Interaction Analysis

The Symbolic System Program
Stanford University
Professor Jeff Shrager (


In this course, we investigate how cognitive processes such as perception, learning, reasoning, and problem solving, inform the design and analysis of complex, interactive systems. We both study these important cognitive processes, and analyze the ways in which they operate in important real-world contexts. Major topics include: cognitive architectures, analysis of skilled performance, complex learning and discovery, adaptive and intelligent interfaces, user assistance systems, and special topics according to students' interests. We also try to consider issues related to overlooked populations, such as the elderly, people with special cognitive needs (e.g., dyslexia), and children.

The class takes place in an interactive discussion format, and participation in these discussions is crucial to the learning process. In addition to weekly readings, and small in- and out-of-class projects, students will produce a larger project examining interactive cognition in a real world setting of their own choosing. Although there are no formal prereqs., exposure to cognitive psychology and/or AI will be helpful.

Prep for 4/17: Problem Solving and Intro to Interpretation 

___ Read: Course Details Document

___ Read (or at least skim):

→ Bibby and Payne reading link [pdf]
→ Pitot/Static system and symptoms of blockage [link] (esp. read the section on blocked static ports).
→ Aircraft accident analysis of Aeroperu 603. [pdf]

Reading notes: First do a "quick read" of Bibby and Payne to get the idea of the device they are studying and the three sorts of device knowledge that they are investigating (diagram, procedures, table). Next study the online explanations of aircraft instruments, and the "pitot-static" system, esp. the section  on system malfunctions from blocked static ports. Try to get your own mental model of how they work. Finally, read the analysis of the crash of Aeroperu flight 603, from Aircraft Accident Analysis. Understand what happened as best you can, but really focus on what the pilots were saying; Try to imagine it as a play going on in the cockpit. (There are parts of this that are in "pilot speak", that you won't understand unless you are a pilot. That's okay; I promise that you'll get the idea!)

Some aircraft vocabulary: ATC = Air Traffic Control (i.e., Ground control). Transponder = A radio that automatically sends some information (esp. altitude) to ATC from the airplane. Stall = A plane has to fly above its "stall speed" to maintain lift and stay in the air. If it goes below this speed, it will simply fall out of the sky. Stick Shaker = A gizmo that physically shakes the pilot's steering wheel in order to indicate that the plane is flying too slowly, and is about to stall. (This is an interesting device because it physically simulates the feel of what would actually happen on a smaller airplane when you approach stall speed!) Radial = A compass point (the 360 radial is north, 090 radial is east, etc. If you are, for example, "thirty miles on the two seven zero (270) radial" you are thirty miles due west.) ILS = Instrument Landing System; A radio system, located at the airport, that provides precision altitude and distance information so pilots can land in bad weather. Vectors = Instructions from ATC telling lost pilots how to turn to get someplace. GPWS = Ground Proximity Warning System; A down-looking radar that yells "Too low; Terrain!", and "Pull up!" if you get too close to the ground. (Artificial) Horizon = Gyroscopic instrument that shows the plane's roll and pitch with respect to the ground. (Note that this does not depend upon the pitot/static system! It's just a gyroscope.) Flight director = A sort of combined electronic Horizon and autopilot that tells you how to fly a particular course.

Optional (but worth watching if you want to get a better sense of what this sort of accident entails): There are several interesting (in a horror movie sort of way) videos that depict various aspects of the Aeroperu accident, for example: [this one of the whole CVR] and [this one recreating the last few minutes of the flight]

___ Observational Activity:

Read Notes for the Standing Observational Activity.

Email me ( 1-2 paragraphs on each of two observations . (That is, 2-4 paragraphs all together.) 

(I strongly suggest just including the observations in the body of the email message, rather than attaching a separate document. If there are pictures, you can attach them.)