This project has received funding from the European
Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon
2020 research and innovation programme.
Grant agreement No. 834033 AN-ICON.

2021 Interactivity


Cognition as Interaction. Autopoiesis, Media, Networks

Francesco Parisi University of Messina

The idea that human cognition is not bound into the head but spreads out in the world is getting momentum nowadays. Many different fields in both humanities and science converge on this point. Such convergence is probably one of the reasons why the word “interaction” acquired a remarkable centrality in many debates. In this speech, I will crisscross cognitive sciences and media theory to show how interaction has to be conceived as the prototype of every kind of cognition (human and non-human). In particular, I will propose a comparison between the conception of cognition as intended in autopoietic systems (cognition of the living) and how it can be threatened by the disembodied functioning of Machine and Deep Learning. I will claim that, despite their differences, they are compatible because they don’t need to postulate a “centre” responsible for cognition (the head, the programmer), but obey the laws of interaction. Finally, I will use the metaphor representing the fungi mycelium like a “biological Internet” as an exemplum of a biological but not agent-based form of cognition.

Francesco Parisi is associate professor in Cinematography, Photography and Television at the University of Messina. His principal areas of interest concern media theory and visual culture, investigated by adopting a cognitive approach. In particular, he tries to apply the enactive approach to media theory, by focusing his research on the ways cognitive possibilities of an embodied and extended agent are transformed by media engagement. He was visiting scholar at Nottingham Trent University (2017) and University of Memphis (2018). Among his publications: Temporality and Metaplasticity. Facing Extension and Incorporation Through Material Engagement Theory, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Enacting Visualization. Mental Imagery and the Role of Pictures, in A. Scarinzi (ed.) Recasting Aesthetic Experience: Emotions and the “Continuity Principle”, Cuvillier Verlag, Göttingen, 2018, pp. 96-119; Snapshot Culture. The Photographic Experience in the Post-Medium Age, Comunicazioni Sociali, 36(1), pp. 3-14, 2016 (with A. D’Aloia); Filosofia della fotografia, Raffaello Cortina, Milano, 2013 (with M. Guerri); La tecnologia che siamo, Codice, Torino, 2019. profile at; personal website: