Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A general question about Hutchins...

I like this book a lot - maybe too much. So that leads me to a big/general/ambitious question:

Where are the holes/problems/unresolved questions in this theory?

I'm not saying that there always have to be holes in a theory, and I'm tryin not to be in the "grad student" mode of: "What I didn't like about this book was..."

However, what I am wondering is how someone might argue with Hutchins? I imagine some cognitive scientists would say that he evades the basic question of their field - that question being "What's happening in people's heads?" I personally dig Hutchins response to this, which would go something like this: "We don't really know, so let's talk about stuff we do know about. Let's talk about ecologies, social interactions, and other stuff that's observable."

So, does anyone have any ideas about how we might engage with Hutchins? This doesn't have to be a debunking exercise. Maybe we can figure out places that his project can be extended? Maybe we can find things that need to be expanded?

Okay, you have your assignment. You may begin when the second hand hits the 12.


Blogger Anthony M. said...

Professor Brown, can I reuse an paper I've already written for this assignment?
One "hole" I think there might be is the thing I pointed out in my post the other day: Does this approach to social activity take unbalanced power relationships for granted. It seems, for instance, on 203-4, that it does. Hutchins seems to just say, "this node in the distributed cognition system is high-status and this one is low-status, and that's it." His approach may not allow this structure to be questioned... but I don't know. Maybe this isn't important or something. I'm sort of comparing this approach to Lave and co.'s. They seemed very interested in power dynamics among the individuals that make up social groups and in the possibility of changing these dynamics...

12:31 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Professor Brown,
Your assignment reeks of deconstructionism. My assignment to you is for you to consider a different approach and report on it tomorrow in class.

Don't dismay, given enough time and paradigm shifts, Hutchins ideas will seem primative and those holes you're seeking will emerge. We might just have to wait for that pendulum swing and drink from the cup of enternal life.

5:43 PM  
Blogger asw said...

Your post made my wheels spin in my mind and I started to wonder how beneficial it would be for our class and other readers of this text if Hutchins included an Appendix that revisited the numerous naval terms and other concepts? This would be one "hole" I could think of that would greatly help me and perhaps other readers in getting through this book while reading the text but also in the future when seeking out to use certain terms for quick reference. Hutchins is great at description and in providing detailed definitions for the terms he addresses in the book but I do think separating them out into an Appendix in the back can only help and not hinder our learning. Great question Professor JMJ -:)

5:43 PM  
Blogger mdl said...


7:25 PM  

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