The Knowledge Ecology: Exploring the Connection Between Information Flow and Extended Phenotype


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 08, 2023

4 min read


The Knowledge Ecology: Exploring the Connection Between Information Flow and Extended Phenotype

In today's digital age, our understanding of the world and the tools we use has evolved. We no longer see objects as static entities, but rather as nodes in a network of information flow. This shift in thinking, known as the Knowledge Ecology, allows us to see the interconnectedness between objects and how they contribute to the larger system.

Take, for example, a pencil and a person. On their own, they may seem like separate entities with distinct purposes. However, when we consider the flow of information between the two, we start to see a feedback loop. The person uses the pencil to write, and in turn, the pencil becomes an extension of the person's thoughts and ideas. Together, they form an extended-self system that can accomplish tasks neither could have done alone.

This concept can be applied to other scenarios as well. Think about a piano and a person playing it. Again, we see a feedback loop where the person's actions on the piano keys produce sound, and the sound, in turn, influences the person's playing. It is through this feedback loop that the person and the piano create a harmonious experience.

The idea of the extended phenotype, as proposed by Richard Dawkins, further emphasizes this interconnectedness. Dawkins argues that it is not the organism itself that is the unit of selection, but rather the genes that drive its behavior. The rest, including our own selves, is merely a vehicle for those genes. This decentering of the organism allows for the blending of one self-system into another, creating a complex web of interactions.

Drawing parallels from the world of technology, musician and producer Brian Eno once said, "the great benefit of computer sequencers is that they remove the issue of skill, and replace it with the issue of judgment." In other words, technology allows us to transcend our individual limitations and tap into a collective knowledge pool. It is through this collaboration of ideas and insights that we can create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Shifting our focus to UX design, we can see how the principles of the Knowledge Ecology can be applied. UX, or User Experience, is not just about the experience a user has while using a product, but rather the perception and response they have to it. In cognitive psychology, it is believed that humans unconsciously repeat a cycle of perception and response with each step of a task. This cycle encompasses changes in emotions, thoughts, and actions.

To enhance brand value and create a positive user experience, the field of UX design draws upon the knowledge system of behavioral economics, also known as "nudge." The process involves envisioning the ideal experience, defining the desired situation, behavior, and psychology, and then determining the touchpoints, functionalities, and performance needed to achieve that experience. This process is often referred to as "writing the ideal scenario."

What makes game UX design unique is its focus on creating fun and enjoyable experiences. But what exactly is "fun"? Fun can be seen as the result of a well-designed feedback loop, where the game encourages the player's input and responds with engaging feedback. It is the continuous flow of information between the player and the game that creates a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction.

Now that we understand the principles of the Knowledge Ecology and its application in UX design, let's explore three actionable pieces of advice to enhance the user experience:

  • 1. Embrace the Flow: When designing a product or experience, consider how the flow of information between the user and the system can be optimized. Create feedback loops that encourage engagement and provide meaningful responses. By focusing on the flow, you can create a seamless and enjoyable user experience.
  • 2. Think Beyond the Individual: Remember that the user is not an isolated entity but part of a larger system. Consider how your product or service can integrate and interact with other tools or platforms. By embracing the extended-self system, you can tap into a wider network of information and create a more holistic user experience.
  • 3. Balance Skill and Judgment: While technology can remove the barriers of skill, it is important to recognize the value of human judgment. Design your product or experience in a way that allows users to exercise their judgment and make meaningful choices. By finding the right balance between skill and judgment, you can create a more engaging and empowering user experience.

In conclusion, the Knowledge Ecology offers us a new perspective on the interconnectedness of objects and the flow of information between them. By shifting our focus from static entities to the dynamics of information, we can create more engaging and enjoyable user experiences. By embracing the principles of the Knowledge Ecology and following the actionable advice provided, you can enhance the user experience and create products that truly resonate with your audience.

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