Social Cognition and Interactive Expertise in Natural and Computational Environments
SCIENCElab is building a translational cognitive science of visual information systems.
Areas as diverse as finance and business intelligence, education, transportation safety, freedom from crime and the threat of terrorism, public health, and environmental protection require the creation of information systems that support human cognitive processes such as learning and discovery, insight, creativity, reasoning and problem solving, coordination, and communication and that enable those innately human abilities to function at their best in information spaces that may include large volumes of data that are confusing, complex and uncertain.
These applications require technologies that support the blending of human cognitive abilities with computational processes. This in turn demands design methodologies that encorporate and advance a new translational cognitive science of human-information interaction. This new science must address research questions that emerge from field studies of "cognition in the wild'-- at different stages of cognitive development, by aging and handicapped individuals, as well as by expert decision makers across a broad range of domains and situations. It must be precise enough to effectively guide technology builders, interaction designers, managers and trainers of a new generation of computationally-sophisticated decision makers. Finally, it must be operationalized in new design methodologies.
In SCIENCE lab we often start with cognitive ethnography. A trained observer is embedded with the decision-makers in the environment in which they work— in the field, office, etc. They observe and talk to the people there, taking lots of notes, recording video etc. These papers get reviewed by experts in the application area so we know we are on the right track.
Based on those reports we use cognitive engineering methods to develop information systems to better support those people in their situations to use data more effectively. The goal is to build a design language of cognitive phenomena and methods by which they can be shaped by dynamic and interactive visual information systems. These papers are reviewed by experts in information system and computer technology.
We then do laboratory studies and field experiment testing examining how people process information in technology-rich environments. These extend distributed cognition and visual cognition theory and methods to focus on how interactive visual information systems shape our thinking. These papers get reviewed by cognitive scientists. We use the results not only to guide system design, but also to help with training people to use those systems. From the perspective of the people making the decisions in the field we can say that have first learned from them, then done the science, then developed the systems, and finally evaluated them in lab and field.
In SCIENCElab, we have made it a priority for our research to be evaluated by knowledgable peer reviewers in each of our areas. Our lab studies and field experiments are evaluated by psychologists and other cognitive scientists, as is demonstrated by publications in Cognitive science, Psychonomics, and Association for Psychological Science conferences and journals. Our software and visualization work is evaluated by computing and engineering scholars for IEEE and ACM conferences and journals. The relevance and utility of my applications are reviewed by domain experts and demonstrated in conference publications in health, aerospace, and business information systems. The practical application of this work is also validated by engagement and funding from Boeing, General Motors, Nissan, NTT, MacDonald Dettwiler, Provincial Health Authorities, the World Bank, and the US Dept. of Homeland Security as well as two NSERC SPP grants and multiple Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems (MITACS) internship clusters.