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125 - Ghosts of Programming Past, Present and Yet to Come


Twenty-five years ago, when the Psychology of Programming Interest Group (PPIG) was established, the concept of programming seemed rather robust and clear. With Turing's characterisation of algorithms at its core, its meaning could be safely broadened to include the many peripheral activities surrounding the production of software that - as can be inferred from the Call for Papers - have become the natural habitat for PPIG. Today, the nature and status of programming is much murkier. For instance, in his state-of-the-art reflections on programming, Chris Granger poses the questions "What is programming?" and "What is wrong with programming?". Despite the great promise - and perhaps even greater expectations - for applications of computational thinking, programming issues that were perceived as of the essence are no longer so prominently represented in computing-in-the-wild. For instance, the programming languages SCRATCH and Go - with radically different motivations - shift the focus from programming paradigms, formal programming language semantics and sophisticated abstract programming constructs to highly pragmatic issues relating to the experience of the developer. This paper makes the case that in understanding this intellectual development in approaches to program-related activity it is helpful to stop stretching the notion of 'programming' ever wider and to appeal instead to a broader complementary concept. To this end, in this paper, we propose to confine the term 'programming' to the authentic meaning it acquires through Turing's characterisation , and address the wider agenda to which it has been enlisted - and through which its meaning has been adulterated - by introducing the notion of 'making construals'. This proposal reflects twenty-five years of parallel development of Empirical Modelling, an approach to computing that has taken much inspiration and encouragement from the PPIG agenda.


Links to relevant construals (to be supplied)

The paper refers to a standard construal of games related to noughts-and-crosses and to a construal of reading musical notation at the keyboard conceived by Megan Beynon and developed by Meurig Beynon and Elizabeth Hudnott.