The berlin gesture center is the result of a cross-disciplinary initiative, addressing research and application of multimodal communication and multimodal interaction with a specific focus on hand gestures, their relation to speech and with other cognitive and emotional processes. It is directed by: neurologist, psychotherapist, and psychiatrist Hedda Lausberg, linguist and semiotician Ellen Fricke, cognitive linguist and applied metaphor researcher Cornelia Müller.
Joining forces across disciplinary boundaries was motivated by our fascination of the moving body and its intricate correlations with the use of language in varying communicative contexts. Our shared interests concern a fairly broad range of topic:
- How can we systematically and reliably describe forms, patterns and meanings of hand and body movements that people use so easily and spontaneously when they talk and interact with each other?
- Can gestures tell us something about people?s thoughts, feelings and interactive moves when being engaged in a conversation?
- How are gestures embedded in the flow of multimodal discourse and interaction, how do they relate to and integrate with speech on the level of pragmatics, semantics as well as concerning syntactic structure?
- On which levels do we find cross-cultural differences between gestures.
- The evolution as well as their embodied and neuro-cognitive grounding of gestures, including their emergence from practical actions.
- Gestures in relation to art (Dance, Video Art, MultiMedia Art, Film and Television)
The berlin gesture center is part of an network of academic gesture centers around the world: Amsterdam Gesture Center, Multimodal Communication and Cognition Lab (Moscow State Linguistic University), Gesture and Speech Center Poznan, Gesture Center at the Max-Planck-Institute Nijmegen, Berkeley Gesture Group, Competence Center for Sign Language and Gestures in Aachen, Centre National de Danse-Thérapie Montréal.
The bgc was founded in 2004 in Berlin. Between 2004-2010 a series of research colloquia and lecture series took place, some of them in cooperation with the Berlin Museum for Communication (2007/8), with the Research Center for Semiotics, Technical University Berlin (2005/6, 2006/7), and with Projektron (2008-2010).
This intensive collaboration resulted in a cross-disciplinary research project ToGoG: Towards a Grammar of Gestures: brain, evolution and linguistic structures. ToGoG was funded by VolkswagenFoundation in their program line ?key topics of the humanities? (Schlüsselthemen der Geisteswissenschaften) (link zu ToGoG). In the context of ToGoG we joined forces with primatologist Katja Liebal (MPI Leipzig, now Freie Universität Berlin) to study the forms and the meanings of hand gestures from a linguistic, semiotic, neuro-cognitive and evolutionary perspective. This work resulted in a series of workshops, publications and the organization of the 4th conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS) at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder).
Over the past years we have researched and taught analysis and theories of gesture in various academic contexts and locations. Hedda Lausberg has worked at the Charité Berlin and the Medical schools of Mainz, Dresden, and Jena and now holds a full professorship for Neurology, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychiatry at the German Sport University in Cologne. Ellen Fricke taught at Freiburg University and now holds a full professorship for Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft, Semiotik und Multimodale Kommunikation at Chemnitz University of Technology. Cornelia Müller is full professor for 'Language Use and Multimodal Communication' at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder).
Gesture studies is included in teaching curricula on the level of BA and MA programs of the above listed universities. On the other hand we have been offering a series of seminars on Methods of Gesture Analysis (MGA). MGA was offered by Cornelia Müller in collaboration with Irene Mittelberg (RWTH Aachen) and addressed specifically doctoral and post-doctoral students. NeuroGes (Neuropsychological Gesture Analysis) and BAST (Analysis of expressive body movement) is offered by Hedda Lausberg for all academic levels. In addition to linguistic and behavioral analysis methods, the bgc offers Motion Capture, functional NearInfraRedSpectroscopy methods for research on gesture and body movement.