COGS 102A: Distributed Cognition (Fall 2013)

Lecture: Tu & Th 3:30-4:50 Peterson 110
A01: M 4:00-4:50 CSB004 (Rob)
A02: M 3:00-3:50 CSB004 (Gunbir)
A03: W 2:00-2:50 CSB005 (Tyler)
A04: W 1:00-1:50 CSB004 (Tyler)
A05: F 12:00-12:50 CSB004 (Rob)
A06: F 11:00-11:50 CSB004 (Ram)

Course website:

Recent Announcements (more)

To those interested, I have added my section slides in a zip file to the course website under the Course Links section. Feel free to use them to finish preparing for the final. Note that there are sometimes comments worth reading.

They are not exhaustive, nor meant to completely prepare you for the final. You must fill in the gaps in your knowledge of the material as necessary. Good luck.

TA Rob
(Sun Dec 08, 12:19 p.m.)
Rob will be holding office hours on Friday, 12/6 from 3-4PM, instead of on Thursday, 12/5. Normal time resumes the following week. (Wed Dec 04, 4:58 p.m.)
Dear Students! Please evaluate your TAs and IAs by following the link at the bottom of this page or at the end of this announcement. If you would like to evaluate more than one TA or IA -- perhaps you went to multiple sections, or went to one person's sections but another's office hours -- then please use the google form to make multiple submissions. (i.e. Don't evaluate multiple TAs in the same submission.)

Thanks for your feedback! It's much appreciated. 

(Wed Dec 04, 3:14 p.m.)


Edwin Hutchins (Professor)

/ phone: 858 534 1134

Office Hours: Th 11:30 - 12:30 in CSB 175

Robert Gougelet (TA)

Office Hours: Th 5:00 - 6:00PM in CSB 123

Tyler Marghetis (TA)

Office Hours: Tuesday 1:30 - 2:30 in "Art of Espresso" Coffee Cart (at Mandeville Center)

Ram Dixit (IA)

Office Hours: Th 2 - 3:30 in CSB 114

Gunbir Dhillon (IA)

Office Hours: M 4 - 5 in CSB 114

Kenna Hasson (IA)

Office Hours: Wed 4-5 in CSB 114

Course Description

Historically, the broad concensus in the cognitive science community has been that the individual person, or even the individual brain is the best unit of analysis for human cognition. The material assembled for this course provides an alternative framework: Distributed Cognition.

We will focus on how cognition mobilizes resources both inside and outside of the traditional boundaries of the person. Many of the most important cognitive processes involve interactions among brain, body, and a culturally organized world for action.

Major course themes include the history and philosophy of cognitive science, the role of artifacts in human cognition, socially distributed cognition, the role of the body and action in cognition, and how all of these things change through time.



book cover
book cover

Additional Readings

In the schedule below the two assigned books are designated by acronyms:
CitW = Cognition in the Wild
StM = Supersizing the Mind 

Other readings are provided directly via links on this page.

Course Details and Policies

You must complete the Plagiarism Tutorial and Quiz.
In this course you will complete five written assignments using the Calibrated Peer Review system (CPR).  Calibrated Peer Review assignments will be due at 8 PM on the dates indicated.  Please plan your work so that you can meet all due dates.  Failure to do so will result in loss of credit.  Note: Some CPR due dates fall on Saturdays.
Lectures slides will be posted on this page on or before the day of lecture.
Lecture audio will be available as a podcast at:
Cheating is not permitted.  
At times due dates in this course will coincide with due dates in other cognitive science courses.  It is your responsibility to schedule your work so that you can meet all due dates.  Due dates will not be changed. 

Plagiarism Tutorial                     2%
Intro to CPR                              3% 
4 Written assignments (20 ea.)    80%
Midterm Exam                            5%
Final Exam                                10%

Course Schedule

Week Date Topic Readings Assignments Notes
1 Thu Sep 26 Introduction and overview of course: course mechanics, basic themes.
The place of distributed cognition in cognitive science. 
None Plagiarism Tutorial and Quiz Open

2 Tue Oct 01 The centralized mindset. How we can break free of the centralized mindset. Five heuristics for thinking about decentralized systems.  "Learning about Life" and "Cognition, Distributed" Plagiarism Quiz Complete
CPR 1: CPR procedures
Centralized Mindset
Thu Oct 03 The socio-technical context of cognition. Case study: ship navigation CitW Intro and Ch1 Reading Prep
CPR 1 Text
Chapter 1 CitW

Sat Oct 05   CPR 1 Calibrations  
3 Tue Oct 08 Physical Symbol System Hypothesis and Classical Cognitive Science   CPR 1 reviews Thinking Meat?!
Thu Oct 10 Culture constructs our cognitive activities
Case study: Western Navigation
CITW Ch 2 (pp 49-65)

Reading Prep

CPR 2: Exploring a decentralized system

Computational Perspective on Navigation 

4 Tue Oct 15 Culture constructs our cognitive activities
Case study: Micronesian Navigation
CITW Ch 2 (pp 65-116)

Reading Prep

CPR 2 Text

Comparative Study of Navigation

Thu Oct 17 Thinking with the world.  Case study: Cognitive ecology of ship navigation.  CITW Ch 3

Reading Prep


Sat Oct 19   CPR 2 Calibrations  
5 Tue Oct 22 Social Organization of Cognition. Case Study: The navigation team.  CITW Ch 4 & Ch 5 Reading Prep Ch 4
CPR 2 Reviews
Social Organization of Distributed Cognition
Thu Oct 24 Learning in Context. CITW Ch 6 & Ch 7 Reading Prep Ch 6CPR 3: Features of Socially Distributed Cognition

6 Tue Oct 29 Organizational Learning.  Case study: Adapting to the loss of gyrocompass CITW Ch 8 Reading Prep
CPR 3 Text due
Thu Oct 31 Midterm Exam      
Sat Nov 02   CRP 3 Calibrations  
7 Tue Nov 05 The Body in the World StM Appendix, Introduction CPR 3 Reviews  Brainbound Extended
Thu Nov 07 Embodied and extended cognition StM Ch 1 & Ch 2   Embodiment to Cognitive Extension
8 Tue Nov 12 The world around the body StM Ch 3 & Ch 4   Three Cool EAs ThreePuzzles
Thu Nov 14 Doubts about extended mind
Epistemic Engineers
StM Ch 5 & 6 CPR 4: Principle of Ecological Assembly CPR 4 Assignment
9 Tue Nov 19 Sensorimotor looping and enaction
What do brains represent?
StM Ch 7 & 8   Enacted Representation
Wed Nov 20   CPR 4 Text due  
Thu Nov 21 Disentangling embodiment StM Ch 9 & 10   Disentangling Embodiment
Sat Nov 23   CPR 4 Calibrations  
10 Tue Nov 26 Embodiment in the big picture of cognitive science CitW Ch8 CPR 4 Reviews
CPR 5 Cumulative Construction of Cognitive Ecosystems
Thinking with the Body  
Thu Nov 28 Thanksgiving      
11 Tue Dec 03 Culture and Cognition, what we miss by failing to see cognition as a cultural process SSM Hutchins   Cultural Practices
Wed Dec 04   CPR 5 Text Due  
Thu Dec 05 Reflection and review CitW Ch9
Fri Dec 06   CPR 5 Calibrations  
12 Mon Dec 09 Final Exam @ 3:00 pm   CPR 5 Reviews