Week 8: Situated Action

This week, we dedicated the whole session to examining Lucy Suchman’s argument in ‘Huma-Machine Reconfigurations’, the second edition of her seminal book ‘Plans and Situated Action’. After breifly discussing the chapter I gave you to read, we discussed the reading as a group. We considered a number of points in this discussion, including:

  • What a ‘plan’ is in it’s tradition sense (i.e. a set of steps to reach a goal), and how this relates to the ‘planning model of human action’, and cognitive science
  • How Suchman reconsidered plans (as ‘resources’ rather than ‘engines’)
  • The methods that Suchman employed in her enquiries (ethnomethodology & conversation analysis), and what this entails (looking ‘just here, just now’)
  • The role of culture in our understanding of machines, and how in this view, everything is a bounded, cultural object

I was thrilled almost all of you put yourself on the ‘sound understanding’ end of our learning spectrum – but I realise that on one level these are quite hard, theoretical ideas, and it’s easy to get them wrong (as Suchman’s chapter indicates!) So if you are thinking of talking about Plans and Situated Action in your final assignment, I’d recommend you write a blogpost about it so you can sense check your understanding.

For the final part of the session I posed three ‘critical questions’ to you, which led to some really excellent summaries and discussions:

Colin, Andrew & Bob on ‘What are Plans?’ (both ‘traditional’ and ‘Suchman’ – which they define really nicely)

Agata, Sami & Irina on ‘What is Situated Action’ (featuring exciting graphics & Sami’s upcoming book). Important here is ‘situated’ is a descriptor for ‘action’, i.e. action is always situated.

Hattie, Alexandra & Peter on ‘How we communicate with machines’ (featuring a cameo from Embodied Interaction & some problematising of the question)

Adam, Jack and Vasilis on ‘Can we make a ‘truly’ interactive machine’ (a question which was completely torn to shreds!)

Groups for Next Week:

Four groups for next week:

Agata, Sami, Irina – Crowdwork

Hattie, Alexandra, Peter – Facebook

Colin, Jack, Vas – Twitter

Andrew, Bob, Adam, Mohaan – ‘Pics and Vids’

There’s a paper each for you in the relevant OneDrive Folders – please split up the reading up between your group so that you read a paper each.

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