(Preprint) Anticipation in architectural experience: a computational neurophenomenology for architecture? (2020)


Djebbara, Z.,
Parr, T. and Friston, K. (2020) ‘Anticipation in architectural experience: a computational neurophenomenology for architecture?’ Available at: http://arxiv.org/abs/2011.03852

The perceptual experience of architecture is enacted by the sensory and motor system. When we act, we change the perceived environment according to a set of expectations that depend on our body and the built environment. The continuous process of collecting sensory information is thus based on bodily affordances. Affordances characterize the fit between the physical structure of the body and capacities for movement in the built environment. Since little has been done regarding the role of architectural design in the emergence of perceptual experience on a neuronal level, this paper offers a first step towards the role of architectural design in perceptual experience. An approach to synthesize concepts from computational neuroscience with architectural phenomenology into a computational neurophenomenology is considered. The outcome is a framework under which studies of architecture and cognitive neuroscience can be cast. In this paper, it is first argued that the experience of space is an embodied process—realized through action-perception as directed by affordances. Second, we integrate a sensorimotor contingency theory with a predictive coding architecture of the brain that in turn links the perceptual experience of forms and action possibilities with neuronal processes. Here, we argue that the sum of action possibilities and the inferred precision thereof can reflect the understanding of the designed space, while at the same time underwrite the basis for the perceptual experience. To this end, affordances are inherently related to perceptual experience. Finally, by reviewing recent empirical evidence we propose a principle of anticipation in architectural experience.

State-space in three dimensions of action policies. For example, the three axes may indicate the first, second, and third action in a policy. Each policy is designated by a box where the size and color are relative to the expected free energy. A. A fictive example of high expected free energy among action policies without any apparent attractor. Such a state suggests a high degree of uncertainty about how to act. B. A fictive example of two attractors, i.e. competing action policies, in terms of their expected free energy. This could for instance be an ambiguous figure.

Full paper here.

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