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Huda Khan

1.1. interesting about the article?

What I found interesting was how the boundary of analysis of a cognitive system has been extended from that of the individual human mind and symbolic processes within the human mind to a new boundary defined by all the resources, including individuals, the environment, and artifacts, involved in the cognitive process(es).

1.2. not interesting about the article?

2. what do you consider the main message of the article?

The article proposes that a new framework for human computer interaction, one informed by distributed cognition principles, needs to be taken into account. The use of computing is no longer isolated to that of performing decomposable tasks on a desktop, but involves dynamic interactions between complex networks of meaning and information, people, resources, and the environment. Since distributed cognition seeks to understand exactly this dynamic interplay, this framework which integrates ethnograpic approaches and the analysis of social and cultural contexts will provide the necessary vehicle for the advancement of human computer interaction studies.

3. are themes discussed in the article which you would like to know more about?

I would be interested in learning more about the three questions mentioned in the paper:
"(1)How are the cognitive processes we normally associate with an individual mind implemented in a group of individuals? (2) How do the cognitive processes of a group differ from the cognitive properties of the people who act in those groups, and (3) how are the cognitive properties of individual minds affected by participation in group activities?"

4. please describe briefly your understanding of

4.1. distributed cognition?

Distributed cognition refers to the analysis of cognition as embodied within and as an emergent result of the interaction between individual minds, processes, representations, the environment, and societal and cultural contexts. Furthermore, cognitive processes can be distributed across various individuals, time, and space.

4.2. ethnography

Ethnography involves studying and recording the behaviour of individuals within a group/community in order to research the experiences and cultural meanings created and utilized by the group or community. Hutchins' paper refers to "cognitive ethnography", explaining the initial focus was on the meanings of words as understood by individual minds and then extending this definition in the context of distributed cognition by adding a focus on actions, the environment within which actions are situated, and the material and social means by which meaning is constructed (i.e. external resources).

"Cognitive enthnography seeks to determine what things mean to the participants in an activity and to document the means by which the meanings are created."

4.3. active representations (which is the most important example you can think of?)

The article discusses how people manipulate representations at times as references to real world objects or activities and at times as if they are directly manipulating the objects or activities represented. People often blur between these two methods of dealing with representations. This blurring or interplay allows for "cognitive outcomes" which would not otherwise be possible. "Active" representations then allow the users to feel as if the representations are stand-ins or directly tied to the real world objects, so that both cognitive dimensions are exploited: when the interface allows for seamless interaction, to the user's mind, interaction with the representations will translate immediately and directly into interaction with the real world entities represented, and simultaneously, cognitive space for the manipulation and organization of representations as representations alone is also provided.

The most immediate example that comes to mind is that of the PITA Board, although "real world" here would refer to software processes, and the representations are in fact real world objects (blocks).
Manipulating the objects, to the users' minds, is equivalent to the manipulation of the software representations.

5. the article talks about "new foundations" for HCI

5.1. please discuss a couple of "old foundations" for HCI

From the article, it appears as if the "old foundations" were focused more on individual cognition and the interaction of individuals with interfaces without reference to the environment, social and cultural contexts, or to the interplay between external and internal representations and cognitive processes.

5.2. how "new" according to your knowledge are these ?new foundations??

I cannot tell how "new" these foundations are as that would require a more in-depth study of the emergence and evolution of these particular "new" foundations" and how they may have existed in various other, although disconnected or not as refined, forms previously. (The article does mention that the ideas defining distributed cognition have been developed for over more than the past decade.)

6. do you have any ideas how this research could / should be extended based on your own knowledge and


7. in the class on Jan 14, 2004, we showed a multi-media show about the CLever project ? question:

which elements of distributed cognition are described in this video?

The interplay between external resources and the two individuals within this video can be defined by the principles of distributed cognition (or can be understood within the distributed cognition framework):

a) External resources include the computer programs used to write the scripts, the PDA that stores the scripts and prompts the user.

b) Interaction between the caregiver and the computer program ... the cultural and historical context (knowing the activities of user, her previous history, the environment where she lives)

c) Interaction between the user and the PDA ... The result of previous actions influences future actions.

d) Cognitive processes are distributed across time ... Implementation and refinement of scripts, actual process where user uses the PDA and scripts.

e) Cognitive processes are distributed across individuals ... caregiver and user.

f) PDA : External memory and artifact. Interplay between internal representations (within the user and caregivers' minds) and external representations (PDA representations, interface representations).

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