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On Knowing and Computing

An informal Workshop, Wednesday 12th May 2010, 10.00 - 17.00

Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick, Room CS101

Pragmatic approaches to knowledge representation and interpretation are topical in computing for a wide variety of reasons. As Auke van Breemen and Janos Sarbo observe in their paper "The Machine in the Ghost: the Syntax of Mind" (Signs 2009, 135-184), the study of information science highlights a tension between a fact orientated and an act orientated semantics. They go on to suggest:

"Maybe the tension can be resolved if we can find a logic that is more foundational than the extensional calculus and are able to construct a method of modeling with it that respects the demands of representing facts and the demands of representing acts of interpretation."

In pursuing this agenda, Breemen and Sarbo are led to take up the ideas of C.S.Peirce (1839-1914). In their poster "Knowledge in Formation", displayed at the recent Workshop on Philosophy of the Information and Computing Sciences at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, they relate Peirce's "sign aspects" to the varieties of modelling identified by Willard McCarty in his book Humanities Computing.

By an extraordinary coincidence, Breemen and Sarbo's poster was exhibited in Leiden alongside a poster by Meurig Beynon which also took its inspiration from McCarty's account of modelling. Beynon's poster refers to a model of Schubert's famous song Erlkönig developed using Empirical Modelling. What is more, it relates McCarty's varieties of modelling to the other founding figure in Pragmatism - William James (1842-1910).

Our informal workshop brings together several key researchers to explore pragmatic approaches to knowledge representation and interpretation in computing from many different perspectives. Our primary focus will be on the approaches suggested by the work of Peirce and James and the ways in which these can be linked with McCarty's varieties of modelling, with Steve Russ's notion of Human Computing, and with Empirical Modelling. As McCarty discusses at some length in his book Humanities Computing, a most important issue is that of reconciling traditional foundational thinking in computing - reflecting a fact orientated semantics, with modelling in the humanities - which demands an act orientated semantics. Closely related issues are raised by Ray Turner's account - and problematisation - of the traditional notion of software specification.

The outline programme below is provisional. There are as yet no formal titles for the talks, but the general theme to be addressed by each speaker is indicated and links to some relevant references (many drawn from the Leiden workshop) are included.


10.00   Coffee and Introductions

10.30   Steve Russ (Computer Science, Warwick)

Human Computing

Presentation slides (Russ.ppt)


11.00   Janos Sarbo (Radboud University, The Netherlands)

Knowledge in Formation

Poster (Poster Sarbo.pdf) and The Machine in the Ghost: The Syntax of Mind


12.00  Meurig Beynon (Computer Science, Warwick)

Philosophy of Computing and the Information Sciences: a Jamesian perspective

Extended Abstract and Poster (Poster Beynon.pdf)

See also the Erlkönig poster in the EM archive.

13.00   Lunch


14.00   Willard McCarty (CCH, King's College, London)

Modelling in the Humanities

Humanities Computing. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 2005.

See also Human Computing: Modelling with Meaning, and especially section 5: Towards a Philosophy of Modelling for Humanities Computing.


15.00    Discussion to address (amongst other things) some questions arising.

16.15   Tea

17.00   Ending

For directions to the Warwick Campus see http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/about/visiting/ . The Department of Computer Science is on the central campus map, building no.13.

Queries, suggestions, comments will be welcomed, please mail to Meurig Beynon(wmb at dcs dot warwick dot ac dot uk)

19th April 2010