Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wild on Cognition!

In reading the first three chapters of Hutchins’ Cognition in the Wild, I found it to be a wonderful but confusing experience. ;-0 Hutchins is a great writer as his first chapter gives so much detail that I felt I was there on the military ship with the author. My father was in the Navy on an aircraft carrier during the Korean War, so I felt I was getting closer to him by understanding the terminology and social hierarchy that exists on the ship from Hutchins’ explanations of the Palau. However, at times, I did get lost in some of the descriptions Hutchins gave of the navigational tools and systems that he experienced on the ship. But, he does a great job in explaining the environment, the people involved and the resources at hand on this ship from an ethnographic standpoint.

By the second and third chapter, I was glad to see how Hutchins was tying in some of the navigational tools into theoretical concepts. His comparison of European and Micronesian navigation was thoroughly interesting and helped me realize how much we rely on tools to be our cognitive base or knowledge structure but that in some cases, the environment we create also contributes to how we formulate our knowledge and representation of concepts like navigation and direction. So, what we think is in our minds is really not.

In the third chapter, I thought this excerpt was great at explaining Hutchins’ view on cognition, “The environments of human thinking are not “natural” environments. They are artificial through and through. Humans create their cognitive powers by creating the environments in which they exercise those powers. At present, so few of us have taken the time to study these environments seriously as organizers of cognitive activity that we have little sense of their role in the construction of thought.” (169) This passage made me think about our previous readings in how much our constructions, understandings, assumptions, and representations of information and data in our minds are shaped outside of our mind in addition to within. I think Hutchins speaks of the same thought collective from most of our authors in the class but more so along the lines of Lave and Wenger, Varela, et al, and Clark.

I was wondering how much Hutchins view in these first few chapters ties into technology. Hutchins does view the navigational tools and systems on this ship as technologies, but I am viewing technology from a Web standpoint. Particularly, how much our blog in its entirety is setting a specific construction of thought and cognition over the semester and how much each of our posts and comments contributes to how that knowledge is built? But, also how much our individual experiences in uploading and posting our comments through the tool of the blogger system are impacted by the way in which we are giving information to each other and how we are interpreting it when we read it before we meet on Thursdays? Also, how others who may randomly surf the web may find our blog and read it as well as experience it? How does our joint contribution of our knowledge on the blog form the information or knowledge about cognition for ourselves but for those who may happen upon our blog in the web sphere?


Blogger IB said...

asw, great post! It shows how in depth you thought about Hutchins' first three chapters. Reading your second paragraph, it seems to me that there are relations between Hutchins and Clark. Hutchins states that the information on a chart as used in Western navigation cannot be memorized by a single person. Clark asserts that we often use external representations to ease certain tasks. So the topic of "off-loading" and using external representations (in the form of notes, diagrams, charts, etc.) is shared by both authors. I wrote about this in my own post: In my 11th grade math class, many students were left behind because the teacher used different external representations than those students were used to. This is how much we rely on external representations/ tools to be our cognitive basis!

11:06 AM  
Blogger gfp said...

You got me thinking. Good post. I wonder how much of my understanding of the content of this class is limited or structured by the blog. In a sense, that could be a good thing, as the blog allows me to create my understanding of concepts based on the thoughts of the class (the collective). However, I often censor my comments to fit the general framework of the class discussion. Also, because of time constraints, I'm less likely to pursue any one idea in too much depth in the blog, especially since I assume that no one will read and respond to comments anyway, and my efforts will just become filled space on a backlog.

Anyway, that's really interesting.

2:17 PM  

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