We are quickly passing through the historical moment when people work in front of a single computer, dominated by a small CRT and focused on tasks involving only local information. Networked computers are becoming ubiquitous and are playing increasingly significant roles in our lives and in the basic infrastructure of science, business, and social interaction. For human-computer interaction o advance in the new millennium we need to better understand the emerging dynamic of interaction in which the focus task is no (...) longer confined to the desktop but reaches into a complex networked world of information and computer-mediated interactions. We think the theory of distributed cognition has a special role to play in understanding interactions between people and technologies, for its focus has always been on whole environments: what we really do in them and how we coordinate our activity in them. Distributed cognition provides a radical reorientation of how to think about designing and supporting human-computer interaction. As a theory it is specifically tailored to understanding interactions among people and technologies. In this article we propose distributed cognition as a new foundation for human-computer interaction, sketch an integrated research framework, and use selections from our earlier work to suggest how this framework can provide new opportunities in the design of digital work materials. (shrink)
Cognitive ecology is the study of cognitive phenomena in context. In particular, it points to the web of mutual dependence among the elements of a cognitive ecosystem. At least three fields were taking a deeply ecological approach to cognition 30 years ago: Gibson’s ecological psychology, Bateson’s ecology of mind, and Soviet cultural-historical activity theory. The ideas developed in those projects have now found a place in modern views of embodied, situated, distributed cognition. As cognitive theory continues to shift from units (...) of analysis defined by inherent properties of the elements to units defined in terms of dynamic patterns of correlation across elements, the study of cognitive ecosystems will become an increasingly important part of cognitive science. (shrink)
Everybody knows that humans are cultural animals. Although this fact is universally acknowledged, many opportunities to exploit it are overlooked. In this article, I propose shifting our attention from local examples of extended mind to the cultural-cognitive ecosystems within which human cognition is embedded. I conclude by offering a set of conjectures about the features of cultural-cognitive ecosystems.
This paper reviews the uneven history of the relationship between Anthropology and Cognitive Science over the past 30 years, from its promising beginnings, followed by a period of disaffection, on up to the current context, which may lay the groundwork for reconsidering what Anthropology and (the rest of) Cognitive Science have to offer each other. We think that this history has important lessons to teach and has implications for contemporary efforts to restore Anthropology to its proper place within Cognitive Science. (...) The recent upsurge of interest in the ways that thought may shape and be shaped by action, gesture, cultural experience, and language sets the stage for, but so far has not fully accomplished, the inclusion of Anthropology as an equal partner. (shrink)
A fundamental fact about human minds is that they are never truly alone: all minds are steeped in situated interaction. That social interaction matters is recognized by any experimentalist who seeks to exclude its influence by studying individuals in isolation. On this view, interaction complicates cognition. Here, we explore the more radical stance that interaction co-constitutes cognition: that we benefit from looking beyond single minds toward cognition as a process involving interacting minds. All around the cognitive sciences, there are approaches (...) that put interaction center stage. Their diverse and pluralistic origins may obscure the fact that collectively, they harbor insights and methods that can respecify foundational assumptions and fuel novel interdisciplinary work. What might the cognitive sciences gain from stronger interactional foundations? This represents, we believe, one of the key questions for the future. Writing as a transdisciplinary collective assembled from across the classic cognitive science hexagon and beyond, we highlight the opportunity for a figure-ground reversal that puts interaction at the heart of cognition. The interactive stance is a way of seeing that deserves to be a key part of the conceptual toolkit of cognitive scientists. (shrink)
In cognitive neuroscience, functional magnetic resonance imaging is used to produce images of brain functions. These images play a central role in the practice of neuroscience. In this paper we are interested in how these brain images become understandable and meaningful for scientists. In order to explore this problem we observe how scientists use such semiotic resources as gesture, language, and material structure present in the socially and culturally constituted environment. A micro-analysis of video records of scientists interacting with each (...) other and with fMRI images reveals action as cognition, that is, actions that constitute thinking for the scientists. (shrink)