The Web-extended mind

Smart, Paul R. (2012) The Web-extended mind [in special issue: Philosophy of the Web] Metaphilosophy, 43, (4), pp. 426-445. (doi:10.1111/j.1467-9973.2012.01756.x).


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The rapid growth and penetration of the Web raises important questions about its effects, not just on our social activities, but also on the nature of our cognitive and epistemic profiles. The extended mind hypothesis may be particularly well-suited to addressing these questions because it encourages us to think about the way in which much of our cognitive success is grounded in processing loops that factor in the contributions of our extra-neural social and technological environments. When applied to the specific socio-technical context of the Web, the extended mind hypothesis gives us the notion of the ‘Web-extended mind’, or the idea that the technological and informational elements of the Web can (at least sometimes) serve as part of the mechanistic substrate that realizes human mental states and processes. This paper attempts to explore the notion of the Web-extended mind. It first provides an overview of cognitive extension and the extended mind hypothesis, and it then goes on to discuss the possibility of Web-based forms of cognitive extension involving current or near-future technologies. It is argued that while current forms of the Web may not be particularly suited to the realization of Web-extended minds, new forms of user interaction technology as well as new approaches to information representation on the Web do provide promising new opportunities for Web-based forms of cognitive extension. Extended minds, however, are not solely the product of technological innovation. Cognitively-empowering forms of bio-technological union sometimes rely on the emergence of social practices and conventions that shape how a technology is used, as well as the specific (bio-)cognitive mechanisms that are available to support its effective exploitation. In particular, it is suggested that Web-extended minds may depend on forms of socio-technical co-evolution in which social forces and factors play just as an important role as do the processes of technology design and development.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1111/j.1467-9973.2012.01756.x
ISSNs: 0026-1068 (print)
Keywords: cognitive extension, extended mind, extended cognitive systems, cognition, web science, world wide web, internet, cognitive technology, cognitive psychology, web of data, linked data, future web, augmented reality, mixed reality, web technology, writing
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Organisations: Web & Internet Science
ePrint ID: 336621
Date :
Date Event
31 March 2012Accepted/In Press
16 July 2012Published
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2012 14:41
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 17:21
Further Information:Google Scholar

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