Distributed cognition: Where the cognitive and the social merge

Social Studies of Science 33 (2):301-310 (2003)
Among the many contested boundaries in science studies is that between the cognitive and the social. Here, we are concerned to question this boundary from a perspective within the cognitive sciences based on the notion of distributed cognition. We first present two of many contemporary sources of the notion of distributed cognition, one from the study of artificial neural networks and one from cognitive anthropology. We then proceed to reinterpret two well-known essays by Bruno Latour, ‘Visualization and Cognition: Thinking with Eyes and Hands’ and ‘Circulating Reference: Sampling the Soil in the Amazon Forest’. In both cases we find the cognitive and the social merged in a system of distributed cognition without any appeal to agonistic encounters. For us, results do not come to be regarded as veridical because they are widely accepted; they come to be widely accepted because, in the context of an appropriate distributed cognitive system, their apparent veracity can be made evident to anyone with the capacity to understand the workings of the system.
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