A perspective on all cognition? A study of everyday environments from the perspective of distributed cognition


Distributed cognition is a perspective that primarily has been applied to complex socio-technical systems such as flight decks of commercial airliners, or operating rooms where professionals perform cognitive tasks in environments specifically designed for this. For some scholars distributed cognition is exactly this kind of specialized cognitive system. On the other hand it has been claimed by some workers in the field that distributed cognition is not a kind of cognition but a perspective on all cognition. We have therefore studied an environment very different from the systems previously studied, namely single people’s homes. We find that there are many similarities between the home and the specialized socio-technical environments. To us this suggests that the specially designed complex environments can be seen as specialized cases of the general principles of distributed cognition which are not reflections of “particular work practices” but of general features of human cognition.

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