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Wild Cognition - 03 - Distributed cognition and Actor-Network Theory

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Riccardo Fusaroli

on 18 March 2011

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Transcript of Wild Cognition - 03 - Distributed cognition and Actor-Network Theory

Wild Cognition - 03
The role of socio-cultural practices & objects
Distributed Cognition and Actor-Network-Theory The world is an external store of information relevant to processes such as perceiving, remembering, reasoning, etc.

Cognitive processes are hybrid—they straddle both internal and external operations.

The external operations take the form of action: manipulation, exploitation and transformation of environmental structures—ones that carry information relevant to the accomplishing of a given task.

At least some of the internal processes are ones concerned with supplying the subject with the ability to appropriately use relevant structures in its environment. “human thought is basically both social and public – [...] its natural habitat is the house yard, the marketplace, and the town square” (Geertz 1973:45). so far as man is concerned, one of the most striking characteristics of his central nervous system is the relative incompleteness with which, acting within the confines of autogenous parameters alone, it is able to specify behaviour. [...] From this standpoint, the accepted view that mental functioning is essentially an intra-cerebral process, which can only be secondarily assisted or amplified by the various artificial devices which that process has enabled man to invent, appears to be quite wrong. On the contrary, a fully specified, adaptively sufficient definition of regnant neural processes in terms of intrinsic parameters being impossible, the human brain is thoroughly dependent upon cultural resources for its very operation; and those resources are, consequently, not adjuncts to, but constituents of, mental activity (Geertz 2000:75-76). What happens when we take into account the
public and social life of cognitive processes? Distributed Cognition Vygotsky Connectionism Kimmel (forthcoming) Tango Cognitive processes are those that are involved in memory, decision making, inference, reasoning, learning, and so on.

Cognitive processes are characterised in terms of the propagation and transformation of representations. the boundaries of the unit of analysis for cognition

the range of mechanisms that may be assumed to participate in cognitive processes.
Social Distribution

Environmental Distribution

Temporal distribution (learning, ants, notes). Anthropology: Psychology
Epidemiology: Pathology Cognition has nothing to do with minds, nor with individuals, but with the propagation of representations through various media, which are coordinated by a very lightly equipped human subject, working in a group inside a culture with many artefacts and who might have internalised some parts of the process.

The thinker is thus a very special medium that can provide coordination among many structured media, some internal, some external, some embodied in artefacts, some in ideas, and some in social relationships and social practices.

Distributed cognition leads to conceiving of new units of analysis, transcending individual intentionality. Humans are good at pattern matching, manipulation of objects in the world, mental simulation of simple dynamics.

The role of supporting social and material environment is in changing challenging tasks into other tasks that heavily rely on these skills What is the function of the system?
How is information encoded?
How is information represented?
How are representations propagated through the system?
How is cognitive labor distributed? Actor-Network Theory Greimas' Narrative Semiotics Normativity Actor: locus of behavior and activity, a quasi-objects / quasi-subjects:
humans ANT must track these changing ontologies: what gets to be an agent, what gets to be a human, what gets to be an object, what gets to have the power to change events, what gets to have intentionality, is part of what has to be explained “What is this?” I asked, holding up a glove.
“May I examine it?” he asked, and, taking it from me, he proceeded to examine it as he had examined the geometrical shapes.
“A continuous surface,” he announced at last, “infolded on itself.  It appears to have” — he hesitated — “five outpouchings, if this is the word.”
“Yes,” I said cautiously.  “You have given me a description.  Now tell me what it is.”
“A container of some sort?”
“Yes,” I said, “and what would it contain?”
“It would contain its contents!” said Dr. P., with a laugh.  “There are many possibilities.  It could be a change purse, for example, for coins of five sizes.  It could ....” Berlin Key Distributed Cognition Actor-Network Theory Vision as Cultural Practices Many occupations have as a crucial component a specialised way of classifying and constructing visual phenomena in ways that help shape the objects of knowledge that are the focus of the work as a profession. Highlighting
Coding schemes
Production of representations

Normativity Cultural Practices? A privileged perspective: Professional Visions: Physiological processes Practice Discourse Physical environment Social environment Contested vision in cognitive science:
“anthropologically informed analyses of human action and cognition as socially situated phenomena.”
break down “traditional dichotomies…such as the assignment of language and the material world to separate domains ofinquiry…” Let's start small, then! Color Categorisation Whorf vs. Rosch vs. Davidoff When the archeologists interact...
“Each was dependent on the other for the moment-by-moment accomplishment of a common course of action.” The high-level process of professionally competent categorization of dirt colors is brought into existence by the engagement of low-level processes (color vision, judging color matches) in cultural practices. That form ties their work at this site to a range of other settings, such as the offices and lab of the senior investigator, where the form being filled in here will eventually become part of the permanent record of the excavation and a component of subsequent analysis Three different sign systems for each point in the color space:
numeric coordinates for each row and column (precise and no issue of translation)
standard color names such as dark yellowish brown (easily grasped)
carefully controlled color samples arranged in a grid according to Hue, Chroma and Value (make colors visible, allow for direct comparison)

A set of circular holes:
Actual dirt plus a theoretical space of the rigorous replicable classification of clolors. Human beings possess a database of features which can be accessed to assess a stimulus as an exemplar of a category. Such can be achieved in different ways and can be structured in different ways Barsalou Conceptualisation AND concepts are situation-dependent Coupling Color categorisation in the field Visual categorisation in the Court Hall Color vision (and color categories) are (also) constituted of cultural practices and artefacts Through highlighting and explaining:
A professional coding scheme:
if a suspect is aggressive: Escalation
Assessment: is s/he subdued? What more could you ask for? You have the videotape that shows objectively, without bias, impartially, what happened that night Wait! Police officers know how to see potential offences coming!
We need to learn to see. Who was in control of the situation? The visual process is partly costituted by interactions, cultural practices and artefacts that structure and lead attention, selection, categorisation and interpretation Questions:

how do we conceptualise these cultural practices?
how do we consider the role of normativity 8pm Locked door and you're outside:
open door BUT key stuck
you can push it inside BUT still stuck
8am The door does not close
The concierge has a pass that opens all doors and change between day and night modality
The true Berliner has a filed key (passepartout) A network of social values, can do's and must do's is materially embodied in the lock + key system.
Society is the destinant
The concierge and the lock+key are the adiuvant/opponent
The citizen is the subject who through this system achieves the right social competence and prform correctly.
The identity of each of these actors is defined by the network, by their reciprocal relations Distributed Cognition Focus on information-processing:
how is information represented, distribuited and processed Actor-Network Theory Focus on the value-laden network:
What are the roles that interdefine organisms, objects and institutions?
Which values are embodied in those roles? 1. Up to now

2. Vision as socio-cultural practice
2.1 Leading Vision
2.2 Distributing Vision

3. How to conceptualise this?
3.1 Distributed Cognition
3.2 Actor-Network Theory

4. Take at home lessons
(Engagement, Normativity, Material Structures) Classical
Cognitivism The Extended Mind
Hypothesis What's underlooked? 1. How does the extension happen?
(cf. debate on ExtM)
Skillful engagement
(Social) Learning
Socio-cultural support
2. What does the extension involve?
Socio-cultural elements The social science perspective Perception Cognitive processes are (largely) structured, constrained and extended through cultural practices Important Discursive Practices
Coding Scheme

Normativity (he is an expert! he knows how things should be)
How does normativity enter
interactions and cog processes? BUT: isn't this a bit
too high-level? Important Discursive Practices + Distributed Cognition Distributed Cognition Problems I
Who is the cognizer? Individual System Problem II
Time Scales Method Discriminating relevant colors
Vision + Munsell comparison + negotiation
Visual differences + color "concept" + Munsell (3) systems
Joint Vision, Negotiation, form submission
Horizontal and Vertical Local Negotiation, Lab Types of Distribution Ants The pilot +
plane The collective organism behind wikipedia Think of the work needed to develop a language Primate interactions Baboons have to constantly negotiate their changing social relations with other baboons by means of the proximity of their bodies to the bodies of other baboons depending on their status, size, age, sex and relation

They negotiate new relationships partly by changing the network of proximity relations amongst the group.

The social structure is constantly enacted, constant fights reshape the hierarchy, that can be determined only as the emergent pattern of complex interactions. Human Interaction Actor -Network Theory Actor- Network Theory The network is what defines actors Take at home lessons II Value-oriented cultural practices structuring cognitive processes: e.g.
coding schemes
(manipulable) representations

Through learning and via social interaction

Role of objects and representations in stabilising normativity and allowing distribution through time Next time:
22 March
Extending Memory
special guest Take at home lessons I Cognitive processes often happen in the public space of social life

The wild cognition

This public space opens them to coordination and co-structuring

As well as to the emergence of new processes and units of analysis
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