The aim of this online event is to introduce you to some new ideas about computing. They are ideas which have already proved useful and we think they are going to be important for the future of computing - especially when humans need to interact closely with computers. The purpose of the first workshop (Colour Sudoku) is not to turn you into Sudoku experts but rather it's just a 'way in' to the ideas behind our research work in Empirical Modelling (EM). The subject of the second workshop is EM itself and is rather more technical. Here you will start using our tools and doing some real modelling yourself. For the final workshop (Collaborative Construction) we hope you are going to be ready to take part in one of our first research experiments in online collaborative working.
There are times when we want computers to be programmed so as to automate some activity. For example, in choosing the phases of a washing machine cycle or managing the routing of packets on a telephone network. For while the human user starts off those processes and provides the inputs, it would be crazy for the human to be involved in all the detailed steps. There are other times when we don't want too much automation. For example, it's fairly easy to program a Sudoku puzzle solver - but that's a bit self-defeating if I enjoy solving puzzles myself! Humans have lots of creative faculties which we enjoy using - reasoning, imagining, interpreting, playing, designing, and so on. One of the great current challenges for computing is how to blend intelligent human action closely with automated activity. All too often a conventional program limits the user's action and imagination in frustrating ways. The aspiration of EM is to integrate human action and automated action so closely that the human experience of some activity (even Sudoku solving!) can be enhanced with a computer and therefore made more enjoyable. Our aim is for you to appreciate this possibility to some extent during this week.
The ideas of EM - or 'alternative computing' - are somehow very fundamental. They have more to do with human thinking and experience than with how computers happen to work. That's why we hope you might find them fairly easy and natural to understand. In fact you might find them easier than do some of our students who are more 'trained' in conventional ways of thinking about computing. So we'd very much value your feedback on the Feedback sheets and the Forum. Please give us your questions, comments, suggestions and reactions. This will help us to refine the workshops during the week. It will help us to know what works, or doesn't work, for communicating about EM. And it will help us improve future courses.
Now have a look at the Plan and get started on Workshop 1.