Tuesday, October 04, 2005

DC & space -- More of John's Thoughts

The Emergence of Distributed Cognition: a conceptual framework [PDF] by Francis HEYLIGHEN, Margeret HEATH and Frank VAN OVERWALLE from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium; {fheyligh, mheath, fjvoverw}@vub.ac.be
ABSTRACT: We propose a first step in the development of an integrated theory of the emergence of distributed cognition/extended mind. Distributed cognition is seen as the confluence of collective intelligence and “situatedness”, or the extension of cognitive processes into the physical environment. The framework is based on five fundamental assumptions:
  1. groups of agents self-organize to form a differentiated, coordinated system, adapted to its environment,
  2. the system co-opts external media for internal propagation of information,
  3. the resulting distributed cognitive system can be modelled as a learning, connectionist network,
  4. information in the network is transmitted selectively,
  5. novel knowledge emerges through non-linear, recurrent interactions. The implication for collective intentionality is that such a self-organizing agent collective can develop “mental content” that is not reducible to individual cognitions.
Reading through this, even in the abstract, my eye caught what I think may be a key piece in my quest to find out how DC deals with space and place. The piece is tacked on, almost as an afterthought, to the first assumption: "adapted to its environment."

DC picks up on cognition and learning after it's already been shaped by space, after the "adaptation" has already occurred. Perhaps it assumes that factors of space are already accounted for. They're not; the system continues to adapt to its environment. It slices, dices, and organizes its space through labeling (turning space to place). And from time to time individuals or groups within the system experience significant events in certain spaces, at which time (or afterwards when conveying to others) the places take on symbolic meaning, and that symbolic meaning starts being factored into the cognition system.

DC might be bent open to accompany what Simone Schweber (2005) calls "consequential places" but it doesn't seem to be able to address what she calls "symbolic places". For my research on location-based games, as they're located in culturally-meaningful places, it needs to.


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