Semiotics is the study of sign and symbol systems and their media of implementation. When we consider the context in which design is studied for cognitive-symbolic technologies in this class we can make inferences on how communication plays an essential role in both enabling design for both the designer and the user of designed technology.
What we are trying to achieve and how are we going to achieve it might be two good questions to ask when thinking about human-centered design. Knowing how humans communicate and the conditions that are central to achieving understanding is important in this case. We must also consider how language (including signs and gestures) is changing the way we communicate – with ourselves first and then with technology because symbolic cognition fundamentally means ‘to represent to oneself, the thing through words and without forming a representation of the thing itself’. It is easy to observe how technological advancements have shown great desire to help us articulate and communicate even more consciously taking the way we think (cognition in the brain) and using this as a framework for making representations of everyday signs, reflexes, and languages that we use for communication. These are then crafted into the core functions and operations of many technologies with hopes that we can replicate human functions in technology.
When we look at computational and media technologies as “cognitive technologies” or “symbolic-cognitive artifacts” we are putting our human needs in front and combining how we might experience the designed technology a lot deeper than the push of a button. For example, in designing a smart home one can assume the need to switch off/on several lights without walking around to many switches placed around the home – how would you rather switch lights off/on more conveniently? The technology stays the same (switches are switches) but the experience considers how to switch lights off/on more conveniently and here we embed motion sensors or use hand gestures as in the case for wireless switches or other ‘smart’ switch technology.
“The tools which man has invented are powerful influences in determining the course of civilized life. Through the long ages, while man has been inventing tools and learning to use them, his mode of individual reaction has been undergoing a change” C. H. Judd (1926). This statement helps explain why we might feel connected to old methods in news forms when appreciating new/ modern technology since the only thing changing is how we do things and not the things we are doing. A technology like Uber Eats App or a Period tracker enables personalization over time to imitate the user’s choices all recorded by the user and calculated ( this refers to computation in cognitive-symbolic technologies) to match our reality. Using the regular/normal process in a backward flow, we can see how these apps are now considering human needs at the core of their design.
Michael Cole, On Cognitive Artifacts From Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. pg 109
Leont’ev A.N (?1979) The making of mind: A personal account of Soviet psychology. M Cole & S.Cole, Eds. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Andy Clark, Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extention (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA, 2008)