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cognition in the wild

In 1993 I matriculated at UC San Diego, enrolled in the Department of Cognitive Science. The class sizes were small, the material was fascinating, and I knew, even in my first year, that I was passionate about the course of study I'd chosen. I was blessed with fantastic teachers who worked directly with their students, and a fascinating curriculum that blended neurophysiology, artificial intelligence modeling and human-computer interaction topics.

As strong as the overall influence of the Department and the material, I don't think I'd have embraced the field as I have done had it not been for the influence of Edwin Hutchins. Ed's classes on distributed cognition and cognitive ethnography were enormously influential on my thinking. I find myself referring to what he taught me on a regular basis, and can still talk people's ears off about cascading failure of cognitive systems during crisis (ask Adam).

I'm looking at what I wrote above and it looks like I'm eulogizing the man, but no – Ed isn't dead. He's alive and well, and just took part in my alma mater's first Cog Sci Alumni Reunion a few weekends ago. Fellow Cog Sci alum and Bolt|Peters co-founder Nate Bolt ('99) was on hand to represent the South Park contingent, and reports he had a great time. I missed it due to scheduling, but will look forward to the next one.

Nate was nice enough to send my regards to Ed Hutchins, who apparently remembered me, which just about made my week. There are quite a few people I have to thank for helping me get as far along in the field as I have these past few years, but very few have had quite the impact Professor Hutchins did. I look forward to having the opportunity to tell him that in person.

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