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The OXO laboratory

 

Conceptual orientation

    Traditional and alternative / complementary Computer Science

 


Empirical Modelling and the OXO laboratory

Key concepts:

  • A definitive script
  • Observables, dependencies and agency
  • Interpretation through interaction
  • The "first person" stance
  • The role of experience
  • Diversity of agents: modeller, designers (aesthetic, game), player
... as represented at http://www.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/~wmb/webeden/mirrorOXOandsome.html

 


Challenges in accounting for the EM OXO model in a rationalistic framework

General orientation

  • goal / purpose?
  • functional abstraction?
  • objective stance?
  • duality: separation of concerns?

 

Construal

  • specification necessarily prior to implementation i.e. "understanding backwards"?
  • how to prescribe what is included and acceptable ("identifying the use cases"?

 

Agency

  • rationality and reliability of agency?
  • programmable agency - automation?
  • constraining human agency

 

Formality

  • propositional statements?
  • formal semantics?

 

Intuition

  • linking experiential elements to processes prior to programming?
  • linking experiential elements to HCI / human factors / user-centred design?

 

Computing faces the very same challenges all the time in relation to its familiar agenda: but these are distilled and concentrated in considering EM, and the theory of computing is ill-suited to addressing them.


Philosophical reorientation

    Challenges to the rationalistic (analytic) tradition

How William James's radical empiricism relates to the challenges ...

General orientation

  • "Life is confused and superabundant ..."[A1]
    OXO as eliciting interpretations, stimulating breakdown
  • always imperfect, incomplete: "... going from parts to wholes"[A4]
  • cf. the opposite perspective: [T.H.Green] followed the strict intellectualist method with sensations. What they were not expressly defined as including they must exclude. [B4]
  • generating provisional / current understandings, not recording universal truths:
    "... it is contented to regard its most assured conclusions concerning matters of fact as hypotheses liable to modification in the course of future experience ..." [A4]
    "... as reality is created temporally day by day, concepts ... can never fitly supersede perception" [A4]
  • first-person character:
    the "truth" of our mental operations must always be an intra-experiential affair" [A3]
    cf. the unavoidable discontinuity: when I seek to make a transition from an experience of my own to one of yours ... have to get on and off again, to pass from the thing lived to another thing only conceived[B2]

 

Construal

  • "understanding forwards"[D1]: the modeller's understanding evolves as the artefact and its associated context for interaction and interpretation becomes richer
    Understanding backwards is, it must be confessed, a very frequent weakness of philosophers, both of the rationalistic and of the ordinary empiricist type. Radical empiricism alone insists on understanding forwards also, and refuses to substitute static concepts of the understanding for the transitions in our moving life.[D1]
  • construal as viewed by Gooding: pre-articulate understanding mediated through interaction with a physical artefact (which Gooding actually calls a construal [in Experiment and the making of meaning]): cf. James's view of knowledge:
    • Knowing as rooted in conjunctive relationships:
      Knowledge of sensible realities ... comes to life inside the tissue of experience. It is made; and made by relations that unroll themselves in time. [C5]
    • cf. James's stance re language: The truth is that neither elements of fact nor meanings of words are separable as our words are. [B3]

 

Agency

  • Impossibility of attributing agency in any absolute way: no philosophic knowledge of the general nature and constitution of tendencies, or of the relation of larger to smaller ones, can help us to predict which of all the various competing tendencies that interest us in this universe are likeliest to prevail ... the healthy thing for philosophy is to leave off grubbing underground for what effects effectuation, or what makes actions act, and to try to solve the concrete questions of
        where effectuation in this world is located [identification of agency],
        of which things are the true causal agents there [attribution to agents], and
        of what the more remote effects consist [interpretation in state-based terms] [D3]
  • "three principal types of agency" to which to attribute activity: "a consciousness of wider time-span than ours", "'ideas' struggling with one another for prevalence", "nerve cells" ... arbitrate pragmatically according to "what will be the actual results" [D3]
  • ... and in relation to the nature of our consciousness: But how the experiences ever get themselves made, or why their characters and relations are just such as appear, we can not begin to understand. [C4]

 

Formality

  • ... subjectivity and objectivity are affairs not of what an experience is aboriginally made of, but of its classification [C5]
  • Contrast the view that James attributes to the Transcendentalist: "Conjunctive transitions are the most superficial of appearances, illusions of our sensibility which philosophical reflection pulverises at a touch. Conception is our only trustworthy instrument, conception and the Absolute working hand in hand. Conception disintegrates experience utterly, but its disjunctions are easily overcome again when the Absolute takes up the task." [B5]. James, by contrast, seeks to give an account that unifies experience with the making of concepts.

 

Intuition

  • Intuition is not a word that James uses prominently, but Naur [see Intuition in Software Development (1985)] has used it in connection with software development and subsequently related it to James's philosophic stance. James gives such primary status to experience that it isn't appropriate to find a special word to decorate the concept:
    • "Everything real must be experienceable somewhere, and every kind of thing experienced must somewhere be real" [A3]
    In contrast to Bode's "rationalistic act of substitution": "Radical empiricism ... refuses to substitute static concepts of the understanding for the transitions in our moving life [D1]
  • Antithesis of abstraction: "the separation of [experience] into consciousness and content comes, not by way of subtraction, but by way of addition - the addition, to a given concrete piece of it, of other sets of experiences, in connection with which severally its use or function may be of two different kinds." [C1]

 


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