Geraldine Fitzpatrick – Reflecting back on designers’ mental models – the power to influence?

(Vienna University of Technology – Institute for Design and Assessment of Technology)


The conference theme of ECCE 2014 refers to ‘cognition in the wild’ and how the various contexts involved in cognitive modeling can be revealed. The contexts that are noted – domain structures, task competences and learning capabilities – reflect the perspective of the researcher looking out to the domain and the users of interest. In this talk I want to turn the ‘in the wild’ mirror back onto ourselves as researchers and practitioners. A traditional way of talking about designer/researcher mental models is with respect to the system being designed, and the potential for mismatch between designer and user mental models about the system. Reflecting on some of our own past work, I will argue that there can also be much more subtle but powerful ways in which our mental models and conceptualisations matter. In telling some of our stories, the hope is to trigger more general reflections: What hidden assumptions and biases do we bring to how we conceptualise our domains or users, and that only reveal themselves when some unexpected mismatch arises ‘in the wild’? What ways are we unintentionally influencing, that we don’t even think to think about, in particular around sub-conscious processes that play out particularly ‘in the wild’ ? While the very point is that many of our most powerful mental models are hidden or implicit, there is also the potential for us to develop more reflective strategies to probe and help reveal these models, to better serve the domains and users of interest.

Markus Peschl – What affordance can teach us about enabling processes of knowledge creation

(University of Vienna)


Innovation and knowledge creation does not take place in a vacuum. Apart from communicating human cognitive systems we can find heavy interaction with the organizational environment, technology, architectural space, etc. The approach of Enabling Spaces takes this fact seriously and as its main point of departure for supporting knowledge processes, and in particular innovation processes.

J.J.Gibson describes his idea of affordance as something that the environment offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill. Following these theoretical lines as well as the approach of extended cognition from cognitive science, the concept of enabling (as opposed to managing or controlling) and an enabling environment for the context of knowledge work will be developed. The guiding question is how such environmental structures can facilitate our cognitive (and social) processes of knowledge creation, reflecting our mental models, etc. in various dimensions (epistemological, emotional, social, technological, cognitive, architectural, etc.). Theoretical foundations, a possible design process, as well as practical examples of such (built) Enabling Spaces will be presented (in the fields of innovation, office design, and universities).