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Seeing in the Dark: Embodied Cognition in Amateur Astronomy Practice


Journal of the Learning Sciences Volume 27, Number 1, ISSN 1050-8406


We add to research on embodied cognition by investigating the observational practices of amateur astronomers. Specifically, we take an interactionist perspective and examine how the body is recruited, moment by moment, as a resource for producing and communicating meaning during field activity. The data corpus is a set of ethnographic video records and field notes on the routines of a community of astronomers, especially small-group interactions during planning, searching for, observing, and confirming sight of a celestial target. Within this space, our analysis highlights how different modalities of embodied action and reasoning (gestures, tool use, gaze, touch, and others) were deployed and coordinated throughout the process of observing a celestial object and how those emerged in the transactions among participants. Our findings rehearse many issues and topics in the contemporary literature (e.g., gesturing for measuring or representationally) but also reveal important, novel forms of embodied action and reasoning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics practices (e.g., training the eyes in averted vision and inscribing a celestial scene onto one's hand). More broadly, these findings further affirm the power of interactionist analyses of knowing and learning while also surfacing areas in which expanded theorizing is needed to account for the full set of cognitive phenomena we observed.


Azevedo, F.S. & Mann, M.J. (2018). Seeing in the Dark: Embodied Cognition in Amateur Astronomy Practice. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 27(1), 89-136. Retrieved March 1, 2021 from .

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