Monday, September 12, 2011

Distributed Cognition as a Theoretical Framework for Information Visualization

This paper discusses the concept of "distributed cognition" framework and its importance as an underlying theory for information visualization. It presents a detailed study in the aspects of how information is represented and how the interactions are incorporated in a cognitive way to the user. The authors explore and try to explain the way the tools, symbols, environment amplify comprehension coupled with the cognitive powers of the human mind and how these things do not work in isolation but their collaboration helps to convey information successfully.

The authors use different examples to stress on the fact that representations and different interactions with any visualization help the   user to get a different viewpoints and perspectives which amplify his cognition and understanding. The paper thus highlights that external representation of data is much more important to visually engage and inspire the audience than just concentrating on the perceptive powers of humans.

The paper gives a detailed explanation and preaches the use of the distributed cognitive approach but fails to make a strong argument as to why it must be the basis of InfoViz and how it is better than using any other approach. Also, it states in section 6 of the paper that both internal and external representations form a tightly coupled system to help cognition, which in my opinion essentially means that no single framework can form a basis of any visualization. It must be a confluence of external symbols, the data itself and the studies of human perception.