Institut für Kognitionswissenschaft

Institute of Cognitive Science

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PRISMAtic Sustainability - Exploring the practi-cability of an enactivist research paradigm within environmentalism

In this study project we set out to adapt the enactivist research paradigm PRISMA to study the relation between human and nature/more-than-human world. We conducted a pilot research workshop testing the adapted version of the method. 

SupervisorProf. Dr. phil. Achim Stephan, Prof. Dr. phil. Sven Walter, Dr. phil. habil. Annette Hohenberger
ParticipantsChristian Dingkuhn, Marlena Napp, Matthias Richter
Group size per semester 2-3 people
Duration3 semesters
TimeframeOctober 2020 - November 2021
Research areasEnactivism, Practical Phenomenology, Climate Change

Aim and output of this study project:

The climate crisis is one of the most challenging issues of our time. This work aims to contrib-ute to combating this problem by mobilizing a research method from the cognitive sciences and is inspired by various thinkers advocating that we need to change the way we, as hu-mans, relate to the more-than-human world. With this project we wanted to test if the PRISMA method can be utilized to investigate the ways humans relate to their natural environment and, consequently, can be utilized as one tool to make meaningful contributions in facing the challenges of the climate crisis. The theoretical foundation and practical applica-tion in the research workshop were united in a report.

Steps that brought us to our goal:

  1. read background literature on enactivism, climate change and phenomenology
  2. summarize enactivism and its relation to environmentalism
  3. explain the research paradigm PRISMA
  4. adapt research paradigm to our purposes and make out potential challenges
  5. plan and conduct workshop
  6. analyze workshop and summarize for concrete results

Skills that we acquired:

getting to know new research method, workshop planning and conduction

Prerequisites and student backgrounds:

interest and investigation in climate change, courage to try out new research workshop con-cept, interest in non-cognitivist theory of mind and embodiment theory


As this project was a collaboration between students of the study projects “Situated Affectivity and Cognition and their application” and “Anthropogenic climate change from an interdisciplinary cognitive science perspective”, there were meetings with supervisors from the study project courses as well as individual meetings between the 2 members of the study pro-ject. The workload varied during all weeks, as this was our mode of working. Therefore, meet-ings happened frequently during the initial phase of the project and later during the finalization of the project. In between work was split up to work on subparts individually. Especially during the last phase of the project regular meetings were necessary to analyze the workshop proto-col and bring the subpart together into a congruent whole. 

Example tasks:

Seated practice documentation with PRISMA:
The “seated practice” is an exercise from wilderness pedagogy which includes the participant silently sitting at a calm spot in the forest for a least 30 min in a mindful state and repeatedly returning to that same spot over the course of multiple days (described in Pfiserer & Stark, 2018, pp. 89–91. This practice was some starting point for our investigation. In order to clear questions about the ontological status of the participating subjects which were trees in our experiment and humans in the original method, the interdisciplinary student in our project set out to try the “seated practice” and documented it with the PRISMA table. 

Workshop preparation practice:
In order to start the research workshop with our participants, we first wanted to offer some practices that would allow the participants, to arrive and be comfortable with themselves in the space. We saw this as a necessary prerequisite as not all participants were used to sit and observe themselves and the forest. We needed practices that would allow participant to turn inwards, another practice that introduced them to observing/exploring with the senses and one that would allow them to shake of a sense of potential awkwardness.

Organization of meeting with Barbara Pieper:

PRISMA in its original form was developed by Dr. Barbara Pieper and Daniel Clénin in 2001 as a method to systematically qualify the work of Feldenkrais practitioners and has developed into a “Research Perspective Combining Theory and Practice” that can be used to study the “Embodied Perception of Self and Others in Social Action”. We contact-ed Dr. Pieper because we wanted to hear her perspective on our project idea of connecting PRISMA with environmentalism. Dr. Pieper offered us to schedule a meeting. For this meeting we prepared questions that should help us to deepen our understanding of PRISMA, its use and purpose. Furthermore, we formulated our own doubts and questions regarding the ap-plicability of PRIMSA to our context in order to discuss them with her. 

Additional information: 

Here is the link to our study project report