Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reaction: Distributed Cognition as a Theoretical Framework for Information Visualization

Over past several years information visualization (infoviz.) has developed many folds but it lacks a well-defined framework which can be a stepping stone for a theoretical base. This I found to be almost repetitive of the other paper I read over the weekend. There are several important facets of infoviz, but as paper mentions, none are more important than representation (external and internal) and interaction.

The essential idea of the paper I thought was, describing cognition as it is distributed across individuals and settings(functional systems) in which it takes place.

The framework proposed in this paper is compared with the conventional method of cognition, keeping in mind that both are in development, none of the either one can be discarded. Referring to Hutchins conceptualization of study of human cognition, DCog explains the social and cultural dimensions of environment by examining members of a team along with the artifacts used by them as one cognitive system. To further solidify the concepts of DCog, a scenario is mentioned which deals with real life situation that can probe the representation and interaction aspect of InfoViz.

In later part of the discussion of the paper, the author tries to convey that it is essential to view cognitive system as group of individuals and instead of just focusing on individual (which I agree is valid after I got to terms with the example cited). But I found that from here-on the effort in the paper was much to try to loath on us the fact, that we should give a serious consideration to adaptation of DCog framework as base theory for infoviz rather than trying to prove the concepts.While there are some important points too that were discussed (like cognition system is by product of actions in environment), the paper overall was more theoretical and hence could do little justice to the facts mentioned.

All in all the paper was like a see-saw with some good points to clarify few concepts (like by citing the isomorphic representation of Towers of Hanoi, the author trying to convey that 'cognition is an emergent property of interaction than human mind') but then it also proposes a framework which may hold true only in lab environment. In contrast human cognition doesn’t reflect results produced in lab and this is where paper lacked further explanation.