Culturally Situated Cognitive ARtifacts

Project Description

This project aims to merge cognitive and sociocultural accounts of specialized representations in order to better understand practices in science and technology. Youth and urban sociocultural practices create specialized representations and transformations that engage 'pre-rational' and intuitive aspects of human cognition. These practices reveal resonances of a thriving knowledge culture involved in the production of cognitive artifacts, which "maintain, display, or operate upon information in order to serve a representational function and that affect human cognitive performance." (Norman 1991) Handheld computers, smartphones and other mobile devices are recent examples that extend representational forms expressed in human interaction, i.e., graffiti and dance. Here, the approach is to position these practices and artifacts within a broader socio-cognitive and theoretical purview of which audiences that are familiar with certain aspects are already cognizant but may not be fully explored as part of science and technology studies (STS). (Nersessian) For many years, the importance of artifacts and their use to enhance human abilities have been ignored within much of contemporary cognitive science despite earlier inroads of psychological and anthropological investigation. (Norman, Hutchins)

For example, recent HCI research involving representational gestures focuses on the hands, while urban artists and performers often use their entire bodies to create gestures. These gestures are produced using symbolic or iconic information to support communication in a far more explicit way. The symbolic gesture appeals to community knowledge acquired over the course of a specific situation, and also in a cultural and physical world that is shared by members of a community of practice – for example, the Graffiti Research Lab. (Becvar, et al.) Prior discourse activities situate these symbolic and social gestures, imbuing them with meaning and communicative power well beyond what is explicitly conveyed. I argue that cognitive artifacts of urban culture support sociocultural and cognitive dimensions in STS practices, as a basis for researching new modes/models that are essential for constructing meaning where practitioners are engaged in collaborative work.

I have been very interested in developments such as “gesture-in-interaction” and the ability of the device, itself, to be rotated (via accelerometer) which enhances the user’s overall performance and representational properties of the computer artifact. However, while this informs my research, my main aim is to investigate how these artifacts are invented, acquired, or transmitted across individuals or generations, especially in communities of practice outside of accepted criterion applied in a particular branches of science and technology learning, art, or culture. This includes graffiti/street art & performance, maker (D.I.Y.) communities, and hybrid groups between those who make use of computer-based artifacts and interfaces to create specialized representation in/on the physical world.

For more information about this project contact:

Nettrice R. Gaskins (Ph.D. candidate), ngaskins3 (dot) gatech (dot) edu

Creative Commons License
Culturally Situated Cognitive ARtifacts by Nettrice R. Gaskins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License