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You want a piece of me? Paying your dues and getting your due in a distributed world

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  • Communication
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy


The paper offers a critical reflection, inspired by the insights of integrational linguistics, on the conception of thinking and action within the distributed cognition approach of Edwin Hutchins. Counterposing a fictional account of a mutiny at sea to Hutchins’ observational study of navigation on board the Palau, the paper argues that the ethical fabric of communication and action with its ‘first person’ perspective must not be overlooked in our haste to appeal to ‘culture’ as an alternative to the internalist, computer metaphor of thinking. The paper accepts Hutchins’ own critique of the ‘meaning in the message’ illusion but goes beyond this critique to argue for a view of communication, thinking and action as creative, ethically charged and morally accountable acts of engagement.

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