HCI Valentine: A methodological affair (DiCoT)

### Warning: For HCI/ CSCW/ HF/ ergonomic-inclined super-geeks ONLY###

This story is about the methodological affair that resulted with the conception of DiCoT. DiCot is the lovechild of Distributed Cognition (DCog) and Contextual Design: two seminal contributions to understanding socio-technical systems. Their shared interests led to fertile ground for exploration, and even their respective flaws and weaknesses seemed to make their attraction stronger.

Although high on theory, DCog was lacking in methodological structure and was seduced by the beautiful form of Contextual Design, both its models and the way it represented work looked fine. She was good with people, saw through complex systems and had the experience to know how to handle herself in the field.

Contextual Design was shorter on theory and fell for the theoretical muscle of DCog with promise of deeper and more meaningful understanding of ‘the propagation and transformation of information in systems’. DCog seemed suave and sophisticated, boasting such clever ideas as “how a cockpit remembers its speed” and coining the phrase “cognition in the wild” – she was impressed, but where could it go?

Cognition in the Wild + Contextual Design

Much wine was drunk, maybe too much, plans were made and DiCoT was born. A method with some of the brains n beauty of each approach, but this child was born out of wedlock and is not without his own faults and limitations. DiCoT’s conception led to five interdependent models (adapted from his mother’s form) with each having associated principles distilled from the DCog literature (some say he still has his father’s eyes).

DiCoT’s nature is as much about his nurture, and it has been tested, applied and developed in different contexts. DiCoT is just 7 this year, it’s been a happy time so far, with a few teething problems but thankfully not too many tantrums, which we hope to continue on through his teenage years. As he matures we hope he’ll meet new people, become accepted within the community and become more independent along the way.

Selected publications:

Furniss, D. & Blandford, A. (2006). Understanding Emergency Medical Dispatch in terms of Distributed Cognition: a case study. Ergonomics, Volume 49, Issue 12 & 13 October, pp 1174 – 1203 DOI 10.1080/00140130600612663 Taylor and Francis

Sharp, H., Robinson, H., Segal, J. & Furniss, D. (2006). The Role of Story Cards and the Wall in XP teams: a distributed cognition perspective, In Chao, J., Cohn, M., Maurer, F., Sharp, H., Shore, J. (Eds.), Proceedings of Agile 2006, pp65-75, IEEE Computer Society Press. DOI 10.1109/AGILE.2006.56

McKnight, J. & Doherty, G. (2008). Distributed Cognition and Mobile Healthcare. Proc. BCS-HCI.

Furniss, D., Blandford, A. (2010). DiCoT Modeling: From Analysis to Design. Proc. CHI 2010 Workshop Bridging the Gap: Moving from Contextual Analysis to Design.

Werth, J. & Furniss, D. (2012). Medical Equipment Library Design: Revealing Issues and Best Practice Using DiCoT. Proc. International Health Informatics Symposium (IHI 2012), Miami, Florida, Jan 28-30.


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