Music Records as Distributed Cognition – Carson and Lauren

Music Records as Distributed Cognition


Our case study looking into music on records has many layers of distributed cognition and is a great example of the extended mind. Early on in the making process, we have the artist and their relationship to the instrument. Already we have an extended mind in which the human organism is linked with the external entity. As we know, there is no such thing as thought which is then suddenly put into a communication form. Rather, there is an artist who has listened and heard many other musical experiences before.

They are a member of a cultural system in which music has been created and interpreted by others before them. Because they have experienced this distributed cognition before, they begin with the ideas of other artists first. Then they begin to play the instrument. The sound the instrument makes in the external environment is then interpreted by the artist in relation to their ideas about past music. After judging the music, they alter their relationship to the instrument until they perceive a sound that they like.

Creating Record:

This whole experience is done through an externalized relationship of the artist with the sensory environment of the past (other music they have heard) and present (the music the instrument is making at the moment). From this point, the artist can then use more cognitive technology to offload the music as they create the music. This is recorded in analogue form onto a record giving even more mobility to the already distributed cognition.


The artist has little to no control over how the consumer will think about their music. The thoughts and emotions the artist put into creating the music are not provided to the consumer.

Actually playing a record:

The first step of this process is record selection. What do you want to listen to? The record selection is usually influenced by someone’s mood. (cognitive process) After the selection, the consumer would start the record player, letting the music play. This is where extended cognition comes in, the consumer’s thoughts and emotions at that time are being influenced directly by their environment. Sometimes, it is what they were expecting, but sometimes the music can trigger thoughts the consumer was not expecting.

What makes this special is that the vinyl spinning around creating music was created by someone else. The artist that created this piece of work is sharing their cognitive thoughts with consumers of that record. – Distributed Cognition.