Distributed Cognition

Until now we have considered the internal structures of individual systems with regard to tasks which are classified as requiring 'intelligence' on the site of the acting system. In a first approach we can call the unification of all those internal states which are related to this observable behavior involved in solving the task 'knowledge' or 'cognition'. In such a perspective is cognition the property of an individual system.

In an inspiring paper by Hollan et al. (2000) [160] the authors point out that this 'localized' view of cognition can be misleading, because many - if not almost all - parts of cognition are localized 'outside' the individual system: objects, artifacts, documents, instruments, devices for storage and communication, etc. Without these 'external' parts of cognition there is no real cognition. Moreover, if there are external parts which are for themselves 'processing' knowledge then the individual picture becomes severely obsolete.

Thus, somewhere analogously to the phenomenon of language, one has to look to cognition as a distributed phenomenon which appears as a dynamic object which changes itself all the time. There is at best some recognizable 'task' which induces the cooperation of many distributed elements of cognition like 'one system' although it is distributed. The 'overall' - somewhere only 'virtual' or 'logical' - system 'recruits' all the other 'participating' elements for this task. As far as the elements of such a distributed cognition are semiotic agents depends the coordination of the distributed cognition from communication.

The other interesting point is the 'generation bridging' property: the systems have finite life cycles and the cognition from one life cycle can be transferred to a system of a successive life cycle.

In the future we have to contribute examples and theoretical models for this kind of cognition.

Gerd Doeben-Henisch 2013-01-14