Assignment 16: “Distributed Cognition” - Jodi Kiefer

paper: Hollan, J., Hutchins, E., & Kirsch, D. (2001) "Distributed Cognition: Toward a New Foundation for Human-Computer Interaction Research." In J. M. Carroll (Ed.) Human-Computer Interaction in the New Millennium, ACM Press, New York, pp. 75-94. (distributed on paper)

Briefly discuss the following issues:

1. what did you find

1.1. interesting about the article? / not interesting about the article?

I thought this article was very complex and written at a high knowledge level, which, in turn, made it very hard to understand. It seemed as if the article went into excessive detail about the explanations of the principles of distributed cognition.

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

This article presents the distributed cognition theory as the research environment framework for the HCI field which will enable it to keep pace with future developments and human needs.

3. the article talks about “new foundations” for HCI

3.1. please discuss a couple of “old foundations” for HCI

The old foundations of HCI that this article addresses are those that focus on cognition of the individual and the individual’s interactions with specified tasks. This is directly linked to the common desktop interface on personal computers. The old foundations of HCI also view the boundary of the individual cognitive system as the action space which bridges the gap with the ‘outside’ by turning these views into internal representations by the computer and corresponding interface.

3.2. how “new” according to your knowledge are these “new foundations”?

These ‘new’ foundations that this article addresses are a view of a distributed cognitive system among social groups where the cognitive load is shared and contributed to by all. It also places importance that the computer and interface are outside of the collective cognition acting more as tools versus sole collaborators. These ideas and principles are not necessarily new. After reading the article, my impression of distributed cognition is that it goes hand-in-hand with collaboration and its aspects that we have discussed throughout the semester. As an existing example of the implementation of these new foundations, meta-design comes to mind.

4. 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 CLever project involves many elements of distributed cognition. First of all, CLever incorporates shared cognitive processes between the individual, parents and the care-giving community using Web2Gether, the prompting evaluation assistant, script writing functionality and Lifeline monitoring capabilities. CLever also allows collaborations and a form of meta-design in the design of scripts, learning not only from individual past script experiences but also from the communities experiences. Lastly, CLever uses externalizations in the Mobility for All functionality (which interacts the handheld device and user to the current bus schedule and location status) and in the Lifeline monitoring system (which allows caregivers to monitor the actions and location status of the user).

5. here is a quote from Neil Postman: “anatomy is not destiny: The invention of eyeglasses in the twelfth century not only made it possible to improve defective vision but suggested the idea that human beings need not accept as final either the endowments of nature nor the ravages of time. Eyeglasses refuted the belief that anatomy is destiny by putting forward the idea that our minds as well as our bodies are improvable!”

5.1. argue what the this quote has to do with the article?

This article is stressing the need for HCI research to expand from an individualistic view to a larger sociotechnical context (with distributed cognition) in order to meet future technical and human needs. The article explains that the current state of HCI will not accommodate these future changes, thus calling for the need of a new research theory for HCI. The invention of eyeglasses was also a new approach which expanded the view and possibilities of human limitations.

5.2. do you agree with the quote?

I do agree with the quote. The invention of eyeglasses proved that we do not have to settle with what was given to us. Improvements are not only possible, but also feasible.