Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cognition, Space, and Bears

I think I'm ready to move on beyond Cognition and Space after this...

Situated Action, Distributed Cognition, Activity Theory, and John go camping and meet a bear.

AT (subject) makes a plan (object) to go camping (activity). It gathers its camping gear, gets in the car (both mediating artifacts), and drives to the wilderness. When the bear shows up, AT makes a plan to plan to run. When the tree with the low branch appears on the path, AT plans to climb it.

DC gathers people and gear (artifacts) in order to be a camping system whose goal is to "go camping". There's a sleeping bag and pad and tent and camp stove and tarp and flashlight, bear spray, and a bunch of other artifacts designed for the goal of "camping". When the bear shows up, DC grabs the bear spray, and maybe a frying pan.

SA finds itself in a camping situation. That's okay -- SA is good at improvising. It'll use the sleeping bag and plastic wrap it found. When it finds itself being chased by a bear, it runs, sees a tree and climbs it.

John decides to go camping, he makes a plan like AT, gathers some stuff like DC, and given that he's a semi-forgetful sort, does without a few things, or improvises like SA. When the bear shows up, he panics for a moment but calms down and starts to plan out a better reaction. When the bear suddenly moves toward him, he forgets the plan and runs like hell. As he runs, he considers his options, and weighs them according to a number of factors including, but not limited to: logic and practicability, an assessment of his past performance and experience in similar situations, his state of panic, the affordances for flight or flight of the landscape that he's passing on his sprint, "things to do when meeting a bear" that he's read or heard of, rational and irrational fears fed by everything from Goldilocks to the bear expert that was mauled in Alaska not so long ago, the depletion of the endorphins and adrenaline, the shortening of the distance between the bear and him, and "Holy Wow! There's a tree I can climb!!" -- his plan is set.

2 Comments:

Blogger jmmathew said...

Was the bear starving or not? A recent study suggests that the only time that you play dead is when the bear is already well fed. Playing dead for a hungry bear makes their job a lot easier. It may be better for "john' to plan ahead and carry some dried beef around that he can throw to the hungry bears he encounters.

If they bear is protecting its space or its young playing dead probably does not solve the problem for "john" or the bear.

Also, don't forget that most of the bears that "john" will run into can run faster than him and climb trees too. Perhaps he could use the plastic that he brought along with him to improvise.

3:18 PM  
Blogger John Martin said...

Hmm...plastic wrap vs. a bear

If "john" were carrying the plastic wrap as he ran, he might be able to improvise with it. And maybe it was the dried beef that attracted the bear in the first place. No doubt "john" would lose the beef within seconds of his sprint.

3:31 PM  

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