Hutchins was a student of the cognitive anthropologist Roy D'Andrade and has been a strong advocate of the use of anthropological methods in cognitive science. He is considered the father of modern Cognitive Ethnography. His early work involved studies of logic in legal discourse among people of the Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea.
For a time he worked in the Navy doing research on how crews of ship can function as a distributed machine offloading the cognitive burden of ship navigation onto each member of the crew. He was a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur "Genius Grant".
In 1995, Hutchins published Cognition in the Wild, now a classic in Cognitive Science. CITW provides a detailed study of distributed cognitive processes in a navy ship, and as with other works related to distributed cognition, criticizes disembodied views of cognition and proposes an alternative which looks at cognitive systems that may be composed of multiple agents and the material world.
Other areas of his work include the study of airline cockpits, the development of cognitive ethnographic methods and tools, and human-computer interaction. He currently, in collaboration with James Hollan, runs the Distributed Cognition and Human Computer Interaction Laboratory at UC San Diego.
Hutchins's home page: http://hci.ucsd.edu/hutchins
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