Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reaction: Distributed Cognition as a Theoretical Framework for Information Visualization"

This paper seems like relatively dense reading, but obviously very informative. I like their definition of InfoVis right off the bat: “the use of computer-supported, interactive, visual representations of abstract data to amplify cognition”.

The article seems to make it clear at first that distributed cognition is just a framework, taken from cognitive science, that can help explain "representation" and "interaction," and help advance other areas of research in InfoVis. Noting the "famous" working memory limitation of 7 +/- 2 symbols of things recalls some information that I've heard in the past, so that helps me personal identify the origin of this information. If InfoVis can help extend that, then we're doing something good here. It's interesting to see visual "artifacts" that we create referred to as scaffolding to help us solve a problem. The paper finally identifies DCog as part of a wider movement to help assess the role of the environment on an individual's cognition (I believe), though this is not a definition. It seems useful, if not a little self-serving to define "cognition" as an "emergent" quality from an individuals interaction with the environment, rather than a wholly internal process (in the mind) for the individual, but it makes intuitive sense.

The definition of DCog finally comes as something that is examined as a distribution of cognition across internal and external structures; it describes roughly the, "propagation of information as representation states across a series of representational media that are brought into coordination with one another."

In regards to representations, the authors note that external and internal representations reciprocally interact together, and thus are tightly coupled.

In regards to interaction, the Tetris example that was given seems moderately enlightening. It matches my own experience, as well.

I like how this paper mentions the WWW as a means of sharing visualizations. That seems particularly relevant to this course. =)

All told, it does seem like DCog is a good framework for underpinning further research in visualizations. This paper was a bit dry, a little dense, with not many example visualizations, but it definitely got the point across, and was very informative. I think this may actually be one of the more important papers we can learn for this topic.