Situated imagination

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-23 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Imagination is often considered the pinnacle of representational cognition. Looking at the concrete details of imagining in context, this paper aims to contribute to the emerging literature that is challenging this representational view by offering a relational and radically situated alternative. On the basis of observing architects in the process of making an architectural art installation, we show how to consider imagination not as de-contextualized achievement by an individual but as an opening up to larger-scale “affordances,” i.e. the unfolding possibilities for action. We show how the architects coordinate the enactment of multiple affordances across different timescales, from small-scale affordances of picking up a mobile phone to the large-scale affordance of making the installation that takes months to unfold. These affordances get co-determined as they are jointly enacted. It is within this determining process that imagination too finds its place. On our view it is the indeterminacy of multiple affordances unfolding in action simultaneously that can be experienced as imaginative. The indeterminate character of this coordinative process allows activities to widen and open up, letting new possibilities for action enter into them.

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