Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Understanding Dis.Cog, CSCW and Its Restriction

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In the mid to late 1980's, theorists realized that classical cognitive theories were misrepresented since they failed to see that "scientific approach" were different than the "real world approach." Distributed cognition represent both internal and external cognitive linking computational offloading such as understanding the structure, design or graphical constraints versus the psychological, physical and social environment that's internal. This theory was developed by Edwin Hutchins who wanted to develop a "socio-technical" system that can connect the external to an internal system/environment/cognition. Hence, it's useful for HCI as a collaborative framework for computer-mediated interaction such as CSCW. A distributed cognition analysis examines:

  1. Distributed problem-solving
  2. Verbal and non-verbal behavior
  3. Coordinating mechanism such as rules or procedures
  4. How communication processed as collaborative activity progresses
  5. How knowledge is shared and accessed

CSCW also known as computer-supported cooperative work was referred by Irene Greif and Paul M. Cashman in 1984 to support automation issues, understanding the nature of collaboration or group/team work and co-evolution of technologies and communities. Researchers and engineers such as Douglas Engelbart realized that they needed to learn how people collaborate in groups and organizations and how technology affects that. Along with their focus, they created a "water cooler" effect ring that determines the social differences of workers within an organization.

Organizational Chart

Robert E. Kraut, a professor of Social Psychology and Human Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study in comparing Japanese and American progress in CSCW research that investigate how groups work with or without computers. He found that the use of computer processing to impose the structure of human contact such as the importance to see the person you are talking to communicate gestures and body language which makes group communication more effective. Google doc is an example of CSCW that filled in the gap in "time constraints" issues when human contact would be unnecessary such as waiting for emails, phone calls and waiting for each members of the group to finish the parts needed within the project also known as "asynchronous communication application." Google and other companies such as CollaBoard solved the issue using a "synchronous communication application," a network/computer-supported cooperative work that can be used simultaneously and communicate all at the same time.

Though the both distributed cognition and CSCW implements one another and solve issues in classical cognitive theories, collaborative problem-solving issues where team can work together without time constraints of waiting for calls or e-mails to continue a project. The disadvantages in distributed cognition and CSCW is that the framework doesn't fulfill either individual or cultural differences, it also fails to create a "new user" learning experience from different perspective because societal understanding and norms are created through traditions and cultures. These cultures represents individual's thoughts and throughout we work in a melting pot of diversity where everyone understand how one technological aspect functions differently based on how we were all learn the best way possible. Another disadvantage would be having a free rider within the group.


Giere, Ronald. "The Problem of Agency in Scientific Distributed Cognitive Systems." Journal of Cognition and Culture (2004): 759-74. Print.

Grudin, Jonathan. "CSCW: Its History and Participation." CSCW: Its History and Participation. Information and Computer Science Department in University of California, Irvine. Web. 8 July 2015.

Kraut, Robert. "CHAPTER 3." Chp 3: Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. WTEC Hyper-Librarian, 1 Mar. 1996. Web. 8 July 2015.

Rogers, Yvonne. "Chapter 5: Modern Theories." HCI Theory Classical, Modern, and Contemporary. Vol. SYNTHESIS LECTURESON HUMAN-CENTERED INFORMATICS #14. Print.