My research investigates the relationships between thinking and doing in a performance context, and asks how people make sense of these experiences as they happen. I currently work part time as a postdoctoral researcher at Macquarie University in the Department of Cognitive Science.
My academic work is unusually interdisciplinary, drawing on ethnographic methods to expand on ideas from phenomenological anthropology, performance studies, embodied cognition, psychology, place theory, philosophy, cultural studies and sports science. By placing these different perspectives in conversation with one another, my work consistently reveals new insights into the theory used and the activities investigated.
Considering how experiences are made sense of in sport reveals new ways of thinking about other types of embodied action. These range from aesthetic practices such as theatre and dance, to job-specific expertise like performing surgery or flying a plane, to day-to-day activities where we don’t think about every step of an action in order to carry it out. This training translates to equipment consultation, user experience analysis, content strategy development, the product testing and cycling advocacy work I do within the cycling industry.
My PhD thesis, “Embodying Biking: Sport as Live(d) Events”, examined the relationships between thinking, sensing and doing using case studies from mountain bike racing. I undertook this research in the Department of Performance Studies at the University of Sydney, where I was awarded a Faculty Teaching Fellowship in 2011.
I have worked in course coordination, lecturing and tutoring roles since 2009. In addition to teaching at the University of Sydney, I have taught in Communications at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and the Performance Practices Department at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA).
Between 2014 and 2017 I worked part time as a research assistant with two interdisciplinary research teams on projects within the Department of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University. One project investigated skilled action and cognition as part of the ARC Discovery Project, “Mindful bodies in action: a philosophical study of skilled movement” led by John Sutton and Doris McIlwain. For the second project, which is ongoing, I am developing a cognitive ethnographic method with colleagues John Sutton and Celia Harris (among several others) to bridge the gap between psychological studies of memory and the real world. This is part of an interdisciplinary project investigating collaborative remembering in older Australians.
I started a postdoctoral researcher position in April 2018, once again working closely with John Sutton and a small but excellent team in the Department of Cognitive Science. This work is funded by his Australian Research Council grant, “Cognitive Ecologies: a philosophical study of collaborative embodied skills.” Please contact me if you’re interested in hearing about upcoming talks or workshops related to this work.
This video, shot by Mark Parry, weaves together my work in the media and research worlds, for students of an undergraduate course at Macquarie University called Cognitive Science in the Real World. Other videos in the series are here.
Christensen, Wayne and Bicknell, Kath. (Submitted). “The predictive role of affordances in sports.” In Massimiliano L. Cappuccio (ed.) The MIT Press Handbook of Embodied Cognition and Sport Psychology.
Bicknell, Kath. (2016.) “Equipment, innovation and the mountain biker’s taskscape.” In H. Thorpe & R. Olive (Eds.), Women in Action Sport Cultures: Identity, Politics and Experience, 237-258. Palgrave Macmillan.
Bicknell, K., Christensen, W., Sutton, J. (In preparation.) “Language and Experience,” About Performance. 16.
Bicknell, Kath. (In preparation). “Performance Under Pressure: interdisciplinary methods for investigating embodied expertise.”
Christensen, W., Sutton, J., McIlwain, D. and Bicknell, K. (In preparation.) “Cognition in Skilled Action – part 2.” (A companion paper to Christensen, W., Sutton, J. and McIlwain, D. “Cognition in Skilled Action: Meshed Control and the Varieties of Skill Experience,” Mind & Language, 31:1, 37-66.)
Christensen, W., Bicknell, K., McIlwain, D. and Sutton, J. (2015). “The sense of agency and its role in strategic control for expert mountain bikers,” The Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research and Practice. 2(3), 340-353.
Peer reviewed conference proceedings:
Bicknell, Kath. (2013). “Everybody’s Writing,” Proceedings of the 5th Australian Cycling Conference: Everybody’s Cycling. http://www.australiancyclingconference.org/images/proceedings/ACC-2013-proceedings.pdf
Bicknell, Kath. (2014). Review of The Audience Experience: A critical analysis of audiences in the performing arts, ed. by Jennifer Radbourne, Hilary Glow and Katya Johanson, Austalasian Drama Studies 65: 326-330.
“The multimodal experience of (embodied, performative, life-saving) cues,” as part of a symposium on Movement, Expertise and Creativity. Australasian Society for Philosophy and Psychology inaugural conference. Macquarie University, 5-7 December, 2018.
“Making the implicit explicit: cognitive skill transfer in mountain biking and trapeze.” Australasian Skill Acquisition Network Conference. University of Technology, Sydney, 15-16 November, 2018. Opening panel.
“Cueing embodied action under pressure.” Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise and Training Annual Conference, “High-Stakes Expertise”. Macquarie University, November 12-13, 2018.
“Three anxious moments and why I like them so much.” Music-Emotion-Performance: embodied, interactive, distributed perspectives (workshop), Macquarie University, 13 September, 2018. Co-convenor.
“Where does the research go?” Career development seminar, Department of Performance Studies, University of Sydney, August 31, 2018. Invited speaker.
“Cognitive ethnography on the fly.” Informal, unstated and vital: a cross-disciplinary workshop on creative ideas generation in distributed cognitive systems, Macquarie University, April 5, 2018.
“Scaffolding memory on the static trapeze.” International conference for SARMAC (the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition). University of Sydney, 3-6 January, 2017.
“Performance Under Pressure: skill, memory and interdisciplinary research.” Memory Day 2015. University of Otago, New Zealand, 6-9 December 2015. Opening panel.
“Interdisciplinary Approaches to Understanding Embodied Action and Expertise.” 2015 Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Conference, “Minor Cultures”. University of Melbourne, 1-3 December 2015. Recipient of Minor Culture travel bursary.
“When Skills on the Bike Become Skills for Life.” 2015 Future of Cycling: Challenges and Possibilities symposium, University of Waikato, Avantidrome, Cambridge, New Zealand, 1-2 October 2015. Invited presentation.
ECR Experience Panel. 2015 Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA) conference, “Revisiting The Player’s Passion: the Science(s) of Acting in 2015”. University of Sydney, 23-6 June 2015. Invited speaker.
“The Senses of Agency and Control in Complex Skilled Action,” with Wayne Christensen. 10th Conference for the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science. Monash University, Melbourne, 8-10 December 2014.
“Technological Innovation and the Female Mountain Biker’s ‘I can’.” 2014 Cultural Studies of Australasia Conference, “Provocations”. University of Wollongong, 2-5 December 2014.
Academic Roundtable. Happiness, Joy and Pleasure Conference. University of Sydney, 26-8 November, 2014. Invited speaker.
“Triggering Better Biking: Action and cognition in performance.” 2013 Conference for the Australasian Skill Acquisition Research Group Conference. Macquarie University, Sydney, June 25-26 2013. Invited presentation.
“Everybody’s Writing.” 5th Annual Australian Cycling Conference, “Everybody’s Cycling?” Adelaide, Jan 21-22 2013. Winner: Best Academic Paper.
“Body-as-Object and the Materiality of Fatigue.” Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Annual Conference, “Materialities: Economies, Empiricism & Things”. University of Sydney, Dec 4-6 2012.
“A Sense of Place, A Sense of Self, A Sense of Something Else.” Phenomenology in Performance Studies panel at the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA) conference “Transcultural. Transnational. Transformation. : seeing, writing and reading performance across cultures”, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 28 June – 1 July 2011.
“Pushing Past Pain.” Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA) Conference “Stripping Bare…!”, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia 29 June – 2 July 2010.
“What Does Five Minutes FEEL Like?” “Time, Transcendence Performance” Conference. Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 1 – 3 October 2009.
“Sport, Performance and Environment” with Ian Maxwell. Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA) Conference “Turangawaewae: A Sense of Place.” University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand, 30 June – 3 July 2008.
Recent research related magazine and website publications
Bicknell, Kath (2015). “Creating a new normal,” Travel Play Live (1): 22-25.
Bicknell, Kath. (2015). “On yer bike,” Women’s Health, (August 2015): 48-49.
Bicknell, Kath. (2013). “Column: Down with negativity,” Flow Mountain Bike, 4: 32-33. Re-published online (2014).
I have published over 400 additional articles, reviews and opinion pieces for global sports media. These include: Flow Mountain Bike, Bike, Enduro, Freewheel, Outer Edge and Australian Mountain Bike, Travel Play Live print magazines and websites such as SBS Cycling Central, BikeRadar.com, Eskapee, Flow Mountain Bike, Australian Mountain Bike, Enduromag, Privateer, and Pedal Pushers Online.
Images by: Gaye Camm (top), Jeff Kennel (at the Trek Bikes Global Women’s Summit in 2016).