Empirical Modelling is first and foremost concerned with sense-making activity in all its aspects. Where the use of computer technology is involved, thinking with computers is an informal characterisation of EM that clearly embraces more than the classical theory of computation takes into account. Making the case for EM as a well-conceived framework within which classical computer science can be seen in its proper relation to the extraordinarily rich web of sense-making activities that surround modern computing practice has motivated three interrelated agendas:
- Developing principles and tools to support EM;
- Generating models and applications to illustrate EM in practice;
- Identifying an appropriate philosophical orientation to support EM ideas.
In order to practise EM effectively it is essential to understand EM principles and helpful to appreciate its philosophical orientation. Experience of interacting with existing EM models is an invaluable aid to learning about all aspects of EM. The tools and models necessary for this purpose are available for download.
Some of the principles, practice and philosophy that we regard as characteristic of EM are already represented in the contemporary computer culture, and in some respects they have been more fully developed elsewhere. It is the extent to which they represent a new and distinctive approach to computer use - and a radical departure from classical thinking about computing - that is seldom acknowledged. Perhaps our most significant innovation - and our motivation for promoting Empirical Modelling as a concept that demands its own identity and name - is that we discriminate between activities such as thinking with computers and computer programming as it is traditionally conceived and practised. The implications of making this discrimination are broad and profound - they enfranchise an alternative vision for computing beyond the scope of formal computer science.