Making and Breaking Our Shared World: A Phenomenological Analysis of Disorientation as a Way of Understanding Collective Emotions in Distributed Cognition



Studying disorientation is studying how, through our bodies, culture and technology, we humans are connected to our environment, and what happens when this connection is weakened or severed. What happens, of course, depends again on our environment, bodies, culture and technology: the world around us becomes at times uncanny, unfamiliar or dangerous when we get disoriented. Disorientation can be exciting and refreshing—an invitation to explore, to leave behind nagging desires for control and certainty, and to embrace instead a more spontaneous relationship with our surroundings. Getting lost shapes our consciousness, not only by transforming our perception of the world around us, but by transforming our sense of who we are in that world, and what possibilities are open to us within it.

In this chapter, we analyse the phenomenology of disorientation to elucidate the role that emotions play in distributed cognitive processes that involve multiple agents and cognitive artefacts. The feeling of disorientation destabilises our horizon of experience and turns the world around us unfamiliar or alien. This feeling embodies our disconnection to the agents (e.g. walking companions), the cognitive artefacts (e.g. maps), and the environment around us. A proper analysis of the phenomenology of both orientation and disorientation uncovers the role feelings play in distributed cognitive processes: emotions serve as a form of evaluative regulation that contributes to, on the one hand, the syncing of the different elements of a distributed cognitive process, and on the other, to the eventual disengagement of the agent from an unreliable distributed cognitive process.


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© The Author(s) 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut Jean Nicod (ENS, EHESS, CNRS)ParisFrance

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