Hutchins: Computation as Navigation

Datum: 07.03.2016 (20:00:00–22:30:00)

Ort: Alte Jakobstr. 12 / Ecke Ritterstr. (Tiyatrom Theater), 10969 Berlin

A sacred macronesian vessel (

Edwin Hutchins, a professor and the former department head of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego, is one of the main developers of distributed cognition. Experienced both in the highly theoretical task of programming and in navigation practices at sea, he explores in his book „Cognition in The Wild“ (Chapter Computation as Navigation) a general compuational account of navigation forms in order to compare different representational and implementational levels. This is done by examining western technology based navigation practices and non-western navigation practices. To be able to understand human cognitive processes and goings-on related to navigation, in this case surface ship pilotage, Hutchins argues we have to think outside of the bounds of the individual. In light of recent lines of research in philosophy and cognitive sciences, like embodiment research, situated cognition and extended mind theories, Hutchins computational account is a reminder of the explanatory advantages of the concept of distributed cognition.

This lecture is emphasising the general computational account, an explanation of the basis for our measurement system, which ties to nautical navigation, including a few examples from field research on non-western navigation and the interpretational outcomes.

As part of the cognitive revolution, cognitive anthropology made two crucial steps. First, it turned away from society by looking inward to the knowledge an individual had to have to function as a member of the culture. The question became " What does a person have to know ?" The locus of knowledge was assumed to be inside the individual. The methods of research then available encouraged the analysis of language. But knowledge expressed or expressible in language tends to be declarative knowledge. It is what people can say about what they know. Skill went out the window of the "white room." The second turn was away from practice. In the quest to learn what people know, anthropologists lost track both of how people go about knowing what they know and of the contribution of the environments in which the knowing is accomplished. Perhaps these narrowing assumptions were necessary to get the project of cognitive anthropology off the ground. […] I will argue that, now that we are underway as a discipline, we should revoke these assumptions. They have become a burden, and they prevent us from seeing the nature of human cognition. […] The emphasis on finding and describing "knowledge structures“ that are somewhere "inside" the individual encourages us to overlook the fact that human cognition is always situated in a complex sociocultural world and cannot be unaffected by it.“ Hutchins, 1995, Cognition in the Wild.

About the speaker:

Auris-E. Lipinski is a student of Philosophy and English at Humboldt University with focus on philosophy of mind, distributed cognition and embodiment theories. Since 2013 she organises the PhenCoCo project with thorough discussions of cognition, computation, phenomenology, mind and language, and other lines of research on the study of cognition between phenomenology and computation. Working at the IT company VIOM GmbH enables her to have some insights into navigation practices in distribution companies in economic freight traffic and into the theoretical and technological basis of computations involving planning and optimisation of routes and other spacial tasks. Currently, she is studying the conduct of field tests for the elucidation of spacial models and reference frames from verbal and behavioural data.

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