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Assignment 16: “Distributed Cognition”

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?
1.2. not interesting about the article?
I found their research paradigm to be very interesting. The model proposed is not one typically utilized by cognitive researchers and yet I believe it offers a more powerful model for understanding human computer interaction. I also think it is interesting how the theory of distributed cognition posits that humans and their environment are constantly interacting in comparison to the model that a divide exists between humans and the world in the traditional cognitive model.

2. what do you consider the main message of the article?
I believe the main message of the article is that the theory of distributed cognition offers researchers new ways and means for understanding the interaction between humans and their world and the new understandings gained by this kind of study involving cognitive ethnography can be utilized to improve human-computer interactions.

3. the article talks about “new foundations” for HCI
3.1. please discuss a couple of “old foundations” for HCI
3.2. how “new” according to your knowledge are these “new foundations”?
"Old foundations" include the assumptions that the unit of analysis is the individual,that a gap exists between the user and the system, and that only knowledge not actions are important to understand. In my understanding the cognitive revolution occurred in psychology in the 1950's and 60's. The evolution to new foundations based on distributed cognition have occurred in the past twenty years in the field.

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”
Through the video you can see that Amy and her mom interact with tools in the environment to work on Amy's ability to use the bus system. Even though Amy has cognitive disabilities, "anatomy is not destiny" :) We see how 1. Cognitive processse may be distributed across teh members of a social group. 2. Cognitive processes may involve coordination between internal and external (material or environmental) structure. 3. Processes may be distribute through time in such a way that he products of earlier events can transform the nature of later events." (Hollan et al., 2001, 76)

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?
5.2. do you agree with the quote?
I agree that anatomy is not destiny. Our physiology influences our abilities and may limit them, but I do not believe in biological determinism that anatomy is destiny. This is connected to distributed cognition because we are able to extend what we know and are able to do by utilizing tools within our environment such as technology and other people. Postman would support the theory of distributed cognition.

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