Embodied Cognition through Skateboarding.

The practice of skateboarding helps rethink the environment of the user through the opportunities found in the urban context, which in consequence helps redefine his/her life.

As philosopher Daniel Dennet writes in his last book “From bacteria to Bach and back” our brains are control centers for dealing with the the affordances (opportunities and risks) of our mobile life. Therefore this complex organ is designed by natural selection to develop equipment that can extract the semantic information needed for this control task.

Following the view of professional skateboarder Mike Vallely we can conceive the urban landscape as an empty canvas, and this way skateboarding can help us develop proprioception and coordination as well as the interpretation of the space/time relationship which is also very beneficial. This proposal totally connects with the idea that our mind is a product of our body, as I wrote recently when talking about Neuroculture, so this is an integral part of our cognitive development which arises through our movements while experiencing the city’s landscape .

Thus defying the laws of gravity for a few moments the skater adapts his/her bodily movements to the urban scenario and converts his/her surroundings into a blank canvas on which he/she can interact in 3-dimensions by jumping stairs, grinding benches, sliding railings, climbing walls… In this sense skateboarding has served to reinterpret the surpluses of corporate capitalist economy which are presented to us in the form of scenarios/streets and obstacles/urban furniture. This intellectual critique of the decadent modernist urban project is being made through the youthful movements of skateboarders in/on our contemporary cities, where the body acts as an essential part of the cognitive process.

The kind of Embodied Cognition presented here is the claim that the brain is not the only resource we have available to generate behaviour. Our conduct emerges from the real-time interaction between a nervous system in a body with particular capabilities to process information and an environment that offers opportunities for action to this organism. Now from this point of view, the brain is part of a broader system that mixes perception and action instead of having to represent symbolic knowledge about the world and using it to simply output commands.

The way in which we are embodied not only constrains the way we can interact in the world, but our particular form of embodiment also partly determines the way the world appears to us. We might say that cognition is constructive since these fundamental sensorimotor experiences achieved through acting (skateboarding) in the world are actively constructed to facilitate concept formation. And without a doubt it also facilitates neuroplasticity of certain brain structures, as has been recently shown with scientific evidence from both human and animal studies which suggest that physical exercise expands cognitive functions, as well as affective and behavioral responses.

In conclusion, through our actions we are producing our lives and deeply thinking about what is life… As some skateboarders like to say “skate and create”!

*Pictures: ocimagazine.esEd Dominick-Mike Vallely & freepik.com).

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