VICI grant for an ambitious five-year research project on Change-Ability

I am very grateful that I have been awarded a VICI grant by NWO for a large five-year philosophical research project on collective behavioral change & artistic imagination. My project is titled: “Change-Ability for a World in Flux: The next step for an embodied cognitive science of brain-body-environment systems”.

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I define Change-Ability as the skilled coordination with a rapidly changing world. Climate change, obesity, social cohesion and the pandemic all call for change-ability. To shed light on the change-ability of communities, our philosophy of embodied cognitive science and skilled intentionality will be used to develop the new Change-Ability Conceptual Framework (CAF).

Figure: Sketch of the Change-Ability Conceptual Framework (CAF) to be developed in this VICI-project. Note that the living environment and communities are made central, while acknowledging that individual agents participate in them and can over larger time-scales be seen as continuing communal patterns of behaviour. Crucially, what individuals and communities have in common is that they are situated in the same ecological niche (the world in flux, in blue). In other words, individuals and communities share the rich landscape of affordances that enables and constrains what they can do.

The roots of this Change-Ability project lay at the expertise on change-ability that my brother Ronald Rietveld and our team at RAAAF have developed over the last 15 years, which is why I dedicate this project to Ronald.

Ronald (left) exploring the rich landscape of affordances

Other people without whom this Change-Ability project would not have been possible are Julian Kiverstein and our ERC Skilled Intentionality-team at the University of Amsterdam/AMC as well as our collaborators and the many colleagues and friends who gave feedback on my draft proposal and presentation. Many, many thanks to all of you!

Academic summary of the Change-Ability project:

We are living in an era of accelerating social and environmental change, one that calls for greater change-ability: skilled ways of coordinating with a rapidly changing world. Yet people and the communities they form often find change hard to realise and sustain in their lives.

This project aims to open up a new perspective on change-ability, starting from the insight that what people do is both enabled and constrained by the affordances of their surroundings.

Affordances are possibilities for action provided by the living environment. Every activity from sitting in a chair to making architecture is enabled by affordances. Less recognised is the fact that affordances also constrain people’s ability to change what they do. Even when people know that excessive sitting is unhealthy, offices filled with desks and chairs make them less inclined to explore other possibilities.

We will create a conceptual framework for understanding change-ability in affordance-based terms that spans different scales: from the dynamics of active individuals, to communities and the living environment. The Change-Ability Conceptual Framework (CAF) will be applied to learn about obstacles to change in communities and how affordance-based architectural interventions and art installations can reduce such impediments.

Our philosophical method is unique in integrating findings from diverse scientific and artistic disciplines. We will participate in and reflect on the making of artistic interventions that allow visitors to experience what it would be like to live in entirely different ways. This will be done at RAAAF, an internationally renowned, award-winning practice for visual art and experimental architecture, which Ronald Rietveld and I founded.

We will break new ground by showing how affordance-based interventions in the living environment can increase openness to exploring unconventional possibilities that could spark collective behavioural change. By scaling from change-able individuals to communities, we seek lessons for how to break down obstacles to collective change at a time when it is urgently needed.

Change-Ability research proposal in progress

New publication in Philosophical Studies

Link to our article in Phil Studies.

There is more great news from our ERC-project: The journal Philosophical Studies has accepted a paper by Jasper van den Herik and myself that is titled ‘Reflective Situated Normativity‘. It is a follow up of my 2008 Mind paper, which discusses the concept of situated normativity primarily in the context of skilled unreflective action. Situated normativity is the ability of skilled individuals to distinguish better and worse in the context of a particular situation (Rietveld, 2008).

In the new article, we aim to explore and sketch the role of the concept of situated normativity in characterising more reflective forms of normativity. The goal of the paper is two-fold: first, by showing more reflective forms of normativity to be continuous with unreflective situated normativity, we bring these reflective forms of normativity into the reach of embodied accounts of cognition; and second, by extending the concept of situated normativity, new light is thrown on questions regarding reflective forms of cognition.

Academic abstract:

Situated normativity is the ability of skilled individuals to distinguish better from worse, adequate from inadequate, appropriate from inappropriate, or correct from incorrect in the context of a particular situation. Situated normativity consists in a situated appreciation expressed in normative behaviour, and can be experienced as a bodily affective tension that motivates a skilled individual to act on particular possibilities for action offered by a concrete situation. The concept of situated normativity has so far primarily been discussed in the context of skilled unreflective action. In this paper, we aim to explore and sketch the role of the concept of situated normativity in characterising more reflective forms of normativity. The goal of the paper is two-fold: first, by showing more reflective forms of normativity to be continuous with unreflective situated normativity, we bring these reflective forms into the reach of embodied accounts of cognition; and second, by extending the concept of situated normativity, new light is thrown on questions regarding reflective forms of cognition. We show that sociomaterial aspects of situations are crucial for understanding more reflective forms of normativity. We also shed light on the important question of how explicit rules can compel people to behave in particular ways.

Deep Brain Stimulation is no on/off switch and requires clinical skills

As part of Maarten van Westen’s PhD-project and my ERC/VIDI project on the Rich Landscape of Affordances for Higher Cognition we have recently published some very interesting new articles on the expertise involved in optimizing Deep Brain Stimulation.

Van Westen, M., Rietveld, E., Van Hout, A., Denys, D. (2021). Deep brain stimulation is no ON/OFF-switch’: an ethnography of clinical expertise in psychiatric practice. Phenomology and the Cognitive Sciences. doi: 10.1007/s11097-021-09732-3

Van Westen, M., Rietveld, E., Bergfeld, I.O., de Koning, P., Vullink, N., Ooms, P., Graat, I., Liebrand, L., van den Munckhof, P., Schuurman, R. and Denys, D. (2020), Optimizing Deep Brain Stimulation Parameters in Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder. Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface.

Van Westen, M., Rietveld, E., and Denys, D. (2019), Effective Deep Brain Stimulation for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Requires Clinical Expertise. Front. Psychol. 10:2294.

Kiverstein, J., Rietveld, E., Slagter, H. A., & Denys, D. (2019). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Pathology of Self-Confidence? Trends in Cognitive Sciences. doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2019.02.005

In Dutch:

Rietveld, E., & Martens, J. (2020).Anticipatie, affordances en het brein bij vaardig handelen. In Denys, D. & Meynen G. (eds). Het tweede handboek psychiatrie en filosofie. Amsterdam: Boom uitgevers, pp. 123-138.

Art in Grief

In case of sudden loss and grief, you often lose connection with yourself, the world and others. Many people suffer from anxiety, sadness and loneliness as a result. Recognizing the impact of, for example, Covid-19 as grief, opens up a new perspective on these feelings. The research questions of the project Art in Grief are:

How can visual art help people to regain grip on their situation after a profound change or loss in life? How can artworks support people in grief in times of Covid-19?

Geerteke van Lierop at artwork Deltawerk // by RAAAF | Atelier de Lyon. Photo by Marijn Smulders

People need the experience of connection to get more grip and see a perspective.  Interacting with artworks can help restore and strengthen that connection. When you are experiencing loss, you often fail to see the wealth of possibilities that the world has to offer. Art can broaden the field of view for those possibilities and get people moving.

Art in Grief is a collaboration between writer, coach and actress Geerteke van Lierop, Ronald Rietveld (Foundation RAAAF Public) and Socrates Professor in Philosophy Erik Rietveld (RAAAF). Erik Rietveld and Ronald Rietveld are members of the KNAW Society of Arts. Supported by the Cultuurmakers fonds.

Read more on the Art in Grief at the website (in Dutch): www.artingrief.org

New book ‘The Landscape of Affordances’

Ronald Rietveld and I are proud to launch our book The Landscape of Affordances. The limited edition is already sold out! An extended 2021 edition will appear soon.

What happens when visual art, experimental architecture and academic philosophy join forces? In their book Erik Rietveld and Ronald Rietveld zoom in on their philosophy of radical embodied cognitive science, the process of making, and the materiality of RAAAF’s site-specific artworks. By placing them under the microscope, ten (!) new works were created; meticulously constructed out of 800 super high resolution photos.

Published by Black Paper Press. Graphic design by Ricky Rijkenberg. Printed by Robstolk Amsterdam. Book launch was at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

If you are interested in the 2021 edition send an email to info@raaaf.nl.

Link to our article in Phil Studies.

There is more great news from our ERC-project: The journal Philosophical Studies has accepted a paper by Jasper van den Herik and myself that is titled ‘Reflective Situated Normativity‘. It is a follow up of my 2008 Mind paper, which discusses the concept of situated normativity primarily in the context of skilled unreflective action. Situated normativity is the ability of skilled individuals to distinguish better from worse, adequate from inadequate, appropriate from inappropriate, or correct from incorrect in the context of a particular situation (Rietveld, 2008). In the new forthcoming article, we aim to explore and sketch the role of the concept of situated normativity in characterising more reflective forms of normativity. The goal of the paper is two-fold: first, by showing more reflective forms of normativity to be continuous with unreflective situated normativity, we bring these reflective forms of normativity into the reach of embodied accounts of cognition; and second, by extending the concept of situated normativity, new light is thrown on questions regarding reflective forms of cognition.

Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences visits RAAAF

The Society of Arts of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences organized a RAAAF road trip for its members. Our artwork Deltawerk // questions the ambition to build an indestructible Holland in times of climate change. Related to this the work is also an experiment in creating new ruins.

Deltawerk // by RAAAF | Atelier de Lyon (photo: Juliana Gomez)
Deltawerk // by RAAAF | Atelier de Lyon (photo: Jan Kempenaers)

A Rich Landscape of Affordances is now the most cited article in Ecological Psychology!

According to the website of Ecological Psychology our article A Rich Landscape of Affordances (Rietveld & Kiverstein 2014) is not the most cited article in that journal. It is available open access here.

A follow up paper is recommended reading for those of you interested in the brain situated in this real-life context of the landscape of affordances. It is titled: What’s Inside Your Head Once You’ve Figured Out What Your Head’s Inside Of?

Co-authored with Jelle Bruineberg & open access as well.

The making of Still Life

RAAAF made a large new art installation for Het Hem. This former bullet factory becomes a new space for experimental art and contemporary culture in Amsterdam. Our artwork Still Life questions the abandoned war factory and creates a link between the present, past and future of this historically burdened heritage. Below you will find our short film on the process of making it. Please watch it full screen and with sound on.

Volkskrant visual art section: “Youthful art makes old bullet factory sizzle with energy”

Dutch national newspapers NRC and Volkskrant published on our new art installation Still Life, which was tailor made for the large new art space Het Hem.

Translation: “Spectacular art space Het Hem… ‘Still-Life’, the moving installation RAAAF made for Het Hem.
Translation: “VISUAL ART: Youghtful art makes old bullet factory sizzle with energy. New art space Het Hem in Zaandam opens.”

Inaugural Lecture as Socrates Professor

I really enjoyed working on my inaugural lecture for the Socrates Chair on Making Humane Technologies. I presented it on April 18th 2019 and you can now read it here online. Title: The Affordances of Art for Making Technologies.

I will be working on this for a day a week at the University of Twente. My ERC/VIDI team remains based at the University of Amsterdam the rest of the week. Thanks to all those who came to celebrate this special occasion with me, it was a beautiful day!

Rietveld, E. (2019) The Affordances of Art for Making Technologies. Inaugural lecture at the University of Twente, Socrates Chair, April 18 2019.

New publication in Trends in Cognitive Sciences (TiCS)

TiCS published our latest paper on Deep Brain Stimulation and Self-Confidence. Work done in collaboration with Julian Kiverstein, Heleen Slager and Damiaan Denys. Reed it open access here:

Kiverstein, J., Rietveld, E., Slagter, H. A., & Denys, D. (2019). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Pathology of Self-Confidence? Trends in Cognitive Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2019.02.005

Situated Anticipation

Proud that Synthese has published our article ‘Situated Anticipation’. It is based on ethnographic observations by Ludger van Dijk as part of my ERC-project ‘Affords-Higher’.The process of making of RAAAF’s art installation Breaking Habits was observed on site for over 9 months. It shows the potential of using RAAAF as a living lab for investigating so-called ‘higher cognition’ in practice.

We introduce the concept of ‘large-scale affordances’ for possibilities like the making of an art installation that take many months to be enacted. We have also visualised the relation between smaller- and larger-scale inviting affordances. The aricle is available open access here.

Enacring the affordance of making an art installation over the course of many months