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Winograd and Flores Chapter 6: an EM perspective

Heidegger: "... our being in the world is not a detached reflection on the external world as present-at-hand, but exists in the readiness-to-hand of the world as it is unconcealed in our actions."

cf. James - immersion, the knower and the known, experience of conjunction, reality as made

cf EM

  • script in relation to an external experience
  • interpretation not abstract and immanent
  • dependency realised in action
  • may or may not fulfill expectation
James contemplating a more primitive state of affairs than Heidegger references here:
cf. being-in-the-world as a more fundamental state of being (see later)
breakdown = that situation in which we are unable to make a conjunction to which we have become habituated


Maturana - "our ability to function as observers is generated from our functioning as structure-determined systems, shaped by structural coupling"

cf. James: prior to systems

cf. EM

  • no clear intention / expectation
  • uncertainty, ignorance dominate
... but emergence of the functional relies on the discovering / crafting of context in just such a symbiotic way


W+F: refer to the importance of readiness-to-hand ("structural coupling"); "the designer must work in the domain generated by the space of all potential breakdowns"

  • definitive script becomes layered in just such a way that the potential breakdowns correspond to the least familiar and rehearsed actions
  • potential breakdowns at the margin
  • how much parts of script are exercised and acquire accustomed/familiar interpretations
  • surprise when expectation is confounded
cf. W+F: invoke user-friendliness in this connection - critique of the word 'user' - emphasis on goal orientation...

cf. the way in which traditional systems design approaches fault-tolerance - by adding behaviour

cf. EM scripts acquire behaviours by restricting / rationalising interactions with them and the associated interpretations

W+F: "action as primary"

cf. James bird perching + in flight [D1] / state-behaviour

"communicative acts that create requests and commitment"
... much more sophisticated than typical EM context:

cf. EM for the single agent: conjunctions in my own experience
... their potential role in communication as secondary

W+F orientation is towards a direct reinterpretation of language (in line with historical association between computing and formal language)
W+F interpret language operationally ("communicative acts") in line with classical program semantics

EM+James: language is a means to generating experience, but is not the primary focus:

interpreting a definitive script is associated with modelling the context + change through redefinition

... radically different ways to establish the fundamental connection with external semantics

W+F: "not naive ontology and epistemology"

W+F: M+H argue that "we can not talk coherently of an 'external' world", but are always concerned with the interpretation

H "begins with being-in-the-world, observing that present-at-hand objects emerge from a more fundamental state of being in which readiness-to-hand oesn't distinguish objects of properties"

M sees the nervous system as closed, argues against terms like 'perception' and 'information'

"M sees the presence of objects and properties as relevant only in a domain of distinctions made by an observer ... in the domain of biological mechanisms, they do not exist" cf. a "classification of experience" [C5]


  • script without objects and properties intrinsically
  • connections cross boundaries
  • objects as emergent from patterns of interaction - cf. heapsort


W+F: Not the manipulation of mental models or representations in the world

M touches directly on the issue of "what effects effectuation" [D2]:
"... while there is a domain of description (the cognitive domain) in which it is appopriate to talk about the correspondences between effective behaviour and the structure of the medium in which it takes place, we mustn't confuse this domain of description with the domain of the structural (biological) mechanisms that operates to produce behaviour"
Fruitless quest for representation in the nervous system - not just in relation to reflex action etc, but in respect of complex cognitive and linguistic activities (cf. Edelman)

H: "representation as a derivative phenomenon associated with the breakdown of concernful action"

cf. EM concern about the mechanics of the script "when it no longer works"

W+F: the representation hypothesis

cognition rests on the hypothesis that "the manipulation of symbolic representations can be understood as referring to the world" (well-represented in AI)
... key to computer systems

W+F characterise the kind of systematic domains that can be successfully treated in representational terms
cf. EM
  • not about systems
  • role of systems and representations as it emerges e,g. in heapsort

Overall: Heidegger's "classification of experience" is in a Jamesian spirit