Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reaction:Distributed Cognition as a Theoretical Framework for Information Visualization

This paper describes the theory of distributed cognition and its framework. The paper has a very good beginning stating the concept of distributed cognition and how different people relate to the theory of cognition.

Information visualization is defined as “The use of computer supported, interactive, visual representations of abstract data to amplify cognition”. I was also of the belief, like many, that visual tools and visual representations really amplify our cognitive skills and we get a better understanding of the information. But the reasoning that Hutchins gave to prove that visual tools amplify cognition is misleading was simply outstanding. I would have never thought in this direction had I not read this paper! Hutchins explained that for the process of accomplishing a task, none of the cognitive skills can be amplified. Tools are useful precisely because the cognitive processes required to manipulate them are not the computational processes accomplished by their manipulation.

This paper is more theoretical as compared to the other papers. There were a few examples given to explain internal, external and distributed representations. The author hasn’t explicitly mentioned which one is better than the other but has given the advantages and the inter dependencies of the representations. Distributed cognition is as described by the paper a framework that involves continuous coordination between individuals and the environment.