Human Interfaces


To date, the effort spent to define Cognitive Technology (CT) as a distinct field of inquiry, has emphasised the need to pragmatically understand the dialectic relationship between the use of augmenting artefacts and the process of cognitive adaptation resulting from exposure to fabricated environments1. The central position has been defined as the need to study human cognitive inputs to the integration between people and tools and in so doing produce greater a priori insight into the socio-cognitive impact of technological innovation. We need to do this in order to directly benefit people rather than simply facilitate and speed up technological progress. If we do not, the value to the user of the ensuing form of “user centred” tool design may remain essentially a matter of rhetoric.

It has been further proposed that, in order to achieve this objective, cognitive technology studies must first be grounded in a coherent theory of adaptation, with defining principles of human-artefact integration through interaction which can be brought to bear on the process of designing technology. What has emerged from these considerations is a number of critical issues that need to be addressed by anyone interested in investigating the co-evolution of tools and the minds that create them. Of particular interest are the issues embodied within two key CT questions:

How can we define, predict, and recognise the threshold at which technological enhancement of human ability/performance becomes a constraint on that very ability/performance?


How do we design humane user-tool interfaces?

However it is not sufficient to simply ask these questions. We need also to consider how and to what end they have been formulated? Are they properly situated within an appropriate conceptual framework? To what degree does the language they are framed in condition the kind of answers we look for?

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