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A framework for thinking about distributed cognition

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As is often the case when scientific or engineering fields emerge, new concepts are forged or old ones are adapted. When this happens, various arguments rage over what ultimately turns out to be conceptual misunderstandings. At that critical time, there is a need for an explicit reflection on the meaning of the concepts that define the field. In this position paper, we aim to provide a reasoned framework in which to think about various issues in the field of distributed cognition. We argue that both relevant concepts, distribution and cognition, must be understood as continuous. As it is used in the context of distributed cognition, the concept of distribution is essentially fuzzy, and we will link it to the notion of emergence of system-level properties. The concept of cognition must also be seen as fuzzy, but for a different reason: due to its origin as an anthropocentric concept, no one has a clear handle on its meaning in a distributed setting. As the proposed framework forms a space, we then explore its geography and (re)visit famous landmarks.
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Keywords: bounded cognition; distributed cognition; emergence; multiagent system; sociality; swarm intelligence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of philosophy and Cognitive Sciences Institute 2: Cognitive Sciences Institute, Université du Québec à Montréal

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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