Comic by Jim Woodring.
Location: Humanities Building, Room A51 (UCLA Map)
10:00 - 1:00  Tim Smith
"Watching you watch movies: Film cognition through the eyes of a viewer"
2:00 - 3:50 Elisabeth Camp
"Perceptual and Cognitive Perspectives in Narrative"
4:10 - 6:00 George Wilson
"Seeing Through the Imagination in Cinema"
10:00 - 1:00 Elsi Kaiser
"Interpretation and use of pronouns in narratives: Insights from language, vision and attention"
2:00 - 5:00 Matthew Stone
"Vi Hart's Origami Proof of the Pythagorean Theorem: A case study in visual narrative"
FRIDAY, June 22
10:00 - 1:00 Dorit Abusch
"Applying discourse semantics and pragmatics to visual narrative in silent comics and Indian art."
1:00 - 1:20 Closing remarks

Dawn Chan (Independent scholar and art critic)

Amy Coplan (Philosophy) Cal State Fullerton

Matt Jackson (The Drawing Book - Sydney, Australia)

Dan Levin (Psychology) Vanderbilt University

Yael Sharvit (Linguistics) UCLA

More to be announced.

Dorit Abusch (Linguistics) Cornell University. Website.

Dorit Abusch is Professor of Linguistics at Cornell. Her recent research concerns language and image, and applies semantic and pragmatic methods from linguistics to the analysis of sequential images. She has worked on tense, modality, presupposition, and indefinite quantification.

Elisabeth Camp (Philosophy) University of Pennsylvania. Website.

Elisabeth Camp is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in English and Philosophy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1993, and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. She then spent 3 years at the Harvard Society of Fellows before moving to Penn in 2006. Camp works primarily in philosophy of mind and philosophy of language, focusing on various forms of "non-propositional" thought and talk. In particular, she has explored various forms of thinking and communication that exploit "perspectives," in which one concept or thought structures our overall understanding of a topic in an intuitive and holistic way. She has also written on sarcasm, fiction, and racial slurs; on the distinction between semantics and pragmatics; and on animal cognition and the difference between thinking with maps and with sentences. She regularly teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on mind, language, meaning, art, and the emotions.

Elsi Kaiser (Linguistics) University of Southern California. Website.

Elsi Kaiser is an Associate Professor in the University of Southern California's Linguistics Department. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Germanic Language and Literatures from Princeton University; her Master of Arts in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and her Ph.D. in Linguistics also from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining USC in 2005, she was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Rochester. Her primary research focus is in psycholinguistics. She is especially interested in how different kinds of information interact and are integrated during language processing and what this can tell us about the nature of the mental representations activated during processing. She approaches these themes primarily from the perspective of reference resolution-- both across and within clauses-- focusing on the comprehension and production of different kinds of referential forms across languages, especially pronouns, reflexives and demonstratives. For example, how do information structure and discourse structure, including notions such as causality, influence people's use and interpretation of pronouns? In her own research and in collaborative work, she has explored these and related issues in a range of languages, including English, Finnish, Estonian, Dutch, German, Chinese and Korean. Her research methodology is interdisciplinary in nature, and incorporates tools and insights from linguistic theory as well as behavioral experiments using methods such as visual-world eye-tracking. Her publications include papers in journals such as Cognition, Language and Cognitive Processes, Lingua and Discourse Processes.

Tim Smith (Psychology) Birkbeck College, University of London. Website. Blog.

Tim J. Smith BSc. Hons, PhD. is a lecturer in the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London. He applies empirical Cognitive Psychology methods to questions of Film Cognition and has published on the subject both in Psychology and Film journals.

Matthew Stone (Computer Science) Rutgers University. Website.

Matthew Stone is Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department and the Center for Cognitive Science at Rutgers. He got his PhD in 1998 from the University of Pennsylvania. He studies computational models of conversation, particularly models of utterance production, for intelligent agents that interact naturally with human partners. He recently concluded a term on the editorial board of the journal Computational Linguistics and served as program co-chair for the 2007 North American Association for Computational Linguistics Human Language Technology Conference (NAACL HLT).

George Wilson (Philosophy) University of Southern California. Website.

George Wilson received his PhD in Philosophy from Cornell. He has taught at Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins, the University of California at Davis, and, most recently, at USC. He visited at Princeton University and at Harvard, and he has been a Fellow at the National Humanities Center He is the author of three books: Narration in Light (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), The Intentionality of Human Action (Stanford University Press, 1989), and Seeing Fictions in Film (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is the author of numerous articles in the philosophy of language, the theory of action, aesthetics, and on the later Wittgenstein.

The term "visual narrative" covers a wide variety of sequential explanations, stories, and demonstrations carried out in visual media. Films, television shows, and comic books are all examples of visual narratives. But so is a gestural explanation of how to flip a pancake, a sequenced illustration of photosynthesis from a textbook, or a step-by-step guide for constructing a new piece of furniture. Understood in this way, visual narrative represents a fundamental and ubiquitous aspect of human communication-- present in the most ancient forms of face to face interaction, and in the most contemporary digital media. Perhaps, given the dominance of vision in human cognition, we should not be surprised that so much of human exchange is visual.

Today, specific forms of visual narrative are studied carefully by psychologists, film scholars, art historians, and many others. But there has been little research that has sought to unite these threads in ways that are empirically valid and computationally precise. The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers from different branches of cognitive science-- including philosophy, linguistics, film studies, computer science and psychology-- to share ideas and search for commonalities. Through this process, we hope to begin to lay the groundwork for an exciting new science of visual communication.

Here are a few key questions which we expect to frame the proceedings of the workshop:

  • What is visual meaning and how do visual narratives communicate their content?

  • What makes visual narrative distinct from other forms of narrative?

  • Can visual narrative be analyzed using methods already in place for investigating the structure and processing of linguistic discourse?

  • In what ways does vision science interface with the pragmatics of interpretation?

  • What can the confluence of vision science and pragmatics teach us about how visual narratives manage the attention of audiences?

  • What can the structure of visual narrative tell us about the visual perception of events across time?

Visual Narrative is an interdisciplinary workshop, bringing together researchers in computer science, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, and film studies to investigate the nature of narrative in visual media.

Read more: What is visual narrative?

Hosted by the UCLA Department of Philosophy and the UCLA Department of Film and Television.

Organized by
Sam Cumming (Philosophy) UCLA
Gabriel Greenberg (Philosophy) UCLA
Rory Kelly (Film) UCLA
This event is free and open to the public. We do ask that you RSVP here, so that we can order the right amount of food.
To contact the organizers, please write to
This workshop is supported by a UCLA OVCR-COR Transdisciplinary Seed Grant.