Bodong Chen

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Notes: Cole & Engeström - 1993 - A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition



Citekey: @Cole1993-zt

Cole, M., & Engeström, Y. (1993). A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations (pp. 1–46). New York: Cambridge University Press.


Summarize: This is a seminal piece about the activity (system) theory as a cultural-historical view of learning. It touches on several important connections between AT and expansive learning, distributed cognition, etc.

Assess: I especially like the second example presented in this paper.



we have decided to explore approaches to distributed cognition by tracing this line of thinking back to the origins of psychology as a distinct discipline, by relating how it was developed by the cultural-historical school of psychology earlier in this century, and by suggesting the advantages of working within the culturalhistorical framework (informed by modern cognitive psychology, anthropology, and sociology) when studying cognition as a distributed phenomenon. (p. 1)

Wundt’s version of distributed cognition (p. 1)

discussion about the work of Wilhelm Wundt according to the discipline’s folklore, the “father” of scientific psychology (Blumenthal, 1980; Farr, 1987; Toulmin, 1981). (p. 1)

the study of historically accumulated, culturally organized knowledge as revealed in the written accounts of explorers and early anthropologists as well as the analyses provided by philologists and historians (Wundt, 1921). (p. 2)

The other half of Wundt’s system involved the study of “higher psychological functions,” including processes of reasoning and the products of human language. Wundt claimed that this second branch of psychology, which he called Völkerpsychologie, could not be studied using laboratory methods focused on the contents of consciousness, because the phenomena being studied extend beyond individual human consciousness. (p. 2)

Wundt replied that “individual consciousness is wholly incapable of giving us a history of the development of human thought, for it is conditioned by an earlier history concerning which it cannot of itself give us any knowledge” (Wundt, 1921, p. 3). In modern terms, Wundt was arguing that while elementary psychological functions may be considered to occur “in the head,” higher psychological functions require additional cognitive resources that are to be found in the sociocultural milieu. (p. 3)

Hugo Münsterberg (p. 3)

Hugo Münsterberg, the “father of applied psychology,” fully adhered to Wundt’s dual-psychology distinction and provided one of the earliest systematic statements of the distributed nature of cognition. Münsterberg (1914, p. 16) referred to the experimental half of Wundt’s program as “causal” psychology and the descriptive half as “purposive” psychology, warning that it was “extremely important to keep them cleanly separated and to recognize distinctly the principles which control them.” (p. 3)

Münsterberg (1914) argued that cognition occurs not only “in the head,” where millions of brain cells interact outside the range of consciousness to “remember for us,” “to think for us,” “to will for us,” but in the objective elements of communication among individuals: (p. 3)

History (thus far) has been kinder to the originators of the cultural-historical approach associated with the names of Alexei Leont’ev, Alexander Luria, and Lev Vygotsky. (p. 4)

The cultural-historical approach (p. 4)

The basic ideas of cultural-historical psychology are contained in a series of articles and monographs written in the late 1920s and early 1930s (Leont’ev, 1932; Luria, 1928, 1932; Vygotsky, 1929, 1960). (p. 4)

The presumed qualitative discontinuity between human and animal development is characterized in a variety of interlocking ways by the initiators of the cultural-historical school. (p. 4)

Alexander Luria opens with the well-known assertion that “man differs from animals in that he can make and use tools.” These tools, he writes, “not only radically change his conditions of existence, they even react on him in that they effect a change in him and his psychic condition” (Luria, 1928, p. 493). (p. 5)

The basic structure of human cognition that results from tool mediation has traditionally been pictured as a triangle, as in Figure 1.1. Simplifying for purposes of explication, “natural” (“unmediated”) functions are those along the base of the triangle; “cultural” (“mediated”) functions are those where interactions between subject and object are mediated by an auxiliary means, at the vertex of the triangle. (p. 5)

the overall process of cultural mediation, the “tool of tools,” and they had a decidedly two-sided notion of tool mediation. As Vygotsky explains in his monograph “Tool and Symbol” (1978), what we conventionally call tools and what we conventionally call symbols are two aspects of the same phenomenon: Mediation through tools was said to be more outwardly oriented, mediation through signs was more inwardly oriented, toward “the self,” but both aspects adhered in every cultural artifact. (p. 6)

Here we see clearly that the classical mediational triangle is a description of the basic structural constraints on individual human cognition. But such a static description leaves out the dynamic, double world of which Luria writes. Consequently, we have to add another dimension to this structural picture time in the course of which the two worlds (the directly given and the culturally mediated) are constantly synthesized to provide the mental foundations of people’s real-time actions in the world. This expanded version of the basic mediational triangle is shown in Figure 1.2, which emphasizes the fact that cognition requires analysis and synthesis of (at least} two sources of information in real time. (p. 6)

the assumption that other human beings, both those present to the senses and those of prior generations, play a crucial role in the formation of human cognitive capacities. This point is summed up in what Vygotsky (1934/ 1987) called the “general law of cultural development”: The history of the development of signs brings us, however, to a far more general law that directs the development of behavior. Janet calls it the fundamental law in psychology. The essence of the law is that the child in the process of development begins to apply to himself the very same forms of behavior which others applied to him prior (p. 6)

to that. The child himself acquires social forms of behavior and transposes those on to himself…. The sign originally is always a means of social contact, a means of influence upon others, and only subsequendy does it find itself in the role of a means for influencing oneself. (Vygotsky, 1960, p. 192) (p. 7)

the mediational triangles in Figures 1.1 and 1.2 fail to account for the collective nature of human activities, or activity systems as Leont’ev (1978, 1981) called them. In Figure 1.3 we have added certain crucial elements (p. 7)

As indicated in Figure 1.3, the relations between subject and community are mediated, on the one hand, by the group’s full collection of “mediating artifacts” and, on the other hand, by “rules” (the norms and sanctions that specify and regulate the expected correct procedures and acceptable interactions among the participants). (p. 7)

Communities, in turn, imply a “division of labor,” the continuously negotiated distribution of tasks, powers, and responsibilities among the participants of the activity system (p. 7)

First, it provides a conceptual map to the major loci among which human cognition is distributed. Second, it includes other people who must somehow be taken into account simultaneously with the subject as constituents of human activity systems. (p. 8)

Another important feature of activity as a basic unit of analysis of human behavior is that when activities become institutionalized, they are rather robust and enduring. Once they gain the status of cultural practices, they often have radically longer half-lives than an individual goal-directed action. (p. 8)

However, closer analysis of apparently unchanging activity systems reveals that transitions and reorganizations are constantly going on within and between activity systems as a fundamental part of the dynamics of human evolution. (p. 8)

activity system is followed through time, qualitative overall transformations may also be found. Institutionalized activity systems seem to move through de elopmental cycles that typically last years (Engestrom, 1987). (p. 9)

We can summarize the cultural-historical conception of the basic structure of human activity as follows: 1. The psychological functions shared with our prehuman cousins, socalled natural functions, develop according to principles that are different from psychological functions that are mediated through tools and rules for example, “cultural” functions. 2. Cultural mediation creates a species-specific, universal structure of human mind and associated morphology of action. 3. Cultural mediation has a recursive, bidirectional effect; mediated activity simultaneously modifies both the environment and the subject. 4. Cultural artifacts are both material and symbolic; they regulate interaction with one’s environment and oneself. In this respect, they are “tools” broadly conceived, and the master tool is language. 5. The cultural environment into which children are born contains the accumulated knowledge of prior generations. In mediating their behavior through these objects, human beings benefit not only from their own experience, but from that of their forebears. 6. Cultural mediation implies a species-specific mode of developmen-tal change in which the accomplishments of prior generations are cumulated in the present as the specifically human part of the environment; culture is, in this sense, history in the present. 7. Cultural mediation implies a special importance of the social world in human development since only other human beings can create the special conditions needed for that development to occur. 8. A natural unit of analysis for the study of human behavior is activity systems, historically conditioned systems of relations among individuals and their proximal , culturally organized environments. (p. 9)

In the hands ofVygotsky, Luria, and Leont’ev, experiments using this method were also considered a specific version of a microgenetic experiment, which provoked the process of psychological change under controlled laboratory conditions.2 A wide variety of studies carried out by Russian cultural-historical psychologists made use of this method. For example, in studies of the development of voluntary behavior in young children, Alexander Luria demonstrated that the acquisition of self-control in simple situations where children were asked to squeeze a rubber bulb or refrain from squeezing was intimately related to the children’s ability to mediate their activity through language. (p. 10)

such studies of the mediational means crucial to the remediation of behavior in cases of injury or disease could permit analysis of the microgenetic processes of everyday thinking. (p. 10)

When Vygotsky placed pieces of paper on a level floor and asked the patient to walk across the room stepping over them, the formerly immobile patient was able to walk across the room unaided. (p. 10)

scaffolds as tools/mediating artifacts? (p. 10)

Using cultural-historical psychology to think about distribution of mind (p. 11)

Our own view is that several productive expansions of culturalhistorical psychology have grown out of the U.S. and European hybrids of Russian approaches. (p. 11)

Distribution ofcognition “in”theperson (p. 12)

Luria’s remediational procedures were based on methods that deliberately redistributed cognition depending on the particular brain deficit afflicting a patient (Luria, 1973). (p. 12)

His point has been made quite markedly by contemporary neuroscientists (e.g., Edelman, 1987) who urge on us the recognition that which parts of the brain are engaged in what way in getting through a particular event depends critically on the cultural constitution of that event. (p. 12)

Distribution “in”themediumculture (p. 12)

The basic sense in which cultural mediation implies the distribution of cognition was emphasized by Gregory Bateson, who proposed the following thought experiment: Suppose I am a blind man, and I use a stick. I go tap, tap, tap. Where do I start? Is my mental system bounded at the hand of the stick? Is it bounded by my skin? Does it start halfway up the stick? Does it start at the tip of the stick? (1972, p. 459) Bateson goes on to argue that the answer to the question changes depending on how the event is conceived. (p. 13)

In short, the ways in which mind is distributed depend crucially on the tools through which one interacts with the world, and these in turn depend on one’s goals. The combination of goals, tools, and setting (or perhaps “arena,” in Lave’s, 1988, terminology) constitutes simultaneously the context of behavior and the ways in which cognition can be said to be distributed in that context. (p. 13)

The notion that mediation of activity through artifacts implies a distribution of cognition among individual, mediator, and environment, as well as the fundamental change wrought by artifactmediated activity, is eloquently expressed by two otherwise very different anthropologists, Leslie White and Clifford Geertz. (p. 13)

White (1942) wrote: Man differs from the apes, and indeed all other living creatures so far as we know, in that he is capable of symbolic behavior. With words man creates a new world, a world of ideas and philosophies. In this world man lives just as truly as in the physical world of his senses….This world comes to have a continuity and a permanence that the external world of the senses can never have. It is not made up of present only but of a past and a future as well. Temporally, it is not a succession of disconnected episodes, but a continuum extending to infinity in both directions, from eternity to eternity. (p. 372) (p. 13)

cultural-historical psychologists (e.g., Vygotsky, 19341987) emphasize that, as mediators of human action, all artifacts can be considered tools and symbols. As White (1959) expressed the relationship: An axe has a subjective component; it would be meaningless without a concept and an attitude. On the other hand, a concept or attitude would be meaningless without overt expression, in behavior or speech (which is a form of behavior). Every cultural element, every cultural trait, therefore, has a subjective and an objective aspect. (p. 236) (p. 14)

Patterning of culturally distributed cognition (p. 14)

There is no doubt that culture is patterned, but there is also no doubt that it is far from uniform, because it is experienced in local, face-to-face interactions that are locally constrained and, hence, heterogeneous with respect to both “culture as a whole” and the parts of the entire cultural toolkit experienced by any given individual. This point has been emphasized by Ted Schwartz (1978, 1990), who explores the way in which knowledge is distributed differentially across persons, generations, occupations, classes, religions, institutions, and so on. (p. 15)

A distributed notion of culture also requires one to think about how cognition is distributed among people by virtue of their social roles (which, again, are both phylogenetically and culturally constrained). As Fussell and Krauss (1989) clearly demonstrate, part of one’s cultural knowledge is knowledge about the extent to which others are likely to share one’s knowledge and cognitive perspective. Hence, the social distribution of cognition both adds to, and subtracts from, the degree of common culture mediating any particular interaction. (p. 15)

Geertz (1973) proposed that “culture is best seen not as complexes of concrete behavior patterns customs, usages, traditions, habit clusters …but as a set of control mechanisms plans, recipes, rules, instructions (what computer engineers call ‘programs’)for governing behavior” (p. 44). (p. 16)

In D’Andrade’s (1984) terms: Typically such schemas portray simplified worlds, making the appropriateness of the terms that are based on them dependent on the degree to which these schemas fit the actual worlds of the objects being categorized. Such schemas portray not only the world of physical objects and events, but also more abstract worlds of social interaction, discourse, and even word meaning. (p. 93, original in italics) (p. 16)

D’Andrade’s approach, like Geertz’s, might be read as locating culture (and cognition) inside the head. However, D’Andrade (1986, p. 22), like Geertz, makes it quite clear that objects should be considered “reified ideas in a solid medium”; that is, objects are suffused with conceptual content. (p. 16)

D’Andrade concludes that “what might at first look like a simple device in fact turns out to be a complex of mediations that is, of coordinations between structures” (p. 107). (p. 17)

The distribution of cognition in the social world (p. 17)

In short, constituents of the blind man’s cognitive processing are to be located both in the immediate setting (distributed to each of the nodes in the expanded triangle in Figure 1.3) and in the upcoming activity, which is presupposed in all of his actions. Within each local setting, such “cognitive actions” as remembering and decision making are distributed not only among the artifacts (the menu, the (p. 17)

arrangement of chairs and tables, the sign pointing to the restrooms) but among the rules (one pays before leaving the premises; sitting down at a table with strangers requires one to ask permission) and among people according to the division of labor (waiters fulfill different parts of the activity at the cafe than the customers or the dishwasher; the janitor must remember to put away the mop and bucket; the owner is responsible for paying the janitor and waiter). It is such considerations that motivated Douglas (1987) to write a book about “how institutions think” and Connerton (1989) a book about “how societies remember.” (p. 18)

The distribution of mind in time (p. 18)

Using this information derived from their cultural past and assuming that the world will be very much for their daughter as it has been for them, the parents project a probable future for the child. (She will be sought after by males as a sexual partner, causing the parents anxiety. She will not participate in a form of activity [rugby] requiring strength and agility that is the special preserve of males.) (p. 18)

The different ways in which temporality enters into the distribution of cognition in time illustrated by Macfarlane’s example are represented in Figure 1.4. Figure 1.4a presents five time lines, the bottom four of which correspond to the four “developmental domains” (Wertsch, 1985) that, according to the cultural-historical framework espoused here, simultaneously serve as major constraints on, and resources for, human development. At the top of Figure 1.4a is what might be called “physical time,” or the history of the physical universe that long precedes the appearance of life on earth. The second line represents phylogenetic time, the history of life on earth. The third represents cultural-historical time, which has co-evolved with phylogenetic time. The fourth line represents ontogeny, the history of a single human being, and the fifth line represents microgenesis, the moment-to-moment time of lived human experience. The ellipse running vertically through the figure is the event under analysis, the birth of a baby girl. The four horizontal lines correspond to four kinds of genesis, four temporal scales: phylogenesis, culturogenesis, ontogenesis, and microgenesis, each “lower” level embedded in the level “above it.” (p. 19)

In short, cognition is distributed both “vertically” in the different time dimensions occupied by each of the participants and “horizontally” with respect to past, present, and future. (p. 19)

This example also helps us to illustrate another feature attributed to culturally mediated thought: the process by which the “ideational” side of all cultural artifacts is transformed into its “material” side. (p. 19)

As copious research has demonstrated, even adults totally ignorant of the real gender of a newborn will treat the baby quite differently depending on its symbolic/cultural “gender.” (p. 21)

(b) Another line, the ontogeny of the child, has been added to that of the individual. The distribution of cognition in time is traced sequentially into (1) the past of the mother, (2) the mother’s imagination of the future of the child, and (3) the subsequent behavior of the mother. In this same sequence, the ideal aspect of culture is transformed into its material form as the mother and other adults structure the child’s experience consistent with their (imagined) future identity (p. 21)

Two research programs: applying cultural-historical ideas in practice (p. 22)

Each example highlights a somewhat different mix of the distributive properties we have summarized. (p. 22)

Reading acquisition (p. 22)

We believe that part of the problem in contemporary research on reading is that the psychological models of reading acquisition fail to take account of the distributed properties of cognition. In particular, they are especially weak in their conception of learning to read as joint, mediated, meaning-making activity between teachers and students in which the distribution of cognitive work must be systematically transformed. (p. 22)

Implicitly, this sort of model assumes reading to be a solitary activity occurring inside the head of the learner; the fact that learning is part of a larger, joint activity, called instruction, is not acknowledged. In reality, with very few exceptions, acquiring the ability to read is most decidedly not an individual process, and we have a pretty good idea of where Zeus’s arrow is coming from the teacher, the bearer of the cultural past, the bearer of authority concerning the correct interpretation of the text, the organizer of the teaching/learning process. (p. 23)

two principles present themselves as relevant: 1. The cognitive processing involved in learning to read is not an individual matter; the requisite cognitive processes are distributed among teacher, pupil, other students, and the cultural artifacts around which they coordinate in the activity called “teaching/ learning” to read. 2. The expected future state, mature reading, must somehow be present at the beginning of instruction as constraints enabling the development of the to-be-acquired new system of mediation, mature reading. (p. 23)

Figure 1.5. The to-be-coordinated systems of mediation that exist when a novice begins to learn to read from an expert. (A} The child C can mediate interactions with the world W via an adult A. (B) The adult can mediate interactions with the world via text. © The child-text-adult relationship is the goal of instruction. (p. 24)

The instructional/developmental task is now better specified: We must somehow create a system of interpersonal interaction such that the combined child-adult system at the right of Figure 1.6 cans coordinate the child’s act of reading before the child can accomplish this activity for himor herself. (p. 24)

Creating the activity. Having identified the skeletal structural relations that must be coordinated at the level of teacher-student-test relations, we now need to figure out the system of activity that will achieve the needed coordination’s. Our strategy for accomplishing this goal was to create an artificial activity system including a script, props, and roles. (p. 24)

The key mediational tools of the procedure are a text, a publicly visible script for the joint activity written on a blackboard, a set of roles (each corresponding to a different hypothetical part of the whole act of reading reified in a set of role cards printed on 3-in. X 5-in. index cards), and rules for conducting the activity we called “Question-AskingReading. (p. 25)

To connect the resulting procedure to the preceding and following discussion, Figure 1.7 represents the triangular structure of activity presented earlier in Figure 1.3 with the specific tools, object, community, division of labor, and social rules appropriate to the activity under construction. Figure 1.7 also specifies how we conceive of the distribution of cognition in the Question-Asking-Reading activity. (p. 26)

Of greatest interest in the present context is the way in which this system allowed us to trace the microgenesis of reading acquisition. (p. 28)

Once a relatively steady state of coordination around the artifacts and goals of Question-Asking-Reading was achieved, it became apparent that different children discoordinated with the routine in systematically different patterns. (p. 28)

With respect to the in situ data, our ability to detect selective discoordinations in a joint, mediated activity served as powerful testimony to the efficacy of our approach to reading acquisition. (p. 29)

Having focused on the process of our system of reading instruction, we failed to address adequately the relative quality of the product. (p. 29)

King found that both Question-Asking-Reading and her version of the procedural facilitation technique boosted the children’s reading performance. However, children in the Question-Asking-Reading group retained significantly more material from the training passages than did the students in the procedural facilitation group. The students in the Question-Asking-Reading group also spent more total time actively engaged with the task and demonstrated a greater (p. 29)

interest in the content of the readings, indicating an intimate link between the motivational, social-interactional, and cognitive aspects of activity-in-context. (p. 30)

Expertisein transition (p. 30)

Our second example is taken from a longitudinal research project studying the reorganization of medical work in a Finnish health center that provides primary health-care services to the population of a middle-sized city (see Engestrom, 1990, in press) (p. 30)

Such transformation is essentially an expansive learning process (Engestrom, 1987) in which the practitioners acquire a new way of working while designing and implementing the new practices themselves. (p. 30)

A workplace is not a homogeneous activity system. (p. 30)

There is also a historical dimension to be observed. Competing schools of thought and practice originate in different historical periods and conditions. (p. 30)

alternative frames of reference may be analyzed as if they are historical layers of expertise, to be identified by an “archaeology of expert knowledge.” Competing and contradictory historical layers of expertise can regularly be discovered within one and the same organization (p. 31)

To begin with, we conducted an extensive interview with each of the 16 physicians of two health stations in a single health center. The interview contained, among other themes, a cluster of questions concerning the physician’s conception of the object of his or her work. (p. 31)

The analysis of the interview protocols resulted in a classification of the physicians’ frames of reference concerning the object of their work (Table 1.1). The five frames of reference found among the physicians of this organization correspond to five historically distinct and culturally deep-seated theoretical patterns of thinking about illness (see, e.g., Arney & Bergen, 1984; Shorter, 1985). (p. 31)

In addition to conducting interviews, we videotaped five or six randomly chosen patient consultations with each of the doctors. Analyses of the videotapes support the conclusion that these distinct frames of reference are in fact connected to different practical procedures or “scripts” for dealing with patients in practice ( Engestrom, 1989). (p. 31)

This kind of diversity or multivoicedness is an important feature of the distribution of cognition in expert work. Potentially it is a rich source of resources, making the activity system capable of combining different viewpoints and skills in the handling of complex problems. (p. 31)

the potential advantages of multivoicedness were all but impossible to tap (p. 31)

Doctor-patient relationships were dominated by anonymity and discontinuity. These facts, together with strong production pressures, created an atmosphere of deepening crisis in the activity system. The physicians had little time or incentive to stop and reflect on the problem of complex patients, let alone to discuss them jointly. (p. 33)

Considering the fact that the doctor has never seen the patient before and that she hasn’t had a chance to discuss the patient with her colleagues, the computerized record functions here in a remarkable manner as a diagnostic aid, providing a bridge between the past recorded by others and the present faced by the first-timer. (p. 34)

All in all, this doctor takes an approach that is very different from the previous one. Instead of studying the record to make a hypothesis based on the patient’s history, the doctor acts on the basis of the patient’s explicit statements and physical examination. In the postconsultation interview, she justifies her approach by referring to the acute nature of the case. She states that had the patient had a similar problem previously, she would have suspected anxiety or related mental reasons. But since the patient denied having similar lung or chest problems before, she went ahead on a purely biomedical basis. (p. 34)

The two consultations happened as if with two different patients. Ostensibly this break occurred because the second doctor did not check the patient’s previous records. (p. 34)

However, the patient used many healthcare services by drifting from one doctor to another and from one variation of symptoms to another. He thus contributed to the production pressure felt by practitioners in the activity system. (p. 35)

The first contradiction was that between the complexity of the patient’s problems and the arbitrary distribution of patients to physicians, each compartmentalized and effectively separated from the others. The second contradiction was that between the demand for quality care for complex problems and the rule requiring speedy consultations, especially in the category of acute consultations without an appointment. The ensuing production pressure reinforced a compartmentalized approach on the doctor’s part. The third contradiction was that between complex patient problems and rather traditional tools of biomedical diagnosis. In such conditions, the medical record easily served as only a minimal administrative device. (p. 35)

The compartmentalized and alienated approach to health care, reinforced by drifting on the patients’ part, eventually contributed to increased production pressure. A vicious circle was thus established, The researcher’s task was to provide data (such as the videotapes and interview transcripts of the case discussed earlier) and conceptual (p. 35)

tools (such as the models in Figures 1.3 and 1.9) that enabled the practitioners to break the vicious circle by realizing how their division of labor reinforced and perpetuated the production pressure and alienation they felt. (p. 37)

The key feature of this new model is a new division of labor that radically alters the conditions for exploiting the distributed cognitive resources of the system (p. 37)

an expansive cycle (Engestrom, 1987, 1991). An expansive cycle is a developmental process that involves both the internalization of a given culture of practice and the creation of novel artifacts and patterns of interaction. The new activity structure does not emerge out of the blue. It requires reflective analysis of the existing activity structure participants must learn to know and understand what they want to transcend. And the creation of a new activity system requires the reflective appropriation of advanced models and tools that offer ways out of the internal contradictions. (p. 40)

At the level of collective activity systems, such an expansive cycle can be seen as the equivalent of traveling through the zone of proximal development discussed by Vygotsky (1978) at the level of individual and small-group learning. A key feature of expansive cycles is that they are definitely not predetermined courses of onedimensional development. What is more advanced, “which way is up,” cannot be decided using externally given, fixed yardsticks. Decisions of that kind are made locally, within the activity system itself, under conditions of uncertainty and intensive search. Yet they are not arbitrary decisions. The internal contradictions of the activity system in a given phase of its evolution can be more or less adequately identified, and any model for the future that does not address and solve those contradictions will eventually turn out to be nonexpansive. (p. 41)

important connections made here about expansive learning, ZPD, learning across levels, social regulation, etc. (p. 41)

Expertise can be understood as a system of cognition, distributed as an activity system. (p. 42)

The transition from compartmentalized expertise to team-based expertise was essentially a process of redistribution of cognition based on design from below. It can be assumed that such a design will be incorporated into the new team-based type of expert practice as a novel cognitive resource. (p. 42)

In essence, when one takes mediation through artifacts as the central distinctive characteristic of human beings, one is declaring ones adoption of the view that human cognition is distributed. Precisely how cognition is distributed must be worked out for different kinds of activity, with their different forms of mediation, division of labor, social rules, and so on. The underlying principles, however, are universal. In aggregate they constitute a cultural theory of mind. (p. 42)

nice summary of the examples presented in this article (p. 42)

Why the current burst of ·interest in distributed cognition? In the most general terms, it is because of the widespread belief that the positivistically oriented social sciences, with their notion of cognition firmly located inside the individual, are inadequate (p. 42)

we have a far more sophisticated technology for representing complex, temporally extended behavior than did researchers at the end of the century. (p. 43)