A User Interface Can Change the Way We Think

In extreme cases, to use such an interface is to enter a new world, containing objects and actions unlike any you've previously seen. At first these elements seem strange. But as they become familiar, you internalize the elements of this world. Eventually, you become fluent, discovering powerful and surprising idioms, emergent patterns hidden within the interface. You begin to think with the interface, learning patterns of thought that would formerly have seemed strange, but which become second nature. The interface begins to disappear, becoming part of your consciousness. You have been, in some measure, transformed.


Most interfaces are not so striking. But the existence of such extreme examples poses a question: what qualities make an interface transformational?

To answer that question, it helps to consider another transformational technology, namely, language. Children acquire language in just a few years. It's remarkable to watch a child hear an unfamiliar word, then later speak that word aloud, and gradually come to use the word in more complex ways. Familiarity makes us take the process for granted, but it's marvellous that they can internalize an external phenomenon, and use it as a vehicle for their own thought.

Language is an example of a cognitive technology: an external artifact, designed by humans, which can be internalized, and used as a substrate for cognition. That technology is made up of many individual pieces – words and phrases, in the case of language – which become basic elements of cognition. These elements of cognition are things we can think with.


Folksonomies: technology cognition

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User Interface:FieldTerminology (0.856048 (positive:0.063247))

Cognition (0.946769): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mind (0.704603): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Thought (0.693000): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Psychology (0.691557): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Word (0.657247): dbpedia | freebase
Language (0.624624): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
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Phrase (0.548920): dbpedia | freebase
Sentence (0.534861): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Human (0.517873): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Reasoning (0.499839): dbpedia | opencyc
Cognitive science (0.472848): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mathematics (0.417679): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Internalization (0.409049): dbpedia | freebase
Externality (0.398018): dbpedia | freebase
Interface (0.391000): dbpedia | yago
Object-oriented programming (0.390466): dbpedia | freebase
Object (0.377638): dbpedia | freebase
Concepts in metaphysics (0.377259): dbpedia

 Thought as a Technology
Electronic/World Wide Web>Blog:  Nielsen, Michael (November 2016), Thought as a Technology, Retrieved on 2017-01-03
  • Source Material [cognitivemedium.com]
  • Folksonomies: new media cognition medium