Workshop: The Fine Art of Conversation

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This CogSci workshop brought together human interaction researchers, artists, photographers and designers to explore the conceptual and practical methods they use to create informative representations of human interaction.

There is a nice write-up of the workshop by Susan Malaika and a repository of images and tweets about the workshop on the #tfaocogsci2017 twitter hashtag.

You can still see our image board of artistic methods for representing interaction in classical painting and sculpture on pinterest


The starting points for this workshop are the many ways in which conversation has been depicted in fine art.  With some notable exceptions (e.g. Hogarth and Daumier) paintings that feature engaged interactions as their principal subject are surprisingly rare given how often human figures are depicted.  The choices artists make when representing conversation, and the methods of production they use embody assumptions about what communication is and how it works.  This workshop will juxtapose those choices with the choices made by researchers of human interaction whose representations and methods of production also situate, filter and abstract conversation.  We aim to:

  • build an annotated collection of images of conversation drawn from fine art and interaction research,
  • survey the ways in which engaged conversations are (and are not) depicted,
  • explore the use of drawing and other methods of production as forms of analysis,
  • identify historical trends in our formal and informal ideas about the nature of human communication.

Participants will be asked to engage in a series of practical workshop activities and discussions that will explore their approaches to this issue.

We invite you to participate in a month-long pre-workshop discussion (starting on the 26th June) on our Pinterest board, a social network for sharing images and video that will serve as a starting point for workshop discussions.

The workshop will also take advantage of London’s thriving museum and gallery sector, so after the workshop we will go out for ongoing discussions at a nearby series of gallery exhibitions, followed by an informal dinner.


  • 9:30-10am: Coffee and registration.
  • 10-10.30am: Overview presentation by the workshop organisers.
  • 10.30-11am: Attendees introduce themselves and say something about their images, the representational problem they are bringing to the workshop, and whatever other questions have arisen during the pre-workshop image sharing.
  • 11-11.15am: Coffee Break.
  • 11.15-12.30am: Break-out groups session 1, including a feedback session.
  • 1.30-2.30pm: Lunch.
  • 2.30-3.45pm: Break-out groups session 2, including a feedback session.
  • 3.45: Depart for National Gallery visit.
  • 3:45-4:30: Peripatetic plenary on the way to the National Gallery.
  • 4:30-6pm: National Gallery interactional exhibits tour & discussion, followed by drinks/restaurant visit.



If you would like to participate, please register for the workshop at the CogSci website. If you cannot afford the $30 day-registration fee, please get in touch.

What to prepare

There are some pre-workshop activities we would like you to participate in. Please register and contribute to the Fine Art of Conversation Pinterest. We ask you to submit artworks, photographs or data excerpts that are inspiring, interesting or puzzling to you in terms of how they represent human interaction. We will use these to start conversations at the workshop. For help using Pinterest for desktop browsers, iOS or Android, please contact us.

Propose a workshop activity

If you would like to present some work in progress or new ideas, and involve participants in a 40 minute workshop session, please let us know. You may propose this spontaneously on the day, but if you require us art materials or any special equipment for this, please contact us.

Contact us

Please email any of the co-organizers with questions or ideas for the day.


Find us

UPDATE: The workshop is on 26th July 2017 at the CogSci venue: the Hilton London Metropole 225 Edgware Rd London W2 1JU, UK

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