space for testing formal solutions (in terms of point-of-view, editing, camera angles, camera movements, colour, lightning, etc.) that provide, control and regulate sensorimotor activation and emotional involvement. While neuroimaging methods cannot provide an aesthetic judgment on the cinematic style, they may serve as ‘an objective scientific measurement for assessing the effect of distinctive styles of filmmaking upon the brain, and therefore substantiate theoretical claims made in relation to them’ (Hasson et al.).

In contemporary film theory, the development of neuroscientific-based models for the study of spectatorship is part of the project of ‘psychocinematics’ (Shimamura) as a natural evolution of the centrality attributed to emotions by cognitivist film scholars (Grodal). Conversely, phenomenological film theory (Casebier, Shaviro, Sobchack) still seems to harbour some resistance to neurophenomenology (Varela), although the search for a post-dualistic neurological foundation of the film experience could allow it to overcome continental philosophy’s rejection of natural science. The study of the neural substratum of the film experience arises as a terrain of encounter and dialogue between cognitive and phenomenological film studies.

This special issue of Cinéma&Cie aims to investigate the possible (or impossible) relationship between cognitive neuroscience and film theories with particular reference to film spectatorship. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

— Neurophilia/neuromania: critical approaches to the neurological account of the film experience
— Beyond the mirror: toward a phenomenological neuroscience in humanities
— Embodied mind/’Emminded’ body: possible convergence of phenomenological and cognitive film studies
— Enactivism vs. interactivism: simulation, narration, virtual reality and the convergence of the real and the fictional
— History of ‘Neurofilmology’: the mind/brain problem in the history of film theories
— Psychocinematics and Neurocinematics: experiments on the spectator between cognitive psychology and neurocognitive science
— Neurophenomenology of the film experience: the film-body revisited
— Film neuroaesthetics: neural substrates of film style
— Camera movements and sensorimotor simulation
— Cinematic empathy: the role of visuomotor neurons in the spectator’s emotional involvement and ethical implications
— Audiomotor neurons: the role of sound in embodied simulation 

Submission details

Please send your abstract (300-500 words in English + bibliographical references) and a short biographical note to both adriano.daloia@unicatt.it and submissions.cinemaetcie@gmail.com by September 15, 2013. All notifications of acceptance will be emailed no later than September 30, 2013. If accepted, 4,000-word essays will then be required for peer review by January 31, 2014.