The Informed Life with Karl Fast, part 1

Episode 69 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with my friend Karl Fast. Karl is an independent scholar, information architect, and futurist. He’s the co-author of one of my favorite books from last year, Figure It Out: Getting From Information to Understanding. (The book’s other co-author, Stephen P. Anderson, was my guest on episode 39.)

The conversation with Karl focused on “Interactionism,” a term he’s using to describe the emerging understanding of the role of interaction in cognition.

Where is the locus of understanding? Is it the app? Is it in the brain? Or is it more connected to all of these things? And what is it that connects these things? In the way that I’ve come to see it, I have come to see interaction as the fundamental thing that connects all of these together. And I’ve come to believe that we have a relatively weak way of talking about interaction or an understanding of all of the ways that it happens.

To understand what’s going on here, Karl walked us through the twin concepts of epistemic actions and pragmatic actions, which come from the cognitive science field. It’s deep stuff, and important to grok — especially for people who design for interaction.

Towards the end of our conversation, it was clear that we’d need more time. So, I’m trying something new with this show: we broke up our conversation in two parts. This episode includes part one; the second part will be out in two weeks, in episode 70. With this format tweak, I’m trying to strike a different balance between depth and length. (I always try to keep episodes close to 30 minutes.) I’d love to know what you think of this innovation.

As I noted on Twitter, one of the things I miss most about attending in-person conferences is the ability to have “hallway” discussions with my friends and colleagues. The Informed Life has given me the opportunity to have these conversations during the pandemic. This interview with Karl is a great example; I found it fascinating and insightful, and I hope you do too.

The Informed Life episode 69: Karl Fast on Interactionism, part 1