Thursday, October 29, 2009

Week 11: Situated cognition view of design

The readings for this week give:
  • An overview of situated cognition theory and how it relates to learning (Greeno) - a little tough as a read - keep in mind that he is talking across behaviorist, cognition, situated cognition views and trying to pull them together
  • An overview of design as situated cognition (Visser) - good stuff, not always the easiest person to read :)
  • Read ONE of the papers by Dony or Crilly et al as an example of what it looks like to use these theories to student design (use the blog to let others know which one you are reading)

Down the road - next week I'll put up a post on the "analyzing design" Nov 18 project - to get a sense of what kinds of data people want to look at.

To keep it fun: Explore this link - what does this say about design thinking?


michihcim said...

I'll read Dong

Kat said...

I will go with the Dong paper too

Kevin said...


Kevin said...

Thoughts on Visser:
- The 11 qualifications on pp. 6-9 seem to be essentially what we brainstormed on the first week of class, therefore is there really a need for papers to keep synthesizing these thoughts? I did not really agree with the first qualification though, “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones”; this point does not really distinguish between non-design/problem solving and design in my mind.
- Is it just me or are these design studies (not limited to Greeno) heavily skewed towards architecture, closely followed by mechanical, computer, and electrical engineering? Not really feeling the love for civil engineers, not to mention chemical and nuclear. Does this predominance of analyzing certain professions significantly impact how we interpret and teach design (maybe not at a general level but at more specified levels)? Random thought, I wonder if the typical level of disdain between civil engineers and architects is in part due to differences in how we approach design.

Thoughts on Greeno:
- I never thought of applying the self-fulfilling prophecy to designers before. I suppose if identifying with a high school social clique influences one’s actions and perspective, then so too could a designer be influenced by his peers. So is the advisor-grad student bond similar to that of the “big” and “little” relationship in social fraternities and sororities? Does the mentor then have a long-lasting effect on how a designer goes about designing?
- This discussion of behaviorist vs. cognitive perspectives reminds me of a conversation I just had with one of my friends who is also a TA. This person was asking me about how I grade homework assignments. I told him that I take a certain amount points off for each mistake a student makes, depending on the magnitude, as opposed to taking off points for each wrong answer. My rationale is that there are times where one conceptual mistake can lead to multiple wrong answers and therefore they should not be unduly penalized for making a single mistake. Whereas, my friend said that he simply graded based on if each answer was right or wrong, saying that students should be penalized for repeating mistakes. Thinking back on this conversation, it seems that my friend prefers a behaviorist style of grading whereas I prefer a more cognitive style of grading. Just got me thinking.

tforin said...

I'll read Dong.

tforin said...

Kevin, I've had the same thoughts about these papers being so skewed away from civil. Even at the design conference I went to in August, there were barely any civils and mainly EEs and MEs. Part of me wants to believe that these authors lump CE with architecture, which isn't such a stretch but it does leave out a huge chunk of CE disciplines. I do see how everything we've so far can (and should) be applied to CE. I often wonder if perhaps the profession is so old and fixated, that there are less efforts to reexamine the CE approach to design.

Also the "big/little" relationship is so essential to design. In artistic designs, you usually see younger artists making homages to artists they admire. Jackson Pollock admired Picasso and you see heavy influences in his earlier works before he found his own voice. Self-efficacy can be a pretty important tool in building a designer's confidence. With that confidence the designer can begin to branch out and discover his/her own voice in design. Of course though the designer must have the desire to be different for that to happen. Take a look at the relation between Ravel and Gershwin.

Kat said...

I dont know if I am the only one who is filling like this.. but I am unfortunately filling that this weeks readings took me one step backwards! In the last two classes, I had the impression that the pieces of the puzzle had started to come in place, and that some of my initial questions, especially the "why am i researching that? why do I need it" had start to make a meaning. This week, reading the visser paper, I will agree with Kevin that the first part felt like a repetition of what we have been discussing all this time.. but the "Design is different from nondesign" really made me try to find a reason for it again.
After struggling to finish the two papers some things of course became more clear regarding the congitive aspects that get influenced, but I think that talking about more "hands-on" practicle examples when talking about cognitive tasks would help me understand these concepts much better. Or maybe it is just my engineer's hat that I can not very easily take off :)

AD said...

Wow. Greeno and Visser... I feel like I lost a few hours of my life reading these and I'm not sure what I gained.
Kevin and Tiago - I'm feeling the same way with the ME, Arch, EE fixation these authors seems to have. It could be that those types of design is easiest to explain. If you talk about software design or the meaning of architecture, most readers would tend to understand the basic concepts without much background. If we started getting into more specific fields, things get a little more blurry for people who are unfamiliar.
I read Crilly. Interesting stuff about intention and interpretation, and designed products as a form of mass media. Looking forward to discussion.

AD said...

As follow up...
Sorry for missing the tour last week. I hope it was enjoyable and insightful. I was trying to meet a deadline for a proposal and could not pull myself away.
Two weeks ago I missed class because I was in transit to the Annual Colloquium on International Engineering Education. Robin asked me to share where I saw issues of design brought up at the colloquium. I think the best example was during a presentation by the Executive Director of Engineers Without Borders. She talked about EWB's model for working on development projects. An summary is available on page 8:
I was there presenting a model for global competence for engineers which I am working with Dr. Imbrie and Mohtar and partners in clinical psychology. Let me know if you want to know more!

Robin said...

OK - apologies for Visser - she's always a hard one for me to gauge - will limit our discussion of her since I'm guessing most may choose not to read her. She's a bit jumpy in her thoughts and may have taken us more backwards than forwards.

Greeno - is a bit of a challenge - if you can't follow his argument on how situated cognition includes cognitive theory that's ok - focus on the way he talks about situated cognition - and link back to the Svinicki piece on "how to help people learn"

Why no CivE? Good question! And yes, you might anticipate disciplinary differences! The design research community has a large number of architects, product designers, industrial designers, mechanical engineers, and in a certain way software engineers / designers. The conference Tiago is talking about (ICED) is a mechanical engineering design group with weird additions of folks like me (we're called "psychologists"!). It's rare to find chemical engineering in there; and surprisingly rare to see civil engineering (although you can find structural engineering - perhaps because of the strong architectural link). It would be interesting to explore why so few CivE folks...

I'm hoping more people read Crilly - looks like most went with Dong :)

Bethany Fralick said...

My blog entry is going to be late this week. My apologies. I will post later this evening.

Laura said...

Holy Greeno.

On the other hand, I actually did like reading the Visser paper. I liked reading a comprehensive (albeit extremely long) of what we've discussed and seeing how it sort of relates to each other, but it did get a little extensive. I feel like this paper attempted to summarize everything we know or can know about design (like Kevin said, sort of what we attempted in the first few weeks of class) but then when he began sort of evaluating the research I got confused. For example, in the second section, Design is different than nondesign, Visser concluded that there is not enough evidence to support this idea. Uh.. really? Design is different than nondesign? That's like saying cats are different than not cats... duh. I understand where he was coming from, evaluating past studies and whatnot, but that was the point in the paper when I kind of just started reading to get some sort of summary rather than to actually read about Visser's evaluations.

And I love the Fun Theory! I browse this a lot - I like to see people design or do things just for the happiness of others. Installing piano keys onto staircases doesn't really change the world greatly, but it does make some people happier!

Bethany Fralick said...

Okay, I read Crilly. Seeing as I am alone in this endevour, I will try to give you guys a summary of his paper. Crilly discussed the relationship of product intention and user interpretation and how this affects design. It is obvious that designers form intentions for products they design, but these products are not always interpreted similarly. This issue has caused a "researchers to adopt a communicative perspective on design and respect products as communicative media."

Many researchers have proposed models showing how design is communicative and even more researchers have argued these models. The common theme between these models and arguements against such models is the personal experience involved.

Experiences of the designers and end users ultimately influence intent and interpretation. Being researchers ourselves (and through our other readings) we know the difficulty in accurately summarizing personal experiences of many.

In short, we as designers need to be aware that our products (or processes) can be interpreted by endusers in ways we did not expect. This can aid our design or hinder it, but we must be aware of this.

Okay, I hope this gave everyone a good overview of the paper :)

michihcim said...

I took away from Greeno more about the educational aspect of design: design education should engage students in community of practice, although I am not sure whether community of practice refer to expert-like ways of designing, or the future environment and people they have to interact with. I can see the focus of the two being really the same or really different.

Greeno's notion of combining research, development, and practice of education sort of sounds like human-centered design.

mpollock said...

Beth provided a nice summary of the Crilly article. I'd like to offer a few discussion points considering we just visited the Samara FLW House.

The article suggests two particular directions in which future research may proceed:

1) The first relates to how designers might influence consumer interpretation.
2) The second relates to how consumers might infer designer intent.

How do you think Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to influence consumer interpretation? And in turn, how is it consumers (or admirers) infer FLW’s intent? Do you think that we understood his objective? Would we have properly if the interpreter not told us?

The lady shared about bringing the outside inside, the open living areas, the way the lights were strategically placed in the home to allow ambiance, the detail down to the Professor’s business cards. It’s almost like FLW was trying to create the Christian family identity through the samara winged seed. Do you think FLW’s intention was to confuse visitors so they didn’t know where the front door was? Perhaps, but what was interpretation would he have wanted the consumer to infer?

How do the designer and consumer stay in tune when the “situation” changes? In the example of the FLW house, would a new owner of the Samara house have the same understanding of the designer’s intent? As decades pass, does the style and design mean the same? This supports the whole situated cognition theory, as it relates to design.

What would FLW think now about the consumers of his designs?