Adam Torgerson
Assignment 16

1. what did you find

1.1. interesting about the article?

Just thinking about some real life situations as being exercises in
distributed cognition was interesting. There are cognitive tasks we
take for granted that are easy to socially distribute, but it is hard
to represent those interactions with machines.

I liked the idea of history-enriched digital objects. With a system
like this I envision history tracking being enabled for power-users of
the system, whose use of advanced features are more likely to help
newer users. New users could also be tracked, showing where pitfalls
in using the system.

At first I was going to list the navigation example as not
interesting, but then I thought about it more and realized that it was
a pretty good example of distributed cognition. In situations close to
land, the navigator needs as much information as possible; more than
he can possibly collect alone. So the task of collecting and reporting
information is distributed among individual bearing takers or others
involved. Having done some navigation myself, I can also see some of
the issues involved in developing a reasonable interface for
electronic navigation systems. The fear is that a slight innacuracy or
downtime in the electronic system will have dangerous
repercussions. Most current electronic navigation systems either
overlay position on top of a chart or simply display a
latitue/longitude in digital form. This is not ideal because when
close to land most of the input from other crew members will be
bearings to landmarks, in degrees, and the navigator will have to
convert between these relative bearings and a physical postition. In
this case a better interface would be for the electronic device to
give bearings to landmarks as well, so the navigator can simply verify
that the electronic results from the instruments match the physical
results from the other crew members. I also have not used such devices
in several years so perhaps the interfaces have evolved in similar
ways since I used them last.

1.2. not interesting about the article?

Many parts of the article were too technical in an area I am not
familiar with for me to fully understand (especially cognitive
ethnography?). Perhaps relating to this, I found most of the examples
rather shallow and lacking in detail, but it may be that my lack of
familiarity with the subject does not provide me with enough context.

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

Many computer interfaces simply present data to users. The article was
describing how distributed cognition can be used to help analyze
specific user situations, providing a deeper understanding of the
individual situation and important concepts involved, and enabling
designers to provide a more efficient user interface.

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

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

The familiar windowing system: arranging text labels inside of a
window layered upon others. Interacting with these windows with a
mouse and keyboard. Displaying this information in 2D on a virtual
"desktop". This kind of interaction is focused on a single user, there
is little room for others to impact the experience, unless that
interaction itself is through one of these mechanisms.

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

I guess the new part described is the "research environment for
analyzing cognitive alliances". I am not sure what else to compare
this to so I would call it new.

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?

remark/hint: in case you have to rely on “distributed cognition” to
remember what was shown — you can refresh your memory by watching
the multi-media show again (it only takes 6 minutes) at: by activating the link
“Load Flash Movie”

Caretakers monitor the progress of the user and are aware of
the specific situation and how to respond to a mishap. Users carry
around a device which shows important landmarks and objects which has
been tailored by the caretaker. Thus, participants in the Clever
project form a cognitive alliance with one another.

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?

I think the authors would argue that distributed cognition is the
eyeglasses of the modern HCI community.

5.2. do you agree with the quote?

I certainly agree that the development of eyeglasses was important in
overcoming a key human physical disadvantage, but that example far
from proves anatomy is not destiny. It is generally true, but a gross