Virtual Seminar: Human Interactivity and the Ecology of Problem-finding and Problem-solving


Sune Vork Steffensen
Centre for Human Interactivity
Institute of Language and Communication
University of Southern Denmark

As part of SLS 750, Social media, agency, and languaging (Instructor: Dr. DongpingZheng),  a virtual guest lecture will be provided by Dr. SuneSteffensen, Thursday Feb 28, 8-9:15pm Hawai’i time. Log in 15 minutes ahead of time in case of any technical problems. Email Dr. Zheng at or Twitt at @zhengdo on Twitter if technical support is needed. You will need to download the transcript in order to make sense of the virtual talk.

Those interested may attend the lecture and participate in discussion virtually by logging in to a virtual room in Blackboard Collaborate. This system can handle up to 100 viewers.

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In case your computer does not have Java installed, you can download it from (it works best if you run this java download first)

This talk presents an interactivity-based approach to human problem-solving in the wild. It introduces the notion of ‘interactivity’, defined as sense-saturated coordination that contributes to human action. On this view, interactivity is an ontological substrate that can be studied as interaction, as cognition, or as ecological niche production. While theoretically arguing in favor of a unified, anti-disciplinary approach to interactivity, it turns its attention to the cognitive ecology of human problem-solving. It does so by introducing a method of Cognitive Event Analysis that leads to a detailed analysis of how a problem in the wild is being solved. The analysis addresses the cognitive dynamics of how two persons in a work setting reach an insight into the nature of a problem, including the spatial organization of the workplace, the interbodily dynamics between the two participants (especially in relation to gaze and the manual handling of papers), and verbal patterns that prompts them to simulate how the problem appears to a third party. It is argued that human problem-solving is far less linear and planned than assumed in much work on the topic in cognitive science. Rather than problem-solving, it appears as solution-probing in a real-time. The cognitive trajectory to a viable solution is thus self-organized, unplanned, and on the edge of chaos.


Sune Vork Steffensen is Ph.D., Associate Professor, and Director of the Centre for Human Interactivity at the University of Southern Denmark. His field of research includes ecological linguistics, distributed cognition and human interactivity. For more than a decade he has contributed to the development of ecological linguistics through numerous publications, including joint work with Claire Kramsch. His current research combines interaction analysis, ecological linguistics and situated, distributed and systemic approaches in cognitive science. He is one of the pioneers of Cognitive Event Analysis, i.e. the study of how short-scale interbodily dynamics, constrained by large-scale, evolutionary, developmental and sociocultural patterns, enable agents and systems to achieve results. His main empirical interest is interactivity in organizational settings (primarily within the health sector), e.g. expertise, decision making and problem solving in complex sociocultural environments.