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urbansheep

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[ QU ] Looking for distributed cognition

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Looking for distributed cognition

Saturday, July 07, 2001

Info architecture display board

I first read about the concept of distributed cognition in some books by Don Norman and Jeff Raskin. The formal definition comes from a recent branch of thinking in cognitive science that recognizes processes that happen across a wide spectrum of "actors" interactions with "artifacts" as opposed to being contained in a single, closed situation. Put another way, thinking happens when a person tries to understand an object, but it can also happen collectively with many people over time and distance with a single object.

An example of this would be the control room in a nuclear reactor facility. The status displays are purposely engineered as large old-fashoned dials because research has shown that teams of operators work better together when they can collectively view a single large board as opposed to individual personal displays.

In my daily work as an information architect, I'm particularly interested in ways to bring physicality back into digital work environments. You can walk through parts of our office and not really know what kind of work is being done. It's just a bunch of people staring at computer screens and clicking (OK, no wise cracks). It's not just our place. Many web firms I've visited have little in the way of diagrams on the wall (but plenty of eye candy posters). But, go across the walkway to our neighbor, a building architecture firm, and you see large printouts of concept sketches, massing studies, space plans, floorplans, elevations, and engineering details all over the walls. One reason has got to be that building architecture is a mature discipline that truly uses computers as a practical productivity tool. In digital design, much of what used to be a paper sketch process is now happening in the computer user interface.

In the last 6 months, I've started using large foamcore boards (one pictured above) to post site maps, user experience flow charts, and screen schematics. I can buy a sheet of this 4 x 8' stuff for $12. With an X-acto knife, I score the board to fold in half to a managable 4 x 4'. In work sessions, I line these up around the walls. Otherwise passive or standoffish people are forced to engage with the information posted instead of haunching over a paper handout. Members of the group can gesture, comment, and mark on the board very easily. Unlike fixed whiteboards, I can keep a large number of these around, yet pack them up quickly when necessary. Our CEO loves to grab them to show our process to clients, and their size makes for better demo.

Here for my own recall (and yours) are some links to investigate:

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Поучительно будет обратить внимание на дату публикации.

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