Tuesday, September 6, 2011

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

I found this paper to be describing the same problem that were illustrated in the previous paper: Graphical Perception: Theory, Experimentation, and Application to the Development of Graphical Methods. However this paper supports distributed cognition framework (DCog) to substantiate the science behind Information Visualization, unlike perceptual tasks which were discussed in the previous paper.

Authors have strongly stressed on the fact that as per the DCog Framework, cognition is not the function of human mind alone but it's a property of interaction between an environment and the individual. I think that even though it's quite subjective claim, but to some extent, authors are true here. For example, for someone with zero knowledge of bar graphs, it'd be difficult to understand the framed rectangle charts which were shown in the previous paper. Also, it'll be likely that the same person would perceive the conventional statistical maps better in that case.

Hence, I feel that the conjecture by the authors holds true when they say that while studying cognition we should not analyze it based on human individual alone but also considering the environment and the artifacts they use to accomplish a task. Authors also took an example of a cognitive system for information foraging task which had internal entities like LCD monitors, mouse, pen, notepad etc computing infrastructure, which I found quite relevant to their study.

I think that the controlled experiments which are done in laboratory setting, may not give us any specific or measurable results but evaluation is an important part of human cognition. Also, I think the DCog Framework holds true in such kind of laboratory settings. It's quite wonderfully put by the authors that such experiments are basically an invariable input (external system) to be fed into human cognitive black box and then analyzing and comparing the output.

I'm not sure if it is relevant to the findings but I understood the internal and external representations of DCog Framework using the isomorphic form of Tower of Hanoi problem that authors have shown as some sort of visualization. To relate to this course, I think that's because of human cognition is more receptive to the graphical representations than the theoretical ones. This may be related to the DCog Framework which says that the cognition is more an emergent property of interaction than the human mind.

Overall, I believe this is a good attempt by authors to understand the descriptive nature of human cognition using Information Visualization as a key medium. The authors also think that this by doing such research it can also help in developing generic approach towards human cognition.