Codifying Distributed Cognition: A Case Study of Emergency Medical Dispatch

in Thesis / Dissertation


The theory of distributed cognition is recognised as being relevant to system analysis and design but it has lacked visibility for practice. In this paper I develop a codified method of analysis based on distributed cognition which provides both structure and guidance in the use of the theory. The method developed comprises a systematic exploration and description of three functional levels of a system, namely, the information flow model, physical model, and artefact model. These levels are analytically separate but integrate in modelling the propagation and transformation of information within a system. The approach to developing this method has been exploratory and iterative: developing the understanding of distributed cognition and contextual study literature, with practical application to the London Ambulance Service Central Ambulance Control room context. The application of the method to this context reveals a number of design issues and concerns lending support to its use in these situations. Furthermore, this paper introduces a conception of how distributed cognition can be used to deliberate about potential design scenarios, which is a use of distributed cognition that has been alluded to but has not been explained elsewhere. This paper makes progress in narrowing the gap between distributed cognition theory and practice by adding guidance through a structured codified methodology. The method provides an accessible, practical approach to analysing team based systems using distributed cognition.