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thinking of the nature of ecology of mind

May 2, 2012

I have started some collaboration with Emanuele Bardone on defining ecology of mind.

Here are some initial thoughts and examples how to see ecology of mind in spatial terms.

There are some approaches that support cultural inheritance, ecological inheritance mechanisms, such as:

  • engineering web
Nontrophic and indirect interactions between species—that is, by the engineering web (Jones et al. 1994).
Jones, C. G., Lawton, G. H., & Shachak, M. (1994). Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos, 69, 373–386.
Jones, C. G., Lawton, G. H., & Shachak, M. (1997). Ecosystem engineering by organisms: Why semantics
matters. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 12, 275.
  • external memory field
External memory field is essentially a cognitive workspace external to biological memory (p.296-297)
The external memory field is a temporary arrangement of some of the material in external symbolic storage system, for the use of one person (p.306)
Individuals connected to cultural network can access and exterior memory bank, read its codes and contents, store new contributions in permanent form, and interact with other individuals who employ the same codes and access routes (p. 311-312).
Human minds float freely, without any apparent physical tie-in, either temporary or permanent, to cultural devices (p.312).
The brain may not have changed recently in its genetic makeup, but its link to an accumulating external memory networks affords it cognitive powers that would not have been possible in isolation. (p.312)
Each time when brain carries out an operation in concert with the external symbolic storage system, it becomes part of the network. Its memory structure is temporarily altered, and the locus of cognitive control changes. (p. 312)
we are permanently wedded to our great invention (…external memory…) in a cognitive symbiosis unique in nature (p.356)
…within the context of hybrid mental architecture...consciousness can take many forms..(p.368)
…in case of television, the viewer yealds control to the external system, the screen becoming the external memory field (p. 372)
Merlin Donald (1991). Origins of the Modern Mind.
  • cultural and ecological inheritance
Natural selection and cultural selection are both involved when the animal population is human.
NCT (niche construction theory) is sometimes referred to as “triple-inheritance theory” (genetic, cultural, and ecological inheritance; e.g., Odling-Smee et al. 1996, 2003; Laland et al. 1999, 2000, 2001; Day et al. 2003; Shennan 2006).
The niche-construction perspective stresses two legacies that organisms inherit from their ancestors, genes and a modified environment with its associated selection pressures. Genetic inheritance depends on the capacity of reproducing parent organisms to pass on replicas of their genes to their offspring. Ecological inheritance, however, does not depend on the presence of any environmental replicators, but merely on the persistence, between generations, of whatever physical changes are caused by ancestral organisms in the local selective environments of their descendants (Odling-Smee et al., 2003).

Odling-Smee, F.J., Laland, K.N., & Feldman, M.W. (2003). Niche Construction: The Neglected Process in Evolution. Monographs in Population Biology, 37, Princeton University Press.

  • ecological knowledge
Heft (2001) wrote that: “we engage a meaningful environment of affordances and refashion some aspects of them… These latter constructed embodiments of what is known – which include tools, artifacts, representations, social patterns of actions, and institutions – can be called ecological knowledge. Ecological knowledge through its various structural, material culture, human setting manifestations becomes an integral social and cultural part of ‘the environment’, with these social and cultural affordances constituting effective, largely material, forms of knowledge with their own functional significance, cultural transmission, and adaptation implications.”
Heft, H. (2001). Ecological psychology in context. : James Gibson, Roger Baker, and the legacy of William James’s radical empiricism. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
It also associates with the cultural interface  concept (Manovich, 2008).
  • cultural interface
Lev Manovich in Software takes control (2008), uses cultural interface concept to describe human-computer culture
The interface is habitually the crucial boundary, or zone of articulation and translation whenever a computer would communicate with technological devices or the human user
“Cultural interfaces”, not just the diverse software interfaces of new media but also the formal traits and user practices with the printed word and cinema, can migrate into, and become part of, the interfaces of new media.
“While operations [like selection] are embedded in software, they are not tied to it. They are employed no only within the computer but also in the social world outside it. They are not only ways of working within the computer but also in the social world outside it. They are… general ways of working, ways of thinking, ways of existing the computer age.”
  • distributed cognitive system
I had to analyze our IntelLEO project results (cross-organizational leaning and knowledge-building supported by technological services), and as we have considered that it may be seen as a distributed cognitive system.

Then i was thinking of the ways how locus of cognitive control was partially external:

- the system services support
- the offloaded contents (of the person, of other persons, from organizations/cultures), meta-structures of content that reveal big picture or crowd knowledge (aggregations such as tags, tagclouds, ontologies) or meta-level increased access to certain contents (mashups, networks)
- the social support (such as awareness, social(participatory) surveillance, peer-scaffolding by commenting, rating)
These associate with the three ecological principles as well.
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