Thursday, 5 February 2015

Distributed Cognition

Reading Distributed Cognition by Edwin Hutchins Distributed Cognition I could not stop thinking about the film Cast Away. In his theory Hutchins highlights that cognitive processing is distributed across the members of a social group; operation of cognitive systems involves allocation between internal and external structures; and may be distributed through time. The example I could think of is a football team. All members are working together towards a goal..literally ha.

 The theory seeks to understand organization of cognitive processes by looking at people within the resources in the environment and interactions. In Cast Away however, there are no people except for Tom Hanks on the whole island. The main character attempts to for a relationship with a handprint ball “Wilson”. Is this an attempt to maintain a healthy Distributed Cognition? I am well aware that this example is based on a fictional story; however it seems that perhaps Distribute Cognition slightly ignores the need of social interactions. Hypothetically speaking, if a man was to live on an island with no human (or animal) social interaction, would there be a requirement of Distributed Cognition? Perhaps Vygotsky’s would have something to say about this. Of course, Distributed Cognition does not just involve human interaction, but also range of mechanisms/objects that are assumed to participate in cognitive processes, such as calculators.

 One cannot dismiss a link between Distributes Cognition and Extended Mind The Extended Mind theory. Extended Mind seems to focus solely on objects rather than people. There is also a sense of Jung’s Archetypes Collective Unconscious   present in Hutchins work. Jung’s archetypes consist of “pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents” (p.43). Surely cognitive scientists would disagree with this statement and the two theories been similar, after all Jung spend most of his life looking at the evidence for his theory rather than how processes.

 To conclude humans by nature seek engagement in cognitive construction, be it by social interaction or engagement with the environment. Distributed Cognition seems to highlight further the importance of this trait.

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