ARTE3113/PHIL3113: Strange Tools

Artistic Inquiry & Embodied Cognitive Science

photo of Amsterdam

Instructors: Kristopher Holland and Anthony Chemero

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Offered: Spring 2025

Travel dates: March 15 - March 23, 2025


‘Strange Tools’ is a term coined by Alva Noë which alludes to the power of combining the fields of philosophy, embodied cognitive science, and artistic inquiry. It is vital that these disciplines be understand as inter-connected in order to develop and apply strange tools to solve complex or wicked problems facing humanity. The University of Cincinnati’s Strange Tools Research Lab is part of the Digital Futures Research Initiative and uses the strange tools concept to form a primary research platform to foster innovation and development of strange tools to solve complex problems in human society. 

This course investigates what strange tools are, how they are applied and perhaps most exciting, seeks to have student develop their own strange tools in their fields of study for future innovations. At a basic level, this course explores the connections between art, philosophy, and embodied cognitive science in the development of new ‘strange’ tools used in research. Topics include: Embodied Experience, Virtual Environments, Human Evolution, Cognitive Science, Artistic & Aesthetic Inquiry, The Philosophy of Technology, The Learning Sciences, Reason, and Consciousness. Most of these topics required the development and application of strange tools in order to understand their significance and use in research.  

Students will not be required to have knowledge of cognitive science, design (ontological design), aesthetic theory, or contemporary art to be in this course. Rather, we envision this course as a way to create informed explorers and connoisseurs of embodied cognitive science, art and design inquiry that understand and articulate the way scientists and artists-designers have, in both ancient and modern times, employed research methods and technologies to make sense of the world around them. This approach is aimed at developing strange tools research as a methodological approach student can then apply in their fields of study. 

Tentative Itinerary Highlights:

  • City Bike Tour
  • NEMO Science Museum of Technology
  • Day trip to Innovation Hub in Rotterdam
  • RAAAF Labs
Cognitive Science Hexagon Chart: Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Artificial Intelligence, Neuroscience, and Anthropology

Why take this course?

Creating Strange Tools is about creative problem solving in innovative and interdisciplinary ways. To address the multiplicity of problems the world faces, this course works to give students new tools from the arts and philosophy to apply to their disciplines and lead new initiatives in their fields of study to have confidence in solving complex problems. Furthermore, this course emphasizes research/creative arts and scientific research/natural sciences to build an understanding of embodied cognitive scientific principles and art as an inquiry practice that leads to the invention of strange tools. It is in the combining of artistic and embodied cognitive inquiry approaches that a vital methodology develops Innovation and application of these new strange tools will address the wicked problems of society, but also create a zeitgeist of research potential in students.

The Strange Tools Research Lab, which is part of the new digital futures research initiative at UC, will be a research lab that reflects the ideas and methods this proposed course will impart to Honor students. Honors students, regardless of major, will learn how strange tools research can potential produce ground breaking applications and solutions to problems in their fields.