• David Kirsh, professor and past chair of the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California at San Diego

    David Kirsh, professor and past chair of the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California at San Diego

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David Kirsh to speak on the cognitive value of working with tools and the physical world

David Kirsh, professor and past chair of the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California at San Diego

International Design Center hosts an April 28 Interdisciplinary Design Conversation with David Kirsch, an expert in how objects can become interactive tools.


On Thursday, April 28, the MIT International Design Center (IDC) is hosting a design conversation featuring David Kirsh, professor and past chair of the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California at San Diego. Kirsh will bring his decades of experience studying how manipulable objects become interactive tools for thought to the IDC. This event, which will begin at 2 p.m. in Building N52 (3rd floor), is free and open to the MIT community and to the public.

For the past seven years, Kirsh has been studying the creative practices of an expert choreographer as he designs new dance works, comparing his process to other methods of design thinking, problem solving, and various forms of situated cognition. The common element running throughout is that people make use of their bodies, their gestures, nearby instruments, tools, representations and everyday objects as informal modeling tools. They work with things to advance their own thought by harnessing the analog computation performed by moving objects.

In his talk “Thinking with Things: The Value of Working with Objects in Architectural Design,” Kirsh will discuss the cognitive value of working with tools and physical objects. He will talk about how the field of architecture is changing as modern architects and designers use a broad collection of tools and new computational packages to interactively invent design spaces that were previously unimagined. 

Kirsh received a PhD from Oxford University, did postdoctoral work at MIT in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and has held research positions at MIT, Stanford University, Bartlett School of Architecture of University College London, and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. He has written on situated and embodied cognition, how environments can be shaped to simplify/extend cognition, and how space, external representations, our bodies, and even manipulable objects become interactive tools for thought. He is co-director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and is on the Board of Directors for the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture.

The IDC invites design experts to take part in the Interdisciplinary Design Conversations series, which brings a prominent figure from industry, research, practice, or other domain to offer thoughts on interdisciplinary themes in design. These talks are meant to foster an ongoing and Institute-wide discourse on the evolving nature of the processes, tools, and outcomes of design in the 21st century. All members of the MIT community are invited to join as a way to cultivate an inclusive environment for thinking about and initiating effective design in the world.


Topics: Special events and guest speakers, Design, Arts, Architecture

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