Playing with pattern. Aesthetic communication as distributed cognition

José Ignacio Contreras


This article’s main thesis is that aesthetic communication has evolved from animal social play to forms of extraordinary complexity such as traditional arts, helping to preserve and transfer survival oriented information in a preverbal, or embodied form. Following this line of argument, aesthetic communication provides the basis for an adaptive modeling of reality wherein the agents engaged simulate potential exchanges and outcomes with factual or fictive entities, further enhancing – by proxy – their ability to predict and adapt to natural and intentional contingencies. By means of aesthetic communication human cognition has become distributed, i.e. off-loaded in the practices, customs and emotional templates readily available in culture. In this light, the decline of traditional societies and the isolation of art practices that results from it, are to be considered subjects of scientific concern in addressing the societal and ecological crisis we confront today.


Evolutionary aesthetics; animal play; cybernetics; cultural evolution; epistemology

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