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The Extended Mind and Network-Enabled Cognition

The Extended Mind and Network-Enabled Cognition
The Extended Mind and Network-Enabled Cognition
In thinking about the transformative potential of network technologies with respect to human cognition, it is common to see network resources as playing a largely assistive or augmentative role. In this paper we propose a somewhat more radical vision. We suggest that the informational and technological elements of a network system can, at times, constitute part of the material supervenience base for a human agent’s mental states and processes. This thesis (called the thesis of network-enabled cognition) draws its inspiration from the notion of the extended mind that has been propounded in the philosophical and cognitive science literature. Our basic claim is that network systems can do more than just augment cognition; they can also constitute part of the physical machinery that makes mind and cognition mechanistically possible. In evaluating this hypothesis, we identify a number of issues that seem to undermine the extent to which contemporary network systems, most notably the World Wide Web, can legitimately feature as part of an environmentally-extended cognitive system. Specific problems include the reliability and resilience of network-enabled devices, the accessibility of online information content, and the extent to which network-derived information is treated in the same way as information retrieved from biological memory. We argue that these apparent shortfalls do not necessarily merit the wholesale rejection of the network-enabled cognition thesis; rather, they point to the limits of the current state-of-the-art and identify the targets of many ongoing research initiatives in the network and information sciences. In addition to highlighting the importance of current research and technology development efforts, the thesis of network-enabled cognition also suggests a number of areas for future research. These include the formation and maintenance of online trust relationships, the subjective assessment of information credibility and the long-term impact of network access on human psychological and cognitive functioning. The nascent discipline of web science is, we suggest, suitably placed to begin an exploration of these issues.
extended cognition, extended mind, active externalism, web science, semantic web, network-enabled cognition, cognitive science
s.n.
Smart, Paul
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Engelbrecht, Paula
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Braines, Dave
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Hendler, James
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Shadbolt, Nigel
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Smart, Paul
cd8a3dbf-d963-4009-80fb-76ecc93579df
Engelbrecht, Paula
51e3fbaa-61ef-41fe-b608-dbb21626c16f
Braines, Dave
09e96745-c478-4a3d-9a3b-46e0f0e3ac18
Hendler, James
11408130-302e-48d3-8a1e-08f111901c21
Shadbolt, Nigel
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Smart, Paul, Engelbrecht, Paula, Braines, Dave, Hendler, James and Shadbolt, Nigel (2008) The Extended Mind and Network-Enabled Cognition s.n. (In Press)

Record type: Monograph (Project Report)

Abstract

In thinking about the transformative potential of network technologies with respect to human cognition, it is common to see network resources as playing a largely assistive or augmentative role. In this paper we propose a somewhat more radical vision. We suggest that the informational and technological elements of a network system can, at times, constitute part of the material supervenience base for a human agent’s mental states and processes. This thesis (called the thesis of network-enabled cognition) draws its inspiration from the notion of the extended mind that has been propounded in the philosophical and cognitive science literature. Our basic claim is that network systems can do more than just augment cognition; they can also constitute part of the physical machinery that makes mind and cognition mechanistically possible. In evaluating this hypothesis, we identify a number of issues that seem to undermine the extent to which contemporary network systems, most notably the World Wide Web, can legitimately feature as part of an environmentally-extended cognitive system. Specific problems include the reliability and resilience of network-enabled devices, the accessibility of online information content, and the extent to which network-derived information is treated in the same way as information retrieved from biological memory. We argue that these apparent shortfalls do not necessarily merit the wholesale rejection of the network-enabled cognition thesis; rather, they point to the limits of the current state-of-the-art and identify the targets of many ongoing research initiatives in the network and information sciences. In addition to highlighting the importance of current research and technology development efforts, the thesis of network-enabled cognition also suggests a number of areas for future research. These include the formation and maintenance of online trust relationships, the subjective assessment of information credibility and the long-term impact of network access on human psychological and cognitive functioning. The nascent discipline of web science is, we suggest, suitably placed to begin an exploration of these issues.

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Accepted/In Press date: 26 September 2008
Keywords: extended cognition, extended mind, active externalism, web science, semantic web, network-enabled cognition, cognitive science
Organisations: Web & Internet Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 266649
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/266649
PURE UUID: bfeddce7-0cba-487c-80f9-28f8da6a85f7
ORCID for Paul Smart: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9989-5307

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Date deposited: 24 Feb 2009 17:00
Last modified: 25 Sep 2020 01:35

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