Distributed Cognition: An overview and some useful links


Distributed Cognition

To regard cognition as culturally distributed is to follow Ed Hutchins (1995) in emphasizing that human intelligence is a matter both of what happens in the head and causal processes that draw on historically rooted practices and artifacts. It is thus one of many current theories that reject the internalism of classic cognitive science. While differing from others in focusing on human practices, we concur that cognitive processes are embodied, situated and –in humans–permeated by the normative influences of culture.

Distributed language

There can be, we believe, no theory of distributed language. To take this position is to view what lay people call ‘language’ as a heterogeneous bundle of distantly related events and processes. Far from being reducible to on systematic knowledge, these couple cultural and bio-behavioural patterns that are spread across space, time and bodily modalities.

This differs from the post-Saussurian linguistic tradition where language is seen as a code (or symbolic system). It also contrasts with classic cognitive views in denying that language is represented in a single mind/brain. From a distributed perspective, language is grounded in how human customs link biomechanical events with everyday practices. Both talk and written signs are integral to dynamical events that exploit complex multi-scalar organization. Language –and brains –are dialogical, implicated in most human behaviour, (gossip, song, religious rituals, science, using information technology etc.) and arise from the whole history of human expression.

Links to work in and around distributed cognition

John Sutton puts distributed cognition under his links for dynamical cognitive science

Here is Edwin Hutchins’ home page

Most of Andy Clark’s papers are here

Here is David Kirsh’s page

Regards consciousness, David Chalmers is great (though lots of these people think it is ‘in the head’)’

For interesting surprises, check out Timo Jarvilehto

For a range of related sites, go to On Being There

And for a more social approach, go to The Virtual Faculty

Shaun Gallagher focuses on the nature of self, others and what it is to have

Here is a more biological approach to linking outsides with insides.