It has been quite some time since my last blog post (more than two months actually!) and the question is: What has happened?
CARLA is an acronym (yes, we scientists love acronyms) for “Concepts in Action: Representation, Learning, and Application”. The goal of this event was to bring together young researchers from different disciplines and from different parts of the world that are all working on concept research. I’ve already given a quick intuition about what a concept is and why it is an interesting subject of research in an older blog post.
Right now, concepts are the subject of investigation in a variety of disciplines, ranging from artificial intelligence over psychology and philosophy to linguistics. The problem with the current state of affairs: Everybody just does their own thing without really talking to people from other fields who might be interested in similar questions and problems. Why is this problematic? Because people might be re-inventing the wheel and because potential synergies arising from a combination of multiple points of view are not explored.
Together with three colleagues here at Osnabrück University (Ulf Krumnack, Kai-Uwe Kühnberger, and Mingya Liu), I have therefore organized an interdisciplinary summer school for PhD students and post-docs along with a co-located workshop.
We are very happy that we were able to acquire an excellent group of speakers that gave introductions into concept research from their respective point of view: Robert Goldstone (psychology), Peter Gärdenfors (cognitive science), Christiane Fellbaum (computational linguistics), Nicholas Asher (formal linguistics), Michael Spranger (evolutionary/developmental robotics), and Max Garagnani (neuroscience). These lectures were complemented by interactive discussion sessions for finding connections between disciplines.
In order to establish a common frame of reference when talking about concepts, we provided three core topics: representation (how can concepts be modeled?), learning (how can concepts be learned?), and application (how are concepts used in cognitive tasks?). As these are three fundamental questions in concept research, we thought that they are good starting points for interdisciplinary discussions.
Of course, the organization involved quite some work and consumed quite some time: Writing the grant proposal, recruiting speakers, publishing a call for participation, selecting participants, booking hotel rooms, organizing meals, setting up everything at the venue, responding to emails, and so on.
But even though it took a lot of effort to organize this, we are happy that we did it – in our opinion the summer school and the workshop were a full success. Feedback from both participants and lecturers was very positive and we felt that this event really has made a difference.
But what now? After being largely done with the administrative post-processing of this event, what will happen next?
We plan to upload most of the lectures to YouTube within a month or two and we’re starting to prepare an edited volume with selected workshop contributions. It is our explicit goal to establish CARLA as an interdisciplinary meeting point for concept research, so we will definitely organize more events in the future.
For now, however, we take a well-earned break from CARLA in order to catch up on all the other work that has been on hold over the past weeks and months. For me, this also includes this blog – so hopefully there will again be some updates on my research progress soon. 🙂