Complex cognition relies on an interaction between internal and external memory fields (EXMF) provided, for example, by paper and pen or by a computer screen. An external memory field provides an artificially expanded working memory that mediates an agent’s relation to the collective knowledge network. It also functions as a ”collective arena” (Donald, 2001) for jointly developing shared ideas and thoughts, i.e., conceptual artefacts (Bereiter, 2002). EXMF allows one to store developing knowledge artefacts during the process, and supports iterative working for further articulation of shared symbolic-visually represented ideas. This process may in principle go on indefinitely, assuming that there are agents pursuing the epistemic goals in question; i.e., researchers in cognition have found no reason to believe in any pre-set or intrinsic limitations concerning expansion and articulation of externally represented knowledge.

See also Externalization, External Representation, External Symbolic Storage System (ESSS), Knowledge Organizers.


Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and mind in the knowledge age. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Donald. M. (2001). A mind so rare: The evolution of human consciousness. New York: Norton.

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