Spring 2013 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Brown, Matt
Discipline and Number
EMAC 6372 Section 501
T Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title

Description of Course:

Course Website

Who should take this course: Media theorists interested in how media impacts human minds and culture. Communication scholars and cognitive scientists interested in the empirical, qualitative study of the human mind in its social, cultural, communicative, and technological contexts. HCI, UI, and UX and Emerging Media experts, engineers, and designers who want to better study and understand how communicative systems and cultural artifacts interface with human cognition and experience.

This course covers radical theories of and methodological approaches to three core aspects of the study of the human: cognition, culture, and communication. We will look at challenges to common assumptions about these three aspects and work to build an alternative understanding of them relevant to work in emerging media and communications and human-computer interaction. Cognition, communication, and culture traditionally mark ontological distinctions as well as disciplinary boundaries. Cognition covers the individual operation of the isolated human mind, and is the domain of psychology (and the associated cognitive sciences). Communication is the interaction of human minds through a medium, and is covered by the eponymous field of study as well as media and information theory. Culture includes the shared knowledge, values, and practices of a larger social group and is the traditional field of anthropology. The humanities cover aspects of culture and communication but are not considered relevant to their "scientific" study. The ideal unification of science would relate these three categories reductively: culture can be reduced to acts of communication, acts of communication can be reduced to the cognitive operation of individual minds… and so on down to the level of physical particles.

We will examine a host of radical challenges to this traditional picture of separate, hierarchically organized ontological categories. We will examine critical and constructive approaches that treat cognition as embodied and enacted, constituted by culture and communication, socially and technologically distributed, extended, and mediated, as well as approaches to culture and communication which recognize them as inherently cognitive activities, rather than the epiphenomenal residue of the operation of individual minds. Rather than individualism and reductionism, we should think of cognition, culture, and communication as mutually co-constituting. We should not study them separately, but instead we should examine cognitive-cultural-communicative (C3) systems. We will look at different theories of the nature of C3 systems as well as qualitative empirical methodologies for their study. Students will apply their understanding of C3 systems to emerging media systems in particular.

Cross-listed as EMAC 6372: "Approaches to Emergent Media and Communication: Cognition, Culture, and Communication" and ACN 6V81: "Special Topics: Cognition, Culture, and Communication."

Required Texts:

# Required Texts

  • Michael Cole, Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline
  • Edwin Hutchins, Cognition in the Wild
  • Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory
  • Jean Lave, Cognition in Practice

Further readings will be made available via course website.

# Additional Texts

(Recommended reading and Options for Book Review project.)

  • Andy Clark, Mindware: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science
  • Andy Clark, Natural Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence
  • Andy Clark, Supersizing the Mind
    • See also book symposium in Philosophical Studies 152(3) pp. 413-461 with Clark, Wheeler, Rupert, & Hutchins.
  • Michael Cole and the Distributed Literacy Consortium, The Fifth Dimension: An After-School Program Built on Diversity
  • John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology
  • Dror & Harnad (eds.) Cognition Distributed: How Cognitive Technology Extends Our Minds.
  • Yrjo Engestrom, Developmental Work Research: Expanding Activity Theory in Practice
  • Yrjo Engestrom, From Teams to Knots: Activity-Theoretical Studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work
  • Yrjo Engestrom, Learning by Expanding: An Activity-Theoretical Approach to Developmental Research
  • Engestrom & Middleton (eds), Cognition and Communication at Work
  • Engestrom, Miettinen, and Punamaki (eds), Perspectives on Activity Theory
  • J.J. Gibson, The ecological approach to visual perception
  • Tim Ingold, The Perception of the Environment
  • Kaptelinin & Nardi, Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design
  • Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern
  • Bonnie Nardi (ed), Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction
  • Alva Noe, Action in perception
  • Donald Norman, Things That Make Us Smart
  • Donald Norman, The Psychology of Everyday Things / The Design of Everday Things
  • Salomon (ed.), Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations
  • Brad Shore, Culture in Mind
  • Michael Tomasello, The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition
  • Varela, Thompson, and Rosch, The Embodied Mind
  • Lev Vygotsky, Mind in Society
  • James Wertsch, Vygotsky and the Social Formation of Mind

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

* Seminar attendance and participation
* Book reviews
* In-class presentations
* Theoretical paper - interpretation of Emerging Media C3 system using theoretical concepts from the course (connecting w/ existing empirical studies)
* Research proposal - proposal for empirical research on Emerging Media C3 system, based on theories and methods learned in the course.

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