In classical examples of distributed cognition, sign action is distributed within spatial contexts: boats, cockpit of an airplane, research laboratory, theater building. In these examples, the distribution of cognition is decisively conceived as a matter of spatial locus: cognition is not only located in the head of individuals, but in spatial environments of cognitive artifacts and cultural practices.
In our approach, the focus of description of distributed sign action is not spatial, but temporal. It is not only the case that a sign cannot simply be described as spatially contained within one’s skull, it is also (and more centrally) the case that a sign cannot be described as temporally contained within one event or episode. Even when the focus of observation is effective instantiated sign action in a single event, the sign acts as a temporally distributed process in which a regular tendency towards certain future outcomes emerges out of a history of sign interactions.
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Pedro Atã & João Queiroz