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Journal article Open Access

Epistemic Affordances and Active Inference in Socio-Cognitive Design

Klaus Schwarzfischer

Art Style | Art & Culture International Magazine


Methodological problems arise when a special case is confused with the general principle. You will find affordances only for ‘artifacts’ if analysis is restricted to ‘artifacts.’ The general principle, however, is an ‘invitation character,’ which triggers an action. Consequently, an action-theoretical approach is recommended. Accordingly, humans are not passive-receptive beings but actively produce action effects that open up the world to us (through ‘active inferences’). This ‘ideomotor approach’ focuses on the so-called ‘epistemic actions,’ which guide our perception as conscious and unconscious cognitions. Accordingly, the seemingly passive perception is dissolved into a multitude of epistemic actions (e.g. eye movements, tactile operations, etc.). The action theoretical approach of ›enactive cognition’ takes into account that every form is consistently processualized. Thus, each ‘Gestalt’ is understood as the process result of interlocking cognitions of ‘forward modelling’ (which produces anticipations and enables prognoses) and ‘inverse modelling’ (which makes hypotheses about genesis and causality). These cognitions are fed by previous experiences of real interactions, which later change into mental trial treatments, which are highly automated and often unconsciously. Every object can have such affordances that call for instrumental or epistemic action. In the simplest case, it is the body and the facial expressions of our counterpart that can be understood as a question and provoke an answer/reaction. In the same way, our own body and facial expressions act as affordances to our counterpart. Thus, emotion is not only to be understood as expression (output) according to the scheme ‘input- processing-output,’ but acts itself as a provocative act (input). The reaction to this clarifies what kind of situation we are in. Any unclear situation thus shows affordances to epistemic actions. Consequently, artifacts are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for affordances. Rather, they exist in all areas of cognition—from enactive cognition to embodied cognition and social cognition.

Art Style, Art & Culture International Magazine is an open-access, biannual, and peer-reviewed online magazine that aims to bundle cultural diversity. All values of cultures are shown in their varieties of art. Beyond the importance of the medium, form, and context in which art takes its characteristics, art is considered the significance of socio-cultural, historical, and market influence.
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