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Über dieses Buch

This book explores the role of cognition in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) assessing how the field has developed over the past thirty years and discusses where the field is heading, as we begin to live in increasingly interconnected digital environments.

Taking a broad chronological view, the author discusses cognition in relation to areas like make-believe, and appropriation, and places these more recent concepts in the context of traditional thinking about the psychology of HCI.

HCI Redux will appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students and researchers in psychology, the cognitive sciences and HCI. It will also be of interest to all readers with a curiosity about our everyday use of technology.



Chapter 1. Classical Cognition

The appearance of the programmable digital computer was to have significant and long lasting consequences not only for just about every detail of our everyday lives but also for how we thought about our cognition. As we were learning about the power of newly invented information processing devices, it was proposed that the brain could be thought of in similar terms. In short, the brain could be considered to be engaged in human information processing. This chapter describes how this human information processing paradigm was to pervade much of the thinking on how we used interactive technology itself. Cognitive modelling, in a number of different forms, explored how we could both capture the supposed mental processes involved in using interactive technology and use these models to offer insight to the design of usable technology. These initiatives were to introduce ideas such as “mental models” and “affordance” into the human-computer narrative. This chapter concludes with a discussion of why this human information processing approach failed to capture our simple everyday use of interactive technology.

Phil Turner

Chapter 2. Mediated Cognition

Activity Theory is an excellent candidate for a theory of human-computer interaction (HCI) and has been proposed as such by a number of people. This chapter covers familiar ground in describing the origins and development of Activity Theory with respect to HCI but, for the purposes of the book as a whole, focuses on the role of mediation. From this perspective, we can see Activity Theory as a treatment of mediated cognition. In addition to a discussion of the key distinguishing features of Activity Theory we also make mention of functional organs and significances. By functional organs we typically mean those technologies such as reading glasses (spectacles) which extend our existing senses but can also refer back to the inner plane of action where we can rehearse or make-believe (see Chap. 8) behaviour without committing to it. Significances are Activity Theory style affordances which are located in shared social spaces – like memes. Overall, this chapter places activity theory in the wider discussion of the role of cognition in HCI.

Phil Turner

Chapter 3. Situated Action

The proposal that our use of interactive technology is “situated” has proved to be one of the most significant challenges to the traditional information processing accounts of cognition within human-computer interaction (HCI). This chapter describes how the appearance of situated action in the 1980s involved the recognition that our use of technology takes place in context and consequentially any account of HCI must give due weight to it. Context, of course, has been described as a “slippery concept” and continues to defy simple definition. Indeed, context has been variously described as involving a role for the social, the historical, the cultural, the everyday, the routine and habitual and the corporeal (that is, having a role for our bodies). For these reasons cognition is often simply described as being “situated”.

Phil Turner

Chapter 4. Embodied Cognition

The body has long been ignored in discussions of cognition. After all, there is a simple and intuitive division that the brain does the thinking and that the body simply carries the brain about. This chapter revisits this position and makes the case for the corporeal as having a significant role in how we deal with the world – including our use of interactive technology. In addition to a discussion of tangible interaction and the role of gesture, we also consider the evidence that our cognitive representation (or schema) of the body reveals its astonishing flexible and plastic nature. Not only do we maintain a bodily schema but we have propensity to incorporate external tools within it too – we are, as Clark puts it, “natural born cyborgs”.

Phil Turner

Chapter 5. Distributed, External and Extended Cognition

This chapter is concerned with how we think with things. This is not merely a matter of mediation but how all manner of tools, technologies and representations form a larger cognitive system. Distributed cognition recognised that to pilot a ship into port required, in practice, the combined efforts of a number of sailors, their charts and navigational equipment. In parallel with this came the recognition that we tend to off-load computationally demanding tasks to the environment. We create maps and graphics, make lists, and more recently, rely on our cell phones rather than burdening our limited memories and attention. And we have been doing this for a very long time. Finally, and most radically, it has been proposed that cognition is whatever combination of brain, body and environment (including technology) which gets the job done. This places on a par these three different components of cognition and opens the door to a fundamental rethink of how we use technology.

Phil Turner

Chapter 6. Enactive Cognition

The enactive account of cognition is the most mysterious strand of current thinking in this area. At its heart lie notions of embodiment, self-organisation, the environment and the proposition that we enact the world. As interesting as this is, enaction comes into its own when we discuss episodic memory, mental time travelling and niche creation. This chapter introduces the key ideas underpinning enaction and then illustrates their relevance to human-computer interaction. For example, when we recall the experiences offered by technology we rely on our episodic memories which provide us with a personal perspective. We do not just remember facts, we re-experience the events. This is an enactive perspective on memory. Similarly when we imagine how an item of technology might behave, it is likely that we are using our episodic memories to construct this. Finally, we construct niches – cognitive and technological – where we feel in control and safe and do so in a manner which is very similar to bringing forth (or enacting) the world. Enaction offers quite a different and very promising perspective on cognition and interactive technology.

Phil Turner

Chapter 7. Epistemic Coping

As the vast majority of our mental lives are unconscious, it can come as no surprise that much of our everyday use of interactive technology is not under conscious control too. We describe this as coping – we cope with the world and we cope with interactive technology. This chapter reviews the evidence that our use of interactive technology – by default – takes the form of this smooth, unreflective absorbed coping. We have all grown able to use our cell phones, tablets, personal computers and just about every other form of everyday computing with scarcely a thought. However, not only do we cope but we take every opportunity to offload any demanding cognitive components of this onto the environment. These are described as “epistemic actions” and make the task of using technology (even) easier. Hence we more completely describe this unremarkable use of technology as “epistemic coping” and suggest that this approach provides an insight into ordinary, mundane interaction with technology.

Phil Turner

Chapter 8. Making-Believe with Technology

In this chapter we present the proposal that make-believe has an important though unrecognised role in human-computer interaction. We argue that make-believe is a form of thinking with things (as discussed in Chap. 5) but here the product of this activity is not the completion of a task but the creation of fictional, possible or “whatif” worlds. These possible worlds are extremely useful as they allow us to explore ideas without committing to them. So, we create fictional worlds every time we visualise or imagine how a new cell phone or “app” might look or behave long before we have written a line of code.We make-believe when we treat the user interface of our personal computers as a “desktop” or attribute a personality and temperament to a robot vacuum cleaner. We are also making-believe when we “kill” aliens with our space marine buddies. Make-believe is the hidden engine which powers many of our experience with digital technology.

Phil Turner

Chapter 9. Post-cognitive Interaction

This final chapter argues that there is something really quite big missing from how we have treated cognition in human-computer interaction. Jerome Bruner has argued that cognition exists in two forms, the paradigmatic and the narrative. The former provides us with scientific and rational accounts of the world – just as we have outlined in the previous eight chapters. The narrative side of our cognition makes sense of this rationality for us. It tells us why it matters and it does so through stories. This chapter does not offer a synthesis of what we know about cognition as an embodied, embedded, extended or enactive phenomenon but argues that there is a missing narrative. What is the story of our use of interactive technology? How do we make sense of all of this scientific rationality? And does it explain why so many people ignore the world in favour of their cell phones? We very briefly suggest that one very pertinent story is that we appropriate technology – we make it our own.

Phil Turner


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