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A book review of HCI Redux: The Promise of Post-Cognitive Interaction by Phil Turner

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Phil Turner wrote the book that was needed. Human-computer interaction field has been since its inception influenced heavily by cognitive science and its paradigm of „cognitivism“ that views the human mind through the metaphor of a computer processor, more specifically as an information-processing unit. However cognitivism as a paradigm has been attacked by many. For example, Hubert Dreyfus, Lucy Suchman and Terry Winograd with Fernando Flores wrote important works criticizing cognitivism and its lacking conceptions of context, society, culture and in general „being-in-the-world“ that are, nevertheless, crucial in interpreting everyday’s actions of human beings.

The books presents the overview of cognitivism, followed by individual postcognitivistic approaches such as embodied/extended/enactive/distributed mind or activity theory. All of them share the view that to understand interaction with technology, we need to deal with contextual factors. Moreover, they all agree that technology plays an important part in our coping with everyday situations and mediating our relation with the world. Technology in the view of postcognitivistic approaches is not a passive brick sitting on our tables, but something that actively shapes our minds and thinking. It enables us to do things otherwise inconceivable for us.

Overall, Phil Turner wrote the book that is a primer for anyone who starts or is already deeply focused on the theoretical approaches to HCI. The HCI fields is becoming truly important, because in the age of ubiquitous computing, internet of things, information and network society, we are immersed in technology with computational capabilities and interfaces. Human-computer interaction therefore has become something of „human-technology-world“ interaction. And for such a leap, new paradigms are needed. Technology is deeply interwoven into our lives, therefore it seems that HCI field starts to become a universal lens through which we can analyze society and humanity at large. Philosophers and theoreticians such as Gilbert Simondon, Vilém Flusser or recently Benjamin Bratton argued forcefully that to analyze society, traditional methods in sociology are no longer sufficient, because increasingly humans interact more with technology than other humans, or the human-human interaction is almost always mediated by technology. To understand our society, we need to understand our relation to technology. Because the old dictum is relevant more than ever: the medium is the message.