Profile picture
jelle van dijk 🌍 @theblub
, 15 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
#dailyquote #embodiment #interaction


Today a famous quote from Lucy Suchman, and also some later reflection of herself on this passage from her book "Plans and Situated Actions" (1987).

It deals with the concept of (mental) plans for action.

The quote goes like this:
"the efficiency of plans as representations comes precisely
from the fact that they do not represent those practices and circumstances
in all of their concrete detail.
So, for example, in planning to
run a series of rapids in a canoe, one is very likely to sit for a while
above the falls and plan one’s descent.
The plan might go something
like “I’ll get as far over to the left as possible, try to make it between
those two large rocks, then backferry hard to the right to make it around
that next bunch.” ..
A great deal of deliberation, discussion, simulation,
and reconstruction may go into such a plan. But however detailed, the
plan stops short of the actual business of getting your canoe through
the falls. ..
When it really comes down to the details of responding to currents
and handling a canoe, you effectively abandon the plan and fall
back on whatever embodied skills are available to you...
the purpose
of the plan in this case is not to get your canoe through the rapids, but
rather to orient you in such a way that you can obtain the best possible
position from which to use those embodied skills on which, in the final
analysis, your success depends."
[Simon and Vera later criticized Suchman for the suggestion that plans do nothing - that you 'effectively abandon them' when it comes down to it. To which Suchman responded in the later edition of the book, called "Human Machine Configurations", both in ch 1 & in this footnote:
"This phrasing is unfortunate, in suggesting that the plan is somehow jettisoned [.] better to say .. your ability to act according to the plan ultimately turns on the embodied skills available to you in situ, which are themselves presupposed, rather than specified, by the plan."
In chapter 1 she discusses the issue more in detail:

"My discussion of the canoeing example was meant to emphasize both
the utility of projecting future actions and the reliance of those projections
on a further horizon of activity that they do not exhaustively specify.
The case of whitewater canoeing seemed to me to offer a perspicuous
example of both. My choice of wording has clearly contributed to the
reading of my argument as saying that the plan is irrelevant once one is
in the water.
This despite the fact that the surrounding text makes clear
that I take both the projected course and the work done within the rapids
to be crucial. Again, the interesting question is just how the activity of
projecting a course has its effects in the subsequent activity ..
..of finding one in situ.

It is those effects, understood as a situated achievement of
the very same course of action that the plan projects, that constitute the
plan’s practical adequacy as an orienting device for action."

End of thread.
Afterthought: What is important in Suchman's analysis, is that plans are not something in the "mind", dissociated from "the body in action" and in effect copying the body in action by representing it internally and prescribing what it should do - ...
- plans are artifacts (scaffolds, guiding structures) that exist *in the practice* and they do their own specific work that complements, and 'lives on top of' what the lived body in action is itself already doing (and would be doing, even if their never would have been any plan).
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to jelle van dijk 🌍
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!