Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hutchins's Little Black Box?

Over-sensitized by the Varela and the Clark readings, I was initially surprised by Hutchins’s (ostensible) black boxing of what’s going on inside the individuals on the ship. So, in taking the navigational system as the cognitive unit of analysis, is the question of cognition inside the mind rendered moot (because we can’t understand individual cognition without its interplay with external artifacts, accumulated cultural schemas, etc.)? Or is it just not Hutchins’s question?

However, in Chapter 3, I came across the following: “I propose a broader notion of cognition [than symbol processing] because I want to preserve a concept of cognition as computation, and I want the sort of computation that cognition is to be as applicable to events that involve the interaction of humans with artifacts and with other humans as it is to events that are entirely internal to individual persons” (118). I am fading fast, so perhaps I am drastically misreading this quote, but is he suggesting here that cognition as modeled with navigation as unit of analysis is analogous to cognition that’s internal to an individual? If not, what does this quote mean? Perhaps I am making this more confusing than it need be…

In any case, with six chapters remaining, I will be anxious to see how this issue of internal cognition gets treated/developed in later chapters.

1 Comments:

Blogger IB said...

Eileen, very good questions! You made me aware that I am also still waiting for Hutchins to have a look inside the individual mind. The two options you offered seem possible - either Hutchins is not interested in individual cognition or he assumes that we cannot analyze it in itself. I'm curious about what he has to say in the chapters to follow. Hmmm, the way I understand the quote from p.118 is very similar to yours. It seems that Hutchins asserts that internal and external cognitive processes are alike. Does that mean that internal cognition is a representation of the external, or the other way around or both ways? Does Hutchins say anything about that?

11:18 AM  

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