, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 455–464 | Cite as

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

  • Peter Jones
Open Forum


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.


Distributed cognition Agency Ethical responsibility Integration Meaning Message Communication Thinking-in-action 



My thanks to Stephen Cowley for inviting me to the symposium and for encouraging me to write this piece. I therefore hold him morally responsible for the consequences. My thanks also to Fred Vallée-Tourangeau for his support and to Bert Hodges and two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful and constructive criticisms which I have tried to take onboard.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Communication and Computing Research CentreSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

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