Monday, 28 March 2016

Distributed Cognition

This is in response to, the essay, "Distributed Cognition" by Edwin Hutchins.
         I find the concept of distributed cognition to be an entirely plausible way of explaining and understanding our cognition. As Hutchins, discusses in his essay, distributed cognition is not limited to our body or skull, it is the way in which we also use other tools, people, or other things outside of ourselves to distribute our cognition. From a young age, we are taught, in basic history classes, that at one point in time humans did not have a reading or writing system-- they depended on verbal communication and story telling in order to teach future generations of their culture and how to survive the elements. I cannot help but to think back to some of my earliest lessons came from the verbal instruction from parents, babysitters, daycare employees, teachers, etc of what to do and what not to do. 

        This idea that distributed cognition took place in social groups, was heavily recognized by the works of Vygotsky--that not only is knowledge being exchanged among people but memory is almost like this collaborative communal effort. Personally, memory is grey area because I don't believe it's truly reliable but there are typical examples of how multiple people recalling an event is better than just one person. That could be explained by one person triggering other details they couldn't recall themselves, maybe one person actually wrote down what happened, took photos, or video recorded it etc. I still think, even though discussed in class as not being likely, pack mentality could partially come from distributed cognition. I think the exchange of knowledge is similar to that of exchanging feelings. This could be thought of when someone you know is upset and you can't help but 'feel' for them or even when working collaboratively in a group, if one person is really lazy or feels like giving up, the whole group kind of takes on that attitude and not much gets done.
          Another way of distributing our cognition is through the use of tools. As previously mentioned, as technology has advanced, so has our way of recording events and knowledge. As of right now, I'm using a laptop, the internet, a website and so on to record my thoughts for this assignment. We are now at a point where our phones, laptops, tablets, notebooks, journals etc. have these entries of our cognition within them. It is why, when we lose one of these things or it gets stolen or broken, we literally feel a since of despair-- we lost what we knew, we lost what we had learned. It sounds so dramatic when laid out like that, but having experienced a laptop breaking during finals, or losing a notebook that had all the courses notes, you suddenly realize that you are actually lost now. This quickly leads to at what point will we stop the advancement of distributing our cognition? Will it stop when we as individuals will be able to live on forever? I really do find distributed cognition to be fascinating. 

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