Metaphors and examples
Distributed cognition is seen when using paper and pencil to do a complicated arithmetic problem. The person doing the problem may talk with a friend to clarify the problem, and then must write the partial answers on the paper in order to be able to keep track of all the steps in the calculation. In this example, the parts of distributed cognition are seen in:
- setting up the problem, in collaboration with another person,
- performing manipulation/arithmetic procedures, both in one's head and by writing down resulting partial answers.
The process of working out the answer requires not only the perception and thought of two people, it also requires the use of a tool (paper) to extend an individual's memory. So the intelligence is distributed, both between people, and a person and an object.
Another well-researched site for analyzing distributed cognition and applying the discovered insights towards the design of more optimal systems is aviation,where both cockpits and air traffic control environments have been studied as scenes that technologically and socially distribute cognition through systems of externalized representational media. It is not the cognitive performance and expertise of any one single person or machine that is important for the continued operation or the landing and takeoff of airplanes. The cognition is distributed over the personnel, sensors, and machinery both in the plane and on the ground, including but not limited to the controllers, pilots and crew as a whole.
Hutchins also examined another scene of distributed cognition within the context of navigating a US navy vessel. In his book on USS Palau, he explains in detail how distributed cognition is manifested through the interaction between crew members as they interpret, process, and transform information into various representational states in order to safely navigate the ship. In this functional unit, crew members (e.g. pelorus operators, bearing takers, plotters, and the ship's captain) play the role of actors who transform information into different representational states (i.e. triangulation, landmark sightings, bearings, and maps). In this context, navigation is embodied through the combined efforts of actors in the functional unit.
In his study on process, representation and taskworld, Mark Perry (1998) demonstrated how distributed cognition analysis can be conducted in a field study. His example was design analysis in Civil engineering. In this work, he showed how an information processing approach can be applied by carrying a detailed analysis of the background of the study - goals and resources, inputs and outputs, representations and processes, and transformational activity, "how information was transformed from the design drawings and site onto tables of measurements (different representations)" and then onto "a graphical representation" which provided a clearer demonstration of the relationship between the two data sets (Perry, 1998).
Distributed language represents an externalist perspective on human cognition. Instead of tracing communication to individual knowledge of asymbolic system, language-activity is taken to sustain the human world
distributed perspective challenges the mainstream view that language use can be explained by individual competencies and microsocial rules.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_language