From the starting point of the Hypothesis of the Extended Mind (Clark & Chalmers, 1998), the last two decades of research in situated cognition have seen efforts to further characterize how cognition extends to our environment, and particularly to tools and artifacts. In this vein, proposals have been made to describe different dimensions of integration of artifacts in systems of extended cognition (Heersmink, 2015). Amongst these dimensions -and arguably as the main phenomenological marker of integration- appears the controversial concept of transparency, understood as the automaticity and lack of effort and conscious reflection with which we deploy an artifact (Heersmink, 2015). This notion, which we will call transparency-as-automaticity, seems however incomplete upon closer examination: it is not always the best characterization of extended experience (Andrada, 2020) and it can sometimes be insufficient, particularly when looking at examples of algorithm-based technologies where another kind of transparency (reflexive transparency) -more focused on access to regulative mechanisms- might be needed (Clowes, 2020).
With the aim of providing a better characterization of the ambivalent concept of transparency in the context of extended cognition, we will explore the theories of action control that are behind the notion of transparency-as-automaticity. We will review automatic views of skilled action, such as those defended by Hubert L. Dreyfus (2005, 2007), that focus on the “mindless” flow of expert performance and explore their limitations. We will then turn to hybrid theories that claim that both automaticity and control are needed for skilled performance (Christensen et al., 2016), which from our point of view provide a more detailed and situated picture of action, and use them to propose a revised concept of transparency: situated transparency. This hybrid notion of transparency allows to accommodate the experience of flow in our use of artifacts with the need for flexible control and situational awareness of a dynamic and everchanging environment in which (extended) cognition takes place.