Institut Jean Nicod

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Roberto Casati is currently the director of Institut Nicod. In the last years he has worked mainly on the computational properties of shadow representations (in collaboration with visual neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh). Shadows are ubiquitous and rich informational ecological items, clearly targeted by the evolution of visual systems. The project has unearthed new informational properties of shadows and proposed a five-stage decomposition of shadow vision. Shadows must be first labeled as such (as opposed to permanent surface areas) and must be assigned to their owners. Shadow-owner representational pairs are processed by a number of algorithms (accomplishing shadow missions : shape from shadow, distance from shadow...) some of which are highly idiosyncratic and produce awkward solutions (and illusions). Shadows are then edited out the visual scene, that they typically reenter only thanks to visual attention. Shadow perception proves thus to be a tight microcosm of visual computations. The work draws from an extremely large and variate corpus of stimuli that include artworks - this allows, in passing, reframing some of the key issues of the cognitive study of art.

More generally, Casati has worked on theoretical problems related to cognitive artifacts, publishing on maps, pictograms, drawings, perspectival models, queues, music notation, and educational (in particular digital) tools, in the framework of an extension and generalization of the "two modes” account of reasoning, that is meant to be an alternative to "extended mind" theories. Pointing out a third mode (instrument assisted cognition) and a fourth mode (instrument delegated cognition), he will mainly pursue the study of instrumental navigation without delegation (pre-GPS wayfinding). A number of training- and field- projects are ongoing or planned. The main aim is to dovetail the cognitive mechanics underlying the use of artifacts (shifting, bridging, recycling, contracting...) in an unitary framework centered on the tradeoffs between representational advantages. His present research is on wayfinding and navigation, and he is writing a book on the centrality of maps for cognition.

 

 


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