Macrocognition: Situated versus Distributed
OVERVIEW: 'Macrocognition' has two distinct, but closely related meanings. Cacciabue and Hollnagel (1995) introduced it to denote the study of cognition in realistic tasks, where people interact with various forms of environmental and social scaffolding; Klein and colleagues also used it to understand how people manage uncertainty and make sense of real world environments. I introduced a second use (Huebner 2014) as shorthand for system-level cognition implemented by integrated networks of specialized computational mechanisms, whether in individuals or groups. Macrocognition has one sense that's closer to 'situated or extended cognition' and another that's closer to 'distributed or collective cognition' but they are often conflated. There are important differences between the hypothesis of collective cognition (HCC) and the hypothesis of extended cognition (HEC). Recent work on situated and collective memory and philosophical approaches to coordination and planning suggest that HCC is more plausible if we abandon HEC in favor of an 'ontologically thinner' approach to situated cognition. There is a form of collective planning distinct from the planning that relies on web-based technologies and other forms of social scaffolding. Distinguishing two forms of macrocognition, one situated the other distributed, can help us to make sense of a number of theoretically and empirically interesting phenomena.
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Huebner, B. (2014). Macrocognition: A Theory of Distributed Minds and Collective Intentionality. Oxford University Press.
Klein, G., Ross, K. G., Moon, B. M., Klein, D. E., Hoffman, R. R., & Hollnagel, E. (2003). Macrocognition. Intelligent Systems, IEEE, 18(3), 81-85.