Article ID: CBB035408812

Japanese Reverse Compasses: Grounding Cognition in History and Society (2018)

unapi

An unusual compass, on which east and west are reversed, provides insight into the dynamics guiding our understanding of artifacts. By examining how such compasses were used in Tokugawa Japan (1600–1868), the benefits they brought, and how users knew how to read them, this article uncovers the cognitive factors that shape our interaction with technology. Building on the methodological approach of the distributed cognition theory, the article claims that reverse compasses allowed the user to conserve cognitive effort, which was particularly advantageous to Tokugawa-period mariners. Moreover, the article shows that even non-professional Tokugawa Japanese had a relatively easy time reading reverse compasses due to similarity between the compasses’ orientation and Tokugawa timekeeping practices. Building on the bodily and cognitive habits they had developed through the practices of keeping time, users could identify and interpret cultural cues embedded in the structure of reverse compasses.

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Authors & Contributors
Palermos, S. Orestis
Osamu Nakamura
Carter, J. Adam
Pritchard, Duncan
David J. Silverman
Kallestrup, Jesper
Journals
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
VIET: Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki
Social Studies of Science
Philosophy of Science
Journal of Design History
Journal for Maritime Research: Britian, the Sea and Global History
Publishers
W. W. Norton & Co.
Society for the History of Technology and the American Historical Association
Palgrave Macmillan
Oxford University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Edinburgh University Press
Concepts
Technology and culture
Cognition
Instruments, navigational
Distributed cognition
Compasses
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
People
Haller, Albrecht von
Whytt, Robert
Verbiest, Ferdinand
Takebe, Katahiro
Seki, Takakazu
Jackson, John Hughlings
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century
21st century
16th century
Places
Japan
China
Iwakura (Japan)
South Korea
United States
Russia
Institutions
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
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