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The varieties of situated cognitive systems: embodied agents, cognitive artifacts, and scientific practice
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 12:23 authored by Jan Richard Heersmink
The main goal of this thesis is to better understand the variety of situated cognitive systems consisting of embodied agents and cognitive artifacts, and to conceptualize how such artifacts and their users are integrated into systems that perform cognitive tasks (in scientific practice). To this end, I start by identifying and classifying the components of situated cognitive systems, including those that are human-made or artificial, natural, and social (chapter 2). Next, I focus on the artifactual element in cognitive systems by characterizing this class of artifacts as a functional kind, i.e., a kind of artifact that is defined purely by its function. This functional kind includes artifacts with proper and systems functions. Those with proper functions have a history of cultural selection, whereas those with system functions are improvised uses of initially non-cognitive artifacts. By drawing on artifact categorization in archaeology, I then develop a detailed taxonomy in which cognitive artifacts with similar informational properties are grouped into categories (chapters 3 & 4). Having developed this taxonomy, I present a multidimensional framework to conceptualize how embodied agents and cognitive artifacts are integrated into situated systems. This framework consists of the following dimensions: epistemic action and information flow, speed of information flow, reliability, durability, trust, procedural transparency, informational transparency, individualization, and transformation. These dimensions are all matters of degree and jointly constitute a multidimensional space in which situated cognitive systems, including those that are extended or distributed, can be located (chapter 5). I end this thesis by applying the taxonomy and multidimensional framework to first classify cognitive artifacts in molecular biology laboratories, and then to conceptualize how some of these cognitive artifacts and their users are integrated into situated systems (chapter 6).