Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Living in Hutchins World? The Blog - The Naval Ship?

The next set of chapters from the Hutchins book had definitely more “meat” to them than the first three chapters as we mentioned here in this blog post last week. Although after our class last Thursday, I had a better understanding of the foundation by which Hutchins was creating in order to help us understand the rest of the book. I thought that chapters 4, 5, and 6 were closely aligned in demonstrating how much our activities and our cognitive tasks must overlap, integrate and coordinate with others whether it’s learning a new task or working together on an existing task as he showed with the naval ship and crew. I found this statement by Hutchins on page 225, was an eye opener for me, “It is clear when quartermasters report bearings, assign landmarks or ask for data, they are not just constructing position fixes; they are also constructing social relationships.” I thought this aspect ties very well with the figure Hutchins uses in Chapter 6 on page 266 to show the overlapping distributions of knowledge among the navigation team and how these form relationships with each other over time. I thought that figure D represents what we find in most real-life situations in how we are placed into groups and work together on a task at hand or in an effort to obtain some knowledge. But I had never thought before of how much overlap there was in distributed cognition until seeing this figure. I have always thought of it being more sequential and less connected. I also find that this figure ties in well to demonstrating how errors can occur as well across individuals in groups and on tasks as Hutchins mentions in Chapter 6.

In reviewing these three chapters, I was thinking again about our blog and how much we are participating in a form of socially distributed cognition. We all have our individual posts of what we garnered from the text but at some point before class, we all read each others’ posts and make some interpretations and learn something for each post but also in the composite form of all the posts together for the week. Second, we all have different backgrounds and knowledge that allows us to be positioned in that figure D on page 266 to show how we each come together once a week to understand and conclude what we garnered from the text and topic that week that builds on each other. We all have something to contribute but none of us could contribute to the learning process alone or make the blog what it is without the contribution of the overall information from the group. Lastly, our blog allows us to make errors and allows for us to correct and debate each other throughout the week and in class as part of the learning process. (Some are more heated discussions than others I think…:) ) From an artifact standpoint, I think we have a variety of resources from our own experiences while reading the chapters, the text itself to the virtual entity of this blog that contribute to the process. So, is it possible that our blog is the naval ship and that we are the crew?

It would be interesting to have some individuals from outside of our class to observe our blog and give their take on what knowledge and information they have gained over the semester and how as a group they understand what we have developed in understanding the mind. Did anyone else see a connection between these readings and our blog? Or am I way out there?:0


Blogger jmj said...


The blog is a self, and we are all part of its mind? I wonder if an outsider would find the blog's thoughts as difficult to understand as I would find a ship's navigation deck (before having read Hutchins). It's an interesting idea; perhaps it would read like a stream of conciousness novel.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Jim said...


I definitely think we're all collaborating to "drive" this blog in some sense. Also, it would be interesting to think about why composition/rhetoric classes (maybe others as well, but I can only speak from my own experience) have latched onto blogs as a way to mediate discussion. It seems like Hutchins would say that blogs offer some kind of convenient way for us to manage "representational states." I like the connection between the ship and the blog - maybe the blog is like our navigation chart?

(One subtle difference - those navigating a ship have a destination. Does this blog?)

10:44 PM  

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