Cognitive Futures in the Arts and Humanities

15 – 17 May 2020 at Osnabrück University.

We are proud to announce our keynote speakers for the 2020 conference in Osnabrück. Scroll down to read more about the speakers and their topics.

Barbara Dancygier

University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Barbara Dancygier is a Professor of English and Cognitive Linguistics at the University of British Columbia ( Her interests focus on cognitive explanations of construction of meaning in language, literature, performance, and visual art. She is especially interested in stance and viewpoint phenomena, especially in narrative discourse and multimodal communication. Also, she has worked extensively on various aspects of figuration, especially on the different viewpoint potential of metaphor, simile, and metonymy. She authored and co-authored three monographs (such as The Language of Stories) a textbook on Figurative Language (2014) and edited The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. She co-edited five collections of papers and several special issues and published almost fifty book chapters and articles. In 2017-19 she was President of the International Cognitive Linguistics Association. She lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Plenary Talk

Multimodality, figuration, and viewpoint

Image-plus-text artifacts have inspired much research recently. They are often discussed as representing specific figurative conceptualizations, such as metaphor, metonymy, or blending, in multimodal form. Relying on various discourses – e.g. the media, internet discourse, advertising, campaign materials - I will propose a more integrated approach to the conceptual nature of a range of such artifacts. My analysis will focus on viewpoint and stance phenomena in multimodal (image-plus-text) discourse.

Patricia Kolaiti

University of Brighton

Dr Patricia Kolaiti is the writer of The Limits of Expression: Language, Literature, Mind (Cambridge University Press, 2019) and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellow in the School of Humanities, University of Brighton, working on the 2-year interdisciplinary project ‘Literature and Art as a Cognitive Object’ (‘CogLit’) funded by the European Commission. ‘CogLit’ aims to develop a novel theoretical account of literature and art as a cognitive object and build two-way interactions between literary and art study, linguistics and the cognitive sciences. Patricia holds a PhD from UCL and was Associate Researcher with the Balzan project on ‘Literature as an Object of Knowledge’ (based at St John’s College Research Centre, Oxford and led by Prof. Terence Cave). Her second theoretical monograph Literature and Art as a Cognitive Object that outlines the key hypotheses of the ‘CogLit’ project is currently in preparation. She is a member of the Cognitive Futures in the Humanities Network, and a co-founder of the Beyond Meaning Network and the Poetry as an Action Research Group. Patricia is also a published poet and performer with a strong presence in the contemporary Greek literary scene: her collection Celesteia was nominated for the 2008 First Book Diavazo Award in Greece.

Plenary Talk

Literature and art as a cognitive object: towards a novel mentalistic theory of literature and art

This talk will outline the key theoretical hypothesis of ‘Literature and Art as a Cognitive Object’ (CogLit), a two-year interdisciplinary research project based in the School of Humanities, University of Brighton and funded by a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship, European Commission, as well as Dr Kolaiti’s pertinent monograph under the same title (currently in preparation). Shifting the focus from the properties of the artwork/ literary text itself to literature/ art as a case of human agency, ‘CogLit’ will set out a radically new view of the interplay between literature, art and mind and make one of the first systematic and empirically tractable cognitivist proposals in the 21st century on the essence of literature and art.

In this talk, Dr Patricia Kolaiti will try to give the audience a taste of some of the fascinating questions about the nature of literature and art that ‘CogLit’ is focusing on and hint on the challenges raised for traditional perceptions of literature and art by adopting a novel internalist, mentalistic and cognitivist perspective.

This talk will move beyond the existing binary oppositions of artifact-oriented and receiver-oriented approaches to literature and art, put the artist/creator at the center of attention and gesture towards a new action-based and mentalistic model of the nature of literature and art as a cognitive object standing in a causal relation to an art-specific type of creative mental states and processes that Dr Kolaiti terms artistic thoughts states/ processes. Artistic thoughts states/ processes are spontaneous and automatic compound mental states that enable literature and art as a distinct and unique human action and possibly amount to special evolutionary adaptations or exaptations of a certain kind. During the two years of the CogLit project Dr Kolaiti has been developing an empirically tractable model of these metaphysically- and psychologically-real entities in constant dialogue with linguistics, cognitive science, neuroscience and philosophy of mind. Investigating artistic thoughts states/ processes may help provide answers to persistent ontological questions in literary and art theory and delineate new and exciting potential for research in the cognitive study of literature and art by enabling us shift the focus from the artifactual properties of artworks as objects out there in the world to their complex retroactive relationship with the micro-mechanisms of the mind that creates them.

Albert Newen

Ruhr University Bochum

Albert Newen is currently professor of philosophy at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. His research centers on brain, consciousness, epistemology, mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, and philosophy of science.Semalytix GmbH has been founded in 2015 and has grown since to become a world-leading provider of machine reading solutions for the Pharma industry in order to generate action-ready insights from unstructured text in real time. Their AI-driven intelligence platform extracts and transparently summarizes trends in value perception with human accuracy at machine scale.

Pascal Nicklas

Johannes-Gutenberg Universität Mainz

Pascal Nicklas is a literary scholar working on Empirical Aesthetics in the Institute for Microscopic Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz. He is Research Group Leader at the Institute for Microscopic Anatomy and Neurobiology, where he is also Privatdozent at the Faculty of Philosophy and Philology teaching Comparative and English Literature.

Marjan Sharifi


Marjan Sharifi received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the Freie Universität Berlin in 2017. Her doctoral research was based within the Social Neuroscience department of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive Brain Sciences. Since completing her doctorate, she has used her strength as an interdisciplinary scholar to develop projects which span the cognitive sciences, the arts, and human-computer interactions (HCI). She has worked within artist studios as a researcher and also collaborates with design firms both in Berlin and Los Angeles (i.e. Studio Olafur Eliasson, Studio Tomás Saraceno, and Rios Clementi Hale Studios). Currently she is an adjunct lecturer at the University of the Arts, in Berlin and Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc).

Mark Turner

Case Western Reserve University

Institute Professor and Professor of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University.  Co-director, the Distributed Little Red Hen Lab ( For more information see

Plenary Talk
Imagining Our Futures
To imagine futures that differ qualitatively and importantly from our pasts is an astonishingly creative human mental feat: we can have no experience of those futures whatsoever and must build them out of present conceptions, knowledge, memories, and experiences, using amazing mental operations of invention, inference, and evaluation. It seems to us relatively straightforward and uncomplicated to imagine futures; they simply “come to mind.” How could we not imagine them? But, in fact, nearly all the cognitive work performed to conceive these futures occurs in backstage cognition in ways much too complicated for consciousness to hold or view, and although other species have instincts with long-range consequences—lust leads to great-grand-offspring; hunger leads to bodily growth and nutrition—none of those species has anything remotely like the everyday indispensable human power to imagine and weigh futures. When we think about these futures, we think about people, actions, and landscapes that stretch across vast ranges of time, space, causation, and agency.  What will happen to the US dollar? Geopolitics in Southeast Asia? Our grandchildren? Higher education? Artificial Intelligence? Automation? Population? The Global South? Air travel? Space travel? Automobile travel? Health care? Our own mobility? Where is my dinner? What will I build? What legacy will I leave? What guilt will I bear? Is there a chance? What are the odds? What’s my future? What’s your future? What’s their future? What’s our future?  This talk will review the cognitive toolbox of operations involved in imagining our futures.
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