Enaction is one of the possible ways of organizing knowledge and one of the forms of interaction with the world. The first definition of enaction was introduced by psychologist Jerome Bruner in association with the other two ways of knowledge organization: Iconic and Symbolic. The second was by Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana.
Enactive knowledge is knowledge that comes through action and it is constructed on motor skills, such as manipulating objects, riding a bicycle or playing a sport. The enactive knowledges of entities are the ones acquired by doing.
The aim of the research on Enaction is the construction of Enactive interfaces, that are interactive systems that allow to organize and transmit this particular type of knowledge. Multimodal interfaces are a good candidate for the creation of Enactive interfaces because of their coordinated use of haptic, sound and vision. Such research is the main objective of the ENACTIVE Network of Excellence, a European consortium of more than 20 research laboratories that are joining their research effort for the definition, development and exploitation of Enactive interfaces.
Enaction has been also theorised recently by Domenico Masciotra, Wolff-Michael Roth and Denise Morel.
Enactive Knowledge is information gained through perception-action interaction in the environment. In many aspects the Enactive Knowledge is more natural than the other forms both in terms of the learning process and in the way it is applied in the world. Such knowledge is inherently multimodal because it requires the co-ordination of the various senses.
Enactive Interfaces are related to a fundamental interaction concept which is not exploited by most of the existing Human-Computer Interface technologies. As stated by the famous cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, the traditional interaction with the information mediated by a computer is mostly based on symbolic or iconic knowledge, and not on Enactive knowledge. While in the symbolic way of learning knowledge is stored as words, mathematical symbols or other symbol systems, in the iconic stage knowledge is stored in the form of visual images, such as diagrams and illustrations that can accompany verbal information. On the other hand, Enactive knowledge is a form of knowledge based on the active use of the hand for apprehension tasks.
Enactive Interfaces are new types of Human-Computer Interface that allow to express and transmit the Enactive knowledge by integrating different sensory aspects. The driving concept of Enactive Interfaces is then the fundamental role of motor action for storing and acquiring knowledge (action driven interfaces). Enactive Interfaces are then capable of conveying and understanding gestures of the user, in order to provide an adequate response in perceptual terms. Enactive Interfaces can be considered a new step in the development of the human-computer interaction because they are characterized by a closed loop between the natural gestures of the user (efferent component of the system) and the perceptual modalities activated (afferent component). Enactive Interfaces can be conceived to exploit this direct loop and the capability of recognising complex gestures.
The development of such interfaces requires the creation of a common vision between different research areas like computer vision, haptic and sound processing, giving more attention on the motor action aspect of interaction. An example of prototypical systems that are able to introduce en active interfaces are reactive robots, robots that are always in contact with the human hand (like current play console controllers, Wii Remote) and are capable of interpreting the human movements and guiding the human for the completion of a manipulation task.
ENACTIVE Network of Excellence
The research on Enactive Knowledge and Enactive Interfaces is the objective of the ENACTIVE Network of Excellence. A Network of Excellence is a European Community research instrument that provides fundings for the integration of the research activities of different research laboratories and institutions. The ENACTIVE NoE started in 2004 with more than 20 partners with the objective of the creation of a multidisciplinary research community with the aim of structuring the research on a new generation of human-computer interfaces called Enactive Interfaces.. The aim of this NoE is not only the research on Enactive Interfaces by itself, but also the integration of the partners through a Virtual Laboratory and the spreading of the expertise and knowledge of the Network.
Since 2004 the partners, coordinated by the PERCRO laboratory, have improved both the theoretical aspects of Enaction, through seminars and the creation of a Lexicon, and the technological aspects necessary for the creation of Enactive interfaces. Every year the status of the ENACTIVE NoE is presented through an International Conference.
Enaction in the philosophy of Mind
Research is ongoing  into how perception and action combine to allow us to perceive, and to have consciousness. Some authors are beginning to believe that perception has active elements, or even is itself an active intervention in the world. This is seen as progressing the phenomenological approach of Continental philosophy, while resolving debates centred on Cartesian Dualism of mind/matter.
- Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674897007
- Bruner, J. (1968). Processes of cognitive growth: Infancy. Worcester, MA: Clark University Press.OCLC 84376
- Masciotra, Domenico, Wolff-Michael Roth et Denise Morel (2007). Enaction: Toward a Zen Mind in Learning and Teaching. SensePublishers. ISBN 978-9087900335
- Torrance, Steve. In search of the enactive: Introduction to special issue on Enactive Experience Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4(4) December 2005, pp. 357-368
- Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Noë, A. (2004). Action in Perception. Cambridge, MIT Press
- Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). The phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge.
- Thompson (2001). Empathy & Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 8(5-7), 1-32.