Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hutchins and stuff

Hey everybody, until about three months ago, I lived four inches north of page 37.

I am still making sense of the computation/representation/implementation framework. I am interested in thinking about how this framework could be applied to other technical and information processing environments. So, computation happens through a series of interconnecting constraints—systems of measurement and calculation that impose structure onto a phenomenon. Anyone hearing Fleck in this? And, I like how each system of navigation relies on its own system of “affordances,” and how the use of these affordances literally reorients one’s entire perception of the world. Hutchins is making me think that it’s best if affordances and schemas aren’t the same thing (as I was postulating in my previous blog). It’s not that we can’t conceive of them this way. The pieces still fit on a larger scale. But, I think to collapse these two concepts is to flatten the terminology. Affordances (such as landmarks for one group, and stars and conceptualized islands for another) create a way to perceive the world and understand relationships between objects in that world (to build schemas). I want to keep things just like that. Nobody mess that up, okay? I just folded that up all tidy. I don’t want it wrinkled.

One more thought: I would like to share my favorite moment in the text, which happens when Hutchins describes to the "conceptual blind spot”: From page 79:

"[the western representation] contains some very powerful assumptions about the relation of the problem solver to the space in which the problem is being solved. First, it requires a global representation of the locations of the various pieces of land relative to each other. In addition, it requires a point of view relative to that space which we might call the "bird's-eye" view. The problem solver does not (and cannot without an aircraft) actually assume this relation to the world in which the problem is posed...as soon as [a Western navigator] leans over his chart, he is no longer conceptually on the boat; he is over the sea surface, looking down on the position of his craft in a representation of the real local space."

Wow. Could we ask for a better example of the god-trick of science/technology and the "shift" described by standpoint epistemology? (discussed in another blog entry).

4 Comments:

Blogger Alison said...

MDL,
I'm glad someone else is pondering over computation/representation/implementation
So if computation is representational state and representational media then is implementation the use of those states and media? Is that it?

Requesting some navigation here.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

MDL,
I'm glad someone else is pondering over computation/representation/implementation
So if computation is representational state and representational media then is implementation the use of those states and media? Is that it?

Requesting some navigation here.

9:31 AM  
Blogger gfp said...

First, I am totally jealous that you were in the Northwest. Second, I think you did a great job of "situating" affordances and schemas. I have a feeling, though, that someone will soon come along and mess up your clean little concept....that's what cognitive science is all about, isn't it?

Greg

2:10 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Okay, I buy the difference between affordances and schemas. But I'm still wondering if schemas can be used as affordances.

I think I agree with your distinction, and I like the idea that affordances are sort of combined to form schemas. But what if a bunch of people (say, a navigation crew?) share some similar schemas? Can those become affordances?

You might want to get your iron out...I see some wrinkles.

3:24 PM  

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