Toward a Theoretical Base for Representation Design in the Computer Medium: Ecological Perception and Aiding Human Cognition
David D. Woods Cognitive Systems Engineering Laboratory, Ohio State University
The technological potential for data gathering and data manipulation has expanded rapidly, but our ability to interpret this avalanche of data, that is, to extract meaning from this artificial data field, has expanded much more slowly, if at all. Significant advances in machine information processing seem to offer hope for advancing our interpretative capabilities, but in practice such systems become yet another voice in the data cacophony around us. The computer as a medium for supporting cognitive work is omnipresent. Yet, where is the theoretical base for understanding the impact of computerized information processing tools on cognitive work? Research in cognitive science has focused on grand questions of what is mind; artificial intelligence research continues to focus on building autonomous machine problem solvers; and the mainstream in both has assumed that cognition can be studied and simulated without detailed consideration of perception and action.
Ironically, the current state of research on computer support for human cognition has many interesting parallels to the state of perception research during the time when James J. Gibson developed the basis for ecological perception. The concepts and research program that Gibson introduced for perception also provide inspiration for needed concepts and research directions in aiding human cognition.