Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Embodied Embedment

Once again, I can’t help but feel that the sequence of our readings adds itself a layer of cognitive dissonance and growth. Had I simply picked this book up at a book store, (which I would have because of the catchy title), I would have been put off by the navigation theme. However, it’s quite apparent to me that I’m coming at this book in a completely new light because of our past texts. These first three chapters felt like “legitimate peripheral participation” as we went aboard with Hutchins. The details overwhelmed me even though his writing is so readable. It is the feeling you get when you get a new job or basically enter into any new community of practice or thought collective. We get a sense of stepping into military vs. civilian life including hierarchy and the terms that go with it. This brief initiation made me wonder what a Strauss and Quinn centrifugal/centripetal perspective of military life would look like.

Moving on the heart of the matter, Cognition in the Wild, extends those ethnographic/anthropological views (Lave & Wenger; Chaiklin & Lave) to an in depth embodied embedment. What I mean to say is that by taking navigation as the unit of analysis to explore human cognition, the environment and tools are so relevant they cannot be ignored or dismissed. However, I must admit that I keep tripping over this word “computation” – does it not trigger for anyone else a schema of numbers and jargon from computer science being applied to human thought? I was somewhat relieved when Hutchins explicitly defines it as “the propagation of representational state across representational media” (p118). I had to pause here though and ponder…are computations not unlike Fleck’s “facts” – that which we redefined as social agreements? Could representations not be social agreed judgments stemming from judgment states and judgment media? Hmm? Perhaps this will all become clear later or maybe my thoughts are simply “lost at sea.” Can anyone navigate me back to shore?

2 Comments:

Blogger IB said...

I had similar experiences with Cognition in the Wild as you did. There seemed to be just no way I could wrap my mind around all the terms and picture how the Micronosian navigators, e.g., really do their sailing. Not my community of practice I suppose. As to Hutchins' use of the term navigation. Yes, that really did irritate me! My first thoughts were, computation that has something to do with information processing theories, but wait a minute - Hutchins - information processing - computer metaphors - that didn't quite fit. I'm glad you pointed out the quote on p.118 because that made it more clear to me how he uses the term computation. As to your questions - very interesting! But I am still chewing on them...

10:53 AM  
Blogger mdl said...

I had a similar question, so I liked your posting. But, Hmmm. I can't say I completely understand the quote you use to make sense of computation. It may be because it's getting to that time in the evening...but the quote sounds all circley to me. Perhaps you could break it down in class.

4:36 PM  

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