Thomas Wiben Jensen

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Thomas Wiben Jensen a is Ph.D. and Associate Professor at the Department of Language and Communication at University of Southern Denmark and a member of Centre of Human Interactivity. His main research interests include the role of emotion, gesture and cognition in social interaction, the overlaps and differences between metaphor in writing and metaphoricity in spoken whole-body interaction, and an ecological approach to philosophy of science. In 2008 professor Jensen finished his Ph.D. on cognition in interaction, in which he investigated memory and emotion as embodied interactive phenomena in video recordings of couple’s therapy combining insights from Conversation Analysis (CA) with Cognitive Science and various types of emotion research. Since then he has published two books (in Danish), one as co-editor (with Martin Skov) another as sole author. The former is a volume on the relationship between cognition and emotion and it’s implication for the humanities based on recent neuro-scientific studies. The latter, Cognition and Construction, deals with the relationship between the paradigms of Cognitivism and Constructionism and thoroughly describes how the two paradigms have informed various discussions on mind, language, human behavior, gender, literature, the arts and so forth. In recent years his work has primarily been on distributed and enactive cognition, affordances and metaphoricity (in collaboration with Elena Clare Cuffari) with reference to video recordings of social interaction in various organizational settings.

Professor Jensen can be reached at this email:

Regarding the aims of this workshop, Thomas says: I’m interested in how power relations and conflict situations in organizational settings can be investigated as something else than just disagreements between different interests or different individuals in different positions. This topic is highly relevant for many of the new trends in cognitive science. If cognition, broadly speaking, is conceptualized in terms of enabling conditions; that is, all the neuronal, bodily, environmental, interpersonal and structural factors that contribute to adaptive flexible behavior, then how can we understand conflicts as part of the ecological system? Often we are investigating what enables people to accomplish tasks and do things together and with the environment, but how can we, from an ecological perspective, investigate what dis-able people within the environment?

Presentation title: Asymmetry and conflict as imbalance within a dysfunctional distributed system

Abstract: From a distributed and ecological perspective cognition is not envisioned as a deep underlying (and individual) structure that manifests itself in language and behavior; rather cognition is enacted within a dialogical system that leads to certain outputs. In the words of Ronald N. Giere: “A distributed cognitive system is a system that produces cognitive outputs, just as an agricultural system yields agricultural products. The operation of a cognitive system is a cognitive process. There is no difficulty in thinking that the whole system, no matter how large, is involved in the process” (Giere 2004, p. 771). Typically this view has been used to investigate complex but successful coordination within a distributed cognitive system. But what happens when we are applying this framework to unsuccessful decision making and interactions dominated by confusion and conflict? How can we investigate and understand conflict and conflict avoidance as dysfunctional cognitive dialogical system producing asymmetry and uncertainty? As noted by Steffensen (2012) dialogical systems are generally characterized by a fundamental multistability that seeks to balance various countering tendencies, considerations and values. In the case I’m going to present however, the dialogical system is characterized by a distinct imbalance that manifests itself in and through repetitive patterns on different levels and involves multiple time-scales.