Smart, Paul R, Engelbrecht, Paula C, Braines, Dave, Strub, Michael and Hendler, James A
Cognitive Extension and the Web.
At Web Science Conference: Society On-Line, Athens, Greece,
18 - 20 Mar 2009.
There has been a growing interest in recent years regarding the relationship between social interaction processes, technological artefacts and human cognition. Human cognition, it is argued, is often dependent on features of our social and technological environments, and changes to these environments can exert a profound influence on the kind of cognitive processing that we are capable of. Given this assertion, our attempts to understand a technology as pervasive as the Web assumes a new significance; for inasmuch as Web resources and technologies are apt for potent forms of cognitive extension and incorporation, we may fully expect such resources and technologies to fundamentally transfigure the space of human thought and reason. Our aim in this paper is to evaluate the legitimacy of this claim. We assess whether the current properties of the Web enable it to meet the criteria for cognitive extension that have been proposed in the philosophical and cognitive scientific literature. Our analysis suggests that the Web is capable of participating in the external realization of (at least some) human mental states, but that further work is required to leverage its full potential. Relevant capability targets for future research and technology development include (but are not limited to) a move from resource-centric to data-centric modes of information representation, enhanced mechanisms for information quality assessment, and improved opportunities for the active (re-)structuring and personalization of information content. We conclude that the Web does constitute a potentially important element of the bio-technological matrix associated with mind and cognition; however, we suggest that further technological innovation is required to enable it to participate in the external realization of human mental states and processes. The notions of distributed and extended cognition seem to be highly relevant in understanding the transformative potential of the Web in relation to human cognition, and the continued study of the psycho-cognitive effects of the Web should, we argue, be key elements of a mature web science discipline.
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