Engineers think with stuff

January 19, 2010 at 10:22 am 1 comment

My colleague Nancy Nercessian has been studying how engineering scientists think, and the short form answer is, “With stuff.”  They use distributed cognition through the things in their lab in order to think through problems.

Nercessian began by posing the question, “How do engineering scientists think?” The resulting journal article in Topics in Cognitive Science quotes Daniel Dennett: “Just as you cannot do very much carpentry with your bare hands, there’s not much thinking you can do with your bare mind.”

via Are Engineers Creative Like We Are? | Psychology Today.

Famously, Edsger Dijkstra is quoted as having said “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.” Nancy’s results suggest that, while Dijkstra may be right that computer science is not about computers, a computer scientist can’t think without a computer.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Aaron Lanterman  |  January 21, 2010 at 4:21 am

    This automatically made be think of Ian Bogost’s “Platform Studies” and also his “Object-Oriented Ontology” (whatever the heck that is.)

    I was contemplating this quote: “Nancy’s results suggest that, while Dijkstra may be right that computer science is not about computers, a computer scientist can’t think without a computer.”
    I suspect it’s more like a computer scientists doesn’t have much reason to think about computer science without a computer. ;)

    Reply

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