Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Is There Life (Artificial or Otherwise) in Suchman Trigg?

I flipped with eagerness to the Suchman/Trigg article “Artificial intelligence as craftwork” in UNDERSTANDING PRACTICE. Their project seemed clever, almost (dare I write it?) cheeky: to look at the ways in which AI research is a situated, embodied practice, undermining the predominant view in the AI community of knowledge as decontextualized/disembodied. Although the introduction to their project was fascinating and insightful, the details of the case itself didn’t seem to lead us anywhere new. Leaving aside the seemingly computer-generated prose, did anyone else find this case study particularly difficult to follow? Given the linear constraints of the page, it was difficult to connect transcripts of the researchers' conversation with what was happening in the diagrams of the whiteboard work. I almost thought the case could be better served if presented in some sort of multimedia format, in which we could see and hear the interaction between the researchers, and temporally follow the progress of aligning “the social world to the world of machines” via the whiteboard. Coming from a literary studies perspective, I’m not used to reading case studies: to those of you who are more practiced at this type of reading, am I mistaken in reading S/T as a cautionary tale of a case study that is too technical/specific/confusing to be illustrative?

On the subject of AI/AL: although it’s premature, I am excited to be reading Varela’s EMBODIED MIND in a few weeks (I encountered V. for the first time in Katherine Hayles’s HOW WE BECAME POSTHUMAN). Does anyone have suggestions for other good readings on AI from a science studies approach?


Blogger IB said...

Eileen, I had problems with this chapter, too, as you have probably noticed in case you have read my posting. I thought it hard to understand because I lack content knowledge in the field of artificial intelligence and could not picture what C and D were actually doing. Reading the chapter was quite paradox, I thought. The authors described their view of situated learning with an example in which knowledge was created by two individuals trying to design a program that could think and learn. On the other hand, I was trying to learn about situated learning by reading the book and understanding the example. So the dimensions of learning, the intentions, persons and content involved in this simple process of me reading the Suchman & Trigg chapter were manifold. It is hard to explain what I mean, but maybe you get an idea. I think the chapter was hard to read because it described knowledge construction about knowledge implementation.

2:30 PM  

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