In other words, there is not, according to Hutchins, any meaning in the expression “I think” or “I represent”. What can be documented is a shift in representation through different medias. For instance, there is no observable in the chart itself, but there is one in a group trying to make features of the landscape correspond with features on the chart. There is no meaning in asking what is in the mind of the plotter. But there is meaning in observing how the plotter coordinates various media -bearings reported on the phone by the pelorus operators, instructions precoded on the chart, orders from the captain- in one single line on the paper.


If you believe in internal processes, you can start with individual cognition, and then, by aggregation or implementation, you may reach the collective level or the material world. If you talk about internalized artefacts and if you observe the progapagation of different media inside, there is no way you will ever be able to talk again about a disembodied or an individual cognition. You will be forced to start from collective tasks and cultural systems. Rephrasing the old sensualist mutto, one could say that for Hutchins, “there is nothing in the mind that was not before in the senses”, provided that “the senses” now mean shifts from one representational mediator to another one.


It is the very boundary between what goes inside and what goes outside which is at stake in the book.

-Bruno Latour, Cogito ergo sumus! or psychology
swept inside out by the fresh air of
the upper deck..., A review of Ed Hutchins Cognition in the Wild, MIT Press, 1995