Social Cognition, Stigmergy, and Artefacts: A Comparative Analysis of Theoretical Frameworks for the Study of Computer-mediated Collaborative Activity

by Susi, Tarja

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis aims to compare different theoretical frameworks for the study of the role of artefacts in mediating interactions between agents and their environments. More specifically, three interactive cognitive theories with a focus on agent-environment interaction, activity theory, situated action, and distributed cognition, are compared to the theory of stigmergy, originally introduced to explain the "coordination paradox" in social insect behaviour, i.e., the emergence of a coordinated behaviour from seemingly uncoordinated individual activity.All of the above cognitive theories have individually been suggested as suitable frameworks for the study of human-computer interaction and/or computer-supported cooperative work, where a similar coordination paradox can be observed in many cases. These theories are therefore compared to each other, and to the concept of stigmergy, with focus on four key elements common to all theories: agents, artefacts, environment, and shared activity.The conclusion is that, despite obvious differences in human and insect behaviour, and despite the fact that the individual theories have been developed in very different historical contexts, there are many common principles, which should be investigated further in order to develop an integrated theoretical framework of study for the study of artefact-mediated collective activity in general, and computer-supported collaboration in particular.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Högskolan i Skövde

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:activity theory situated action distributed cognition stigmergy computer supported cooperative work artefacts social interactions


Date of Publication:01/11/2008

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