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Profile: David Kirsh (University of California, San Diego, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  1. David Kirsh (2000). Distributed Cognition, Toward a New Foundation for Human-Computer Interaction Research. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 7 (2):174-196.
    We are quickly passing through the historical moment when people work in front of a single computer, dominated by a small CRT and focused on tasks involving only local information. Networked computers are becoming ubiquitous and are playing increasingly significant roles in our lives and in the basic infrastructure of science, business, and social interaction. For human-computer interaction o advance in the new millennium we need to better understand the emerging dynamic of interaction in which the focus task is no (...)
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  2. David Kirsh (2000). A Few Thoughts on Cognitive Overload. Intellectica 1 (30):19-51.
    This article addresses three main questions: What causes cognitive overload in the workplace? What analytical framework should be used to understand how agents interact with their work environments? How can environments be restructured to improve the cognitive workflow of agents? Four primary causes of overload are identified: too much tasking and interruption, and inadequate workplace infrastructure to help reduce the need for planning, monitoring, reminding, reclassifying information, etc… The first step in reducing the cognitive impact of these causes is to (...)
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  3. David Kirsh (2013). Embodied Cognition and the Magical Future of Interaction Design. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 20 (1):30.
    The theory of embodied cognition can provide HCI practitioners and theorists with new ideas about interac-tion and new principles for better designs. I support this claim with four ideas about cognition: (1) interacting with tools changes the way we think and perceive – tools, when manipulated, are soon absorbed into the body schema, and this absorption leads to fundamental changes in the way we perceive and conceive of our environments; (2) we think with our bodies not just with our brains; (...)
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  4.  85
    David Kirsh & P. Maglio (1995). On Distinguishing Epistemic From Pragmatic Action. Cognitive Science 18 (4):513-49.
    We present data and argument to show that in Tetris - a real-time interactive video game - certain cognitive and perceptual problems are more quickly, easily, and reliably solved by performing actions in the world rather than by performing computational actions in the head alone. We have found that some translations and rotations are best understood as using the world to improve cognition. These actions are not used to implement a plan, or to implement a reaction; they are used to (...)
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  5. David Kirsh & Paul Maglio (1994). On Distinguishing Epistemic From Pragmatic Action. Cognitive Science 18 (4):513-549.
    We present data and argument to show that in Tetris-a real-time, interactive video game-certain cognitive and perceptual problems ore more quickly, easily, and reliably solved by performing actions in the world than by performing computational actions in the head atone. We have found that some of the translations and rotations made by players of this video game are best understood as actions that use the world to improve cognition. These actions are not used to implement a plan, or to implement (...)
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  6. David Kirsh (2010). Thinking With External Representations. AI and Society 25 (4):441-454.
    Why do people create extra representations to help them make sense of situations, diagrams, illustrations, instructions and problems? The obvious explanation— external representations save internal memory and com- putation—is only part of the story. I discuss seven ways external representations enhance cognitive power: they change the cost structure of the inferential landscape; they provide a structure that can serve as a shareable object of thought; they create persistent referents; they facilitate re- representation; they are often a more natural representation of (...)
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  7. David Kirsh (2009). Problem Solving and Situated Cognition. The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition:264-306.
    In the course of daily life we solve problems often enough that there is a special term to characterize the activity and the right to expect a scientific theory to explain its dynamics. The classical view in psychology is that to solve a problem a subject must frame it by creating an internal representation of the problem’s structure, usually called a problem space. This space is an internally generable representation that is mathematically identical to a graph structure with nodes and (...)
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  8. David Kirsh (2010). Thinking with the Body. Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (T):176-194.
    To explore the question of physical thinking – using the body as an instrument of cognition – we collected extensive video and interview data on the creative process of a noted choreographer and his company as they made a new dance. A striking case of physical thinking is found in the phenomenon of marking. Marking refers to dancing a phrase in a less than complete manner. Dancers mark to save energy. But they also mark to explore the tempo of a (...)
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  9.  79
    David Kirsh (2009). Problem Solving and Situated Cognition. In Philip Robbins & M. Aydede (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. Cambridge 264--306.
    In the course of daily life we solve problems often enough that there is a special term to characterize the activity and the right to expect a scientific theory to explain its dynamics. The classical view in psychology is that to solve a problem a subject must frame it by creating an internal representation of the problem‘s structure, usually called a problem space. This space is an internally generable representation that is mathematically identical to a graph structure with nodes and (...)
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  10. David Kirsh (2004). Metacognition, Distributed Cognition and Visual Design. Cognition, Education and Communication Technology:147--180.
    Metacognition is associated with planning, monitoring, evaluating and repairing performance Designers of elearning systems can improve the quality of their environments by explicitly structuring the visual and interactive display of learning contexts to facilitate metacognition. Typically page layout, navigational appearance, visual and interactivity design are not viewed as major factors in metacognition. This is because metacognition tends to be interpreted as a process in the head, rather than an interactive one. It is argued here, that cognition and metacognition are part (...)
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  11. David Kirsh (2001). The Context of Work. Human-Computer Interaction 16:305-322.
    The question of how to conceive and represent the context of work is explored from the theoretical perspective of distributed cognition. It is argued that to understand the office work context we need to go beyond tracking superficial physical attributes such as who or what is where and when and consider the state of digital resources, people’s concepts, task state, social relations, and the local work culture, to name a few. In analyzing an office more deeply, three concepts are especially (...)
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  12. David Kirsh (2006). Explaining Artifact Evolution. Cognitive Life of Things.
    Much of a culture’s history – its knowledge, capacity, style, and mode of material engagement – is encoded and transmitted in its artifacts. Artifacts crystallize practice; they are a type of meme reservoir that people interpret though interaction. So, in a sense, artifacts transmit cognition; they help to transmit practice across generations, shaping the ways people engage and encounter their world. So runs one argument.
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  13. David Kirsh, Jim Hollan & Edwin Hutchins (2000). Distributed Cognition, Toward a New Foundation for Human-Computer Interaction Research. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 7 (2):174-196.
    We are quickly passing through the historical moment when people work in front of a single computer, dominated by a small CRT and focused on tasks involving only local information. Networked computers are becoming ubiquitous and are playing increasingly significant roles in our lives and in the basic infrastructure of science, business, and social interaction. For human-computer interaction o advance in the new millennium we need to better understand the emerging dynamic of interaction in which the focus task is no (...)
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  14. David Kirsh (1995). The Intelligent Use of Space. Artificial Intelligence 73:31-68.
    The objective of this essay is to provide the beginning of a principled classification of some of the ways space is intelligently used. Studies of planning have typically focused on the temporal ordering of action, leaving as unaddressed questions of where to lay down instruments, ingredients, work-in-progress, and the like. But, in having a body, we are spatially located creatures: we must always be facing some direction, have only certain objects in view, be within reach of certain others. How we (...)
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  15.  82
    David Kirsh (2006). Distributed Cognition: A Methodological Note. Pragmatics and Cognition 14 (2):249-262.
    Humans are closely coupled with their environments. They rely on being `embedded' to help coordinate the use of their internal cognitive resources with external tools and resources. Consequently, everyday cognition, even cognition in the absence of others, may be viewed as partially distributed. As cognitive scientists our job is to discover and explain the principles governing this distribution: principles of coordination, externalization, and interaction. As designers our job is to use these principles, especially if they can be converted to metrics, (...)
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  16. David Kirsh (2009). Projection, Problem Space and Anchoring. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society:2310-2315.
    When people make sense of situations, illustrations, instructions and problems they do more than just think with their heads. They gesture, talk, point, annotate, make notes and so on. What extra do they get from interacting with their environment in this way? To study this fundamental problem, I looked at how people project structure onto geometric drawings, visual proofs, and games like tic tac toe. Two experiments were run to learn more about projection. Projection is a special capacity, similar to (...)
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  17. David Kirsh (1996). Adapting the Environment Instead of Oneself. Adaptive Behavior 4 (3/4):415-452.
    This article examines some of the methods used by animals and humans to adapt their environment. Because there are limits on the number of different asks a creature can be designed to do well in, creatures with the capacity to redesign their environments have an adaptive advantage over those who can adapt only passively to existing environmental structures. To clarify environmental redesign, I rely on the formal notion of a task environment as a directed graph in which the nodes are (...)
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  18.  91
    David Kirsh (1995). The Intelligent Use of Space. Artificial Intelligence 73:31-68.
    The objective of this essay is to provide the beginning of a principled classification of some of the ways space is intelligently used. Studies of planning have typically focused on the temporal ordering of action, leaving as unaddressed, questions of where to lay down instruments, ingredients, work-in-progress, and the link. But, in having a body, we are spatially located creatures: we must always be facing some direction, have only certain objects in view, but be within reach of certain others. How (...)
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  19. David Kirsh (2010). Thinking With External Representations. AI and Society 25 (4):441-454.
    Why do people create extra representations to help them make sense of situations, diagrams, illustrations, instructions and problems? The obvious explanation— external representations save internal memory and com- putation—is only part of the story. I discuss seven ways external representations enhance cognitive power: they change the cost structure of the inferential landscape; they provide a structure that can serve as a shareable object of thought; they create persistent referents; they facilitate re- representation; they are often a more natural representation of (...)
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  20. David Kirsh (1995). Complementary Strategies: Why We Use Our Hands When We Think. Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (T):161-175.
    A complementary strategy can be defined as any organizing activity which recruits external elements to reduce cognitive loads. Typical organizing activities include pointing, arranging the position and orientation of nearby objects, writing things down, manipulating counters, rulers or other artifacts that can encode the state of a process or simplify perception. To illustrate the idea of a complementary strategy, a simple experiment was performed in which subjects were asked to determine the dollar value of collections of coins. In the no-hands (...)
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  21. David Kirsh (2009). Interaction, External Representation and Sense Making. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society:1103-1108.
    Why do people create extra representations to help them make sense of situations, diagrams, illustrations, instructions and problems? The obvious explanation – external representations save internal memory and computation – is only part of the story. I discuss eight ways external representations enhance cognitive power: they provide a structure that can serve as a shareable object of thought; they create persistent referents; they change the cost structure of the inferential landscape; they facilitate re-representation; they are often a more natural representation (...)
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  22. David Kirsh (1992). PDP Learnability and Innate Knowledge of Language. Connectionism 3:297-322.
    It is sometimes argued that if PDP networks can be trained to make correct judgements of grammaticality we have an existence proof that there is enough information in the stimulus to permit learning grammar by inductive means alone. This seems inconsistent superficially with Gold's theorem and at a deeper level with the fact that networks are designed on the basis of assumptions about the domain of the function to be learned. To clarify the issue I consider what we should learn (...)
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  23. David Kirsh (2010). Comparing Tangible and Virtual Exploration of Archaeological Objects. Cyber-Archaeology:119-124.
    Can virtual engagement enable the sort of interactive coupling with objects enjoyed by archaeologists who are physically present at a site? To explore this question I consider three points: 1) Tangible interaction: What role does encounter by muscle and sinew play in experiencing and understanding objects? 2) Thinking with things. What sorts of interactions are involved when we manipulate things to facilitate thought? 3) Projection and imagination. Archaeological inquiry involves processes beyond perception. Material engagement of things stimulates these processes. What (...)
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  24. David Kirsh (1999). Distrubuted Cognition, Coordination and Environmental Design. Proceedings of the European Conference on Cognitive Science.
    The type of principles which cognitive engineers need to design better work environments are principles which explain interactivity and distributed cognition: how human agents interact with themselves and others, their work spaces, and the resources and constraints that populate those spaces. A first step in developing these principles is to clarify the fundamental concepts of environment, coordination, and behavioural function. Using simple examples, I review changes the distributed perspective forces on these basic notions.
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  25.  90
    David Kirsh (1990). When is Information Explicitly Represented? In Philip P. Hanson (ed.), Information, Language and Cognition. University of British Columbia Press
  26. David Kirsh (1997). Interactivity and Multimedia Interfaces. Instructional Science 25:79-96.
    Multimedia technology offers instructional designers an unprecedented opportunity to create richly interactive learning environments. With greater design freedom comes complexity. The standard answer to the problems of too much choice, disorientation, and complex navigation is thought to lie in the way we design interactivity in a system. Unfortunately, the theory of interactivity is at an early state of development. After critiquing the decision cycle model of interaction—the received theory in human computer interaction—I present arguments and observational data to show that (...)
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  27. David Kirsh (2011). Creative Cognition in Choreography. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Computational Creatifity.
    Contemporary choreography offers a window onto creative processes that rely on harnessing the power of sensory sys- tems. Dancers use their body as a thing to think with and their sensory systems as engines to simulate ideas non- propositionally. We report here on an initial analysis of data collected in a lengthy ethnographic study of the making of a dance by a major choreographer and show how translating between different sensory modalities can help dancers and choreographer to be more creative.
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  28. David Kirsh (2003). Implicit and Explicit Representation. Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science 2:478–481.
    The degree to which information is encoded explicitly in a representation is related to the computational cost of recovering or using the information. Knowledge that is implicit in a system need not be represented at all, even implicitly, if the cost of recurring it is prohibitive.
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  29.  43
    David Kirsh (2010). Thinking with the Body. Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (T):176-194.
    To explore the question of physical thinking – using the body as an instrument of cognition – we collected extensive video and interview data on the creative process of a noted choreographer and his company as they made a new dance. A striking case of physical thinking is found in the phenomenon of marking. Marking refers to dancing a phrase in a less than complete manner. Dancers mark to save energy. But they also mark to explore the tempo of a (...)
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  30. David Kirsh (2011). Situating Instructions. European Perspectives on Cognitive Science.
    A videographic study of origami is presented in which subjects were observed making four different origami objects under five modes of instruction: photos + captions, illustrations-only, illustrations with small captions, illustrations with large captions, and text-only as control. The objective of the study was to explore the gestures and other actions that subjects produce as they try to follow instructions rather than to determine the most effective style of instruction per se. We found that the task of situating instructions to (...)
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  31. David Kirsh (2011). How Marking in Dance Constitutes Thinking with the Body. The External Mind:183-214.
    In dance, there is a practice called ‘marking’. When dancers mark, they execute a dance phrase in a simplified, schematic or abstracted form. Based on our interviews with professional dancers in the classical, modern, and contemporary traditions, it is fair to assume that most dancers mark in the normal course of rehearsal and practice. When marking, dancers use their body-in-motion to represent some aspect of the full-out phrase they are thinking about. Their stated reason for marking is that it saves (...)
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  32. David Kirsh (1996). Adapting the Environment Instead of Oneself. Adaptive Behavior 4 (3-4):415-452.
    This paper examines some of the methods animals and humans have of adapting their environment. Because there are limits on how many different tasks a creature can be designed to do well in, creatures with the capacity to redesign their environments have an adaptive advantage over those who can only passively adapt to existing environmental structures. To clarify environmental redesign I rely on the formal notion of a task environment as a directed graph where the nodes are states and the (...)
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  33. David Kirsh (2009). Knowledge, Explicit Vs Implicit. Oxford Companion to Consciousness:397-402.
    In the scientific study of mind a distinction is drawn between explicit knowledge— knowledge that can be elicited from a subject by suitable inquiry or prompting, can be brought to consciousness, and externally expressed in words—and implicit knowledge—knowledge that cannot be elicited, cannot be made directly conscious, and can- not be articulated. Michael Polanyi (1967) argued that we usually ‘know more than we can say’. The part we can articulate is explicitly known; the part we cannot is implicit.
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  34.  80
    David Kirsh, P. Maglio, T. Matlock, D. Raphaely & B. Chernicky (1999). Interactive Skill in Scrabble. Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
    An experiment was performed to test the hypothesis that people sometimes take physical actions to make themselves more effective problem solvers. The task was to generate all possible words that could be formed from seven Scrabble letters. In one condition, participants could use their hands to manipulate the letters, and in another condition, they could not. Results show that more words were generated with physical manipulation than without. However, an interaction was obtained between the physical manipulation conditions and the specific (...)
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  35.  64
    David Kirsh (2009). Interaction, External Representation and Sense Making. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society:1103-1108.
    Why do people create extra representations to help them make sense of situations, diagrams, illustrations, instructions and problems? The obvious explanation – external representations save internal memory and computation – is only part of the story. I discuss eight ways external representations enhance cognitive power: they provide a structure that can serve as a shareable object of thought; they create persistent referents; they change the cost structure of the inferential landscape; they facilitate re-representation; they are often a more natural representation (...)
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  36. David Kirsh (2011). How Marking in Dance Constitutes Thinking with the Body. The External Mind:183-214.
    In dance, there is a practice called ‘marking’. When dancers mark, they execute a dance phrase in a simplified, schematic or abstracted form. Based on our interviews with professional dancers in the classical, modern, and contemporary traditions, it is fair to assume that most dancers mark in the normal course of rehearsal and practice. When marking, dancers use their body-in-motion to represent some aspect of the full-out phrase they are thinking about. Their stated reason for marking is that it saves (...)
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  37. David Kirsh, L. A. Lenert, W. G. Griswold, C. Buono, J. Lyon, R. Rao & T. C. Chan (2011). Design and Evaluation of a Wireless Electronic Health Records System for Field Care in Mass Casualty Settings. Journal of the American Medical Informatic Association 18 (6):842-852.
    There is growing interest in the use of technology to enhance the tracking and quality of clinical information available for patients in disaster settings. This paper describes the design and evaluation of the Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters (WIISARD).
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  38. David Kirsh (1992). When is Information Explicitly Represented? The Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science:340-365.
    Computation is a process of making explicit, information that was implicit. In computing 5 as the solution to ∛125, for example, we move from a description that is not explicitly about 5 to one that is. We are drawing out numerical consequences to the description ∛125. We are extracting information implicit in the problem statement. Can we precisely state the difference between information thati s implicit in a state, structure or process and information that is explicit?
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  39. David Kirsh & Paul Maglio (1992). Perceptive Actions in Tetris. Proceedings of the AAAI Spring Symposium.
    Cognitive organisms have three rather different techniques for intelligently regulating their intake of environmental information. In order of the time needed to uncover information they are: 1. control of attention: within an image produced by a given sensor certain elements can be selected for additional processing; 2. control of gaze: the orientation and resolution (center of foveation) of the sensor can be regulated to create a new image; 3. control of activity: certain non-perceptual actions can be performed to increase the (...)
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  40. David Kirsh (2005). Multi-Tasking and Cost Structure, Implications for Design. Proceedings of the 27th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society:1143-1148.
    I argue that it is not possible to accurately represent our task settings as close environments with a single well defined cost structure. Natural environments are places where many things are done, often at the same time, and often by many people. To appreciate the way such invariants of everyday life affect design I present a case study, a micro-analysis of espresso making at Starbucks to show the challenges facing a cost structure approach.
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  41. David Kirsh (2011). Impact of Wireless Electronic Medical Record System on the Quality of Patient Documentation by Emergency Field Responders During a Disaster Mass-Casualty Exercise. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine 26 (4):268-275.
    The use of wireless, electronic, medical records and communications in the prehospital and disaster field is increasing. Objective: This study examines the role of wireless, electronic, medical records and com- munications technologies on the quality of patient documentation by emergency field responders during a mass-casualty exercise.
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  42. David Kirsh (2001). Changing the Rules: Architecture and the New Millennium. Convergence 7 (2):113-125.
    Architecture is about to enter its first magical phase: a time when buildings actively co-operate with their inhabitants; when objects know what they are, where they are, what is near them; when social and physical space lose their type coupling; when wall and partitions change with mood and task. As engineers and scientists explore how to digitse the world around us, the classical constraints of design, ruled so long by the physics of space, time, and materials, are starting to crumble. (...)
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  43.  15
    David Kirsh (1991). Today the Earwig, Tomorrow Man? Artificial Intelligence 47:161-184.
    A startling amount of intelligent activity can be controlled without reasoning or thought. By tuning the perceptual system to task relevant properties a creature can cope with relatively sophisticated environments without concepts. There is a limit, however, to how far a creature without concepts can go. Rod Brooks, like many ecologically oriented scientists, argues that the vast majority of intelligent behaviour is concept-free. To evaluate this position I consider what special benefits accrue to concept-using creatures. Concepts are either necessary for (...)
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  44. David Kirsh (2012). Running It Through the Body. Proceedings of the 34th Annual Cognitive Science Society.
    Video data from three large captures of choreographic dance making was analyzed to determine if there is a difference between participant knowledge – the knowledge an agent acquires by being the cause of an action – and observer knowledge – the knowledge an observer acquires through close attention to someone else’s performance. The idea that there might be no difference has been challenged by recent findings about the action observation network and tacitly challenged by certain tenets in enactive perception. We (...)
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  45.  33
    David Kirsh (2009). Projections, Problem Space, and Anchoring. In N. A. Taatgen & H. van Rijn (eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. 2310--2315.
    When people make sense of situations, illustrations, instructions and problems they do more than just think with their heads. They gesture, talk, point, annotate, make notes and so on. What extra do they get from interacting with their environment in this way? To study this fundamental problem, I looked at how people project structure onto geometric drawings, visual proofs, and games like tic tac toe. Two experiments were run to learn more about projection. Projection is a special capacity, similar to (...)
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  46.  94
    David Kirsh (2011). Impact of Wireless Electronic Medical Record System on the Quality of Patient Documentation by Emergency Field Responders During a Disaster Mass-Casualty Exercise. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine 26 (4):268-275.
    The use of wireless, electronic, medical records and communications in the prehospital and disaster field is increasing. Objective: This study examines the role of wireless, electronic, medical records and com- munications technologies on the quality of patient documentation by emergency field responders during a mass-casualty exercise.
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  47.  83
    David Kirsh & P. Maglio (1992). Some Epistemic Benefits of Action-Tetris, a Case Study. Proceedings of the 14th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
    We present data and argument to show that in Tetris—a real-time interactive video game—certain cognitive and perceptual problems are more quickly, easily, and reliably solved by performing actions in the world rather than by performing computational actions in the head alone. We have found that some translations and rotations are best understood as being used to implement a plan, or to implement a reaction. To substantiate our position we have implemented a computational laboratory that lets us record keystrokes and game (...)
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  48.  95
    David Kirsh, Richard Caballero & Shannon Cuykendall (2012). When Doing the Wrong Thing is Right. Proceedings of the 34th Annual Cognitive Science Society.
    We designed an experiment to explore the learning effectiveness of three different ways of practicing dance movements. To our surprise we found that partial modeling, called marking in the dance world, is a better method than practicing the complete phrase, called practicing full-out; and both marking and full-out are better methods than practicing by repeated mental simulation. We suggest that marking is a form of practicing a dance phrase aspect-by-aspect. Our results also suggest that prior work on learning by observation (...)
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  49.  96
    David Kirsh, K. Skundergard & N. Dahlback (2012). Maps in the Head and Maps in the Hand. Proceedings of the 34th Annual Cognitive Science Society.
    Using the perspective of situated cognition we studied how people interact with a physical map to help them navigate through an unfamiliar environment. The study used a mixture of cognitive ethnography and traditional experimental methods. We found that the difference between high and low performing navigators showed up in the speed they completed their task and also in the way they use maps. High performers plan routes using a survey method whereas low performers use a route strategy. We suggest that (...)
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  50.  73
    David Kirsh (2005). Metacognition, Distributed Cognition and Visual Design. In Peter Gardenfors, Petter Johansson & N. J. Mahwah (eds.), Cognition, education, and communication technology. Erlbaum Associates 147--180.
    Metacognition is associated with planning, monitoring, evaluating and repairing performance Designers of elearning systems can improve the quality of their environments by explicitly structuring the visual and interactive display of learning contexts to facilitate metacognition. Typically page layout, navigational appearance, visual and interactivity design are not viewed as major factors in metacognition. This is because metacognition tends to be interpreted as a process in the head, rather than an interactive one. It is argued here, that cognition and metacognition are part (...)
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