Scientific laboratories are rich cognitive ecologies. In recent years I have become increasingly interested in the role of the body in thinking. The practices of scientists provide many fascinating examples of thinking and reasoning via the use of the body in the material and social world.
For example, Alač and Hutchins (2004) show how brain scientists use their bodies to make sense of fMRI images. It is interesting that rigorous scientific thought procedes by building and manipulating imaginary and counter-factual processes and structures. These imaginary resources are constructed through the interactions of the scientists bodies with their inscriptions.
The work of our student, Amaya Becvar, shows how molecular biologists similarly engage in the embodied construction of fictional processes in order to reason about the dynamics of molecular interactions.
Morana Alač & Edwin Hutchins: I See What You are Saying: Action as Cognition
in fMRI Brain Mapping Practice, Journal of Cognition and Culture, 4(3), 629-661, 2004.
Becvar, L.A., Hollan, J., Hutchins, E. Hands as Molecules: Representational Gestures as Cognitive Artifacts for Developing Theory in a Scientific Laboratory. Semiotica. 156 (1/4): 89-112, 2005.
Becvar, L.A., Hollan, J., Hutchins, E. (2007) Representational Gestures as Cognitive Artifacts for Developing Theory in a Scientific Laboratory. in Halverson, C. and Ackerson, M. (Eds.) Artifacts in Workplace Practice. Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 117-143.