16.191 mapping

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Aug 31 2002 - 14:53:00 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 191.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Charles Ess <cmess@lib.drury.edu> (114)
             Subject: Re: 16.188 (concept, topic &al.) mapping?

       [2] From: Charles Ess <cmess@lib.drury.edu> (11)
             Subject: Re: 16.188 (concept, topic &al.) mapping?

             Date: Sat, 31 Aug 2002 09:51:14 -0700
             From: Charles Ess <cmess@lib.drury.edu>
             Subject: Re: 16.188 (concept, topic &al.) mapping?

    Willard and colleagues:

    At the risk of over-filling your e-mail , I pass on the following notes I
    made on Thierry Bardini's excellent book on Douglas Engelbart,
    _Bootstrapping_. This makes the historically interesting point that the
    very interfaces we now take granted - including the visual display of our
    monitors (modeled after WWII radar screens (Engelbart was a radar
    technician), the keyboard, the mouse - rest on Engelbart's then-radical
    notion that the _body_ of the user must be included in thinking about what
    we call the Human-Computer Interface (Engelbart had his - more complex -
    version). As well, these interfaces are further tied to an explicit
    understanding of the _use_ of the machine as symbol manipulator - one that
    humans could use first of all to conceptually map their world -- a mapping
    process, finally, that for Engelbart led to hypertext as a distinctive
    capacity of the machine that would augment and enhance human intelligence
    as concerned with building concept maps in distinctive new ways.

    All of which is a very long way of saying and documenting that (a)
    Willard's interest in embodiment and concept mapping is (as usual) spot on,
    and (b) points to important historical roots in the development of
    computing technologies as such. In particular: Engelbart's interest in
    embodiment (which led directly to the idea of using the keyboard and the
    mouse as input devices) anticipates the important work of Winograd and
    Flores (1986) by something like thirty years.

    Charles Ess
    Interdisciplinary Studies Center
    Drury University
    Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA

    Bardini sees the emergence of natural-language interface out of the
    artificial computer languages (FORTRAN and COBOL) as part of "a slow
    process of teaching both the user and the computer how to talk to each other
    to find a common language." Moreover,
    How that process worked out had significant consequences for the way the
    personal computer developed. The most significant consequence was Dougals
    Engelbarts / inclusion of the body of the user in the interaction between
    computers and their users. (33f.)

    Contra the emphasis on the distinctiveness of this technology, Englebarts
    conceptualization of the interaction between users and computers is as "a
    process of information exchange that is not necessarily unique to humans
    using computers. All exchanges take place within a larger framework." (34)
    This larger framework (for computers, Engelbart called it "H-LAM/T - Human
    using Language, Artifact, Methodology, in which he is Trained"), the
    "man-artifact interface"
    has existed for centuries, ever since humans began using artifacts and
    executing composite processes, exchange across this "interface" occurs when
    an explicit-human process is coupled to an explicit-artifact process. Quite
    often these coupled processes are designed for just this exchange purpose,
    to provide a functional match between other explicit-human and
    explicit-artifact processes buried within their respective domains that do
    the more significant things. (Engelbart 1962, 21-21)

    Engelbart focused on language, influenced by Benjamin Lee Whorf (of the
    famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). One example:
    A natural language provides its user with a ready-made structure of concepts
    that establishes a basic mental structure, and that allows relatively
    flexible, general-purpose concept structuring. Our concept of "language" as
    one of the basic means for augmenting the human intellect embraces all of
    the concept structuring which the human may make use of . The other
    important part of our "language" is the way in which concepts are
    represented - the symbols and symbol structures. (Engelbart 1962, 35) (36)

    Language was thus conceived as operating at two levels: it structures
    concepts, but it also structures symbols in order to model and at the same
    time to represent "a picture of the world." (36)

    With specific reference to Whorf:
    The Whorfian hypothesis states that "the world view of a culture is limited
    by the structure of the language which this culture uses." But there seems
    to be another factor to consider in the evolution of language and human
    reasoning ability. We offer the following hypothesis, which is related to
    the Whorfian hypothesis: Both the language used by a culture, and the
    capability for effective intellectual activity, are directly affected during
    the evolution by the means by which individuals control the external
    manipulation of symbols (Engelbart 1962, 24) (36)

    As Bardini illustrates:
    It is not simply the case that language structures our world in a given way,
    without our having any influence on the matter. The computerized display of
    new symbols should therefore allow us to affect the way we conceptualize our
    world. The computer thus could become an open medium that could be used to
    "make sense of the world," to map the structure of the world as information
    flows in order to manage their increasing complexity. The computer medium
    would change intellectual activity radically. It would not just improve its
    efficiency, make it faster, more economical, and so on, although it would do
    these things, too. The basic means to augment human intellect would lie in
    the simultaneous development of computer and user in a way that would
    exploit the potential of natural language to reconfigure our concepts and
    change our world. (37)

    Nice quote from Whorf:
    Every language is a vast pattern-system, different from others, in which are
    culturally ordained the forms and categories by which the personality not
    only communicates, but also analyzes nature, notices or neglects types of
    relationships and phenomena, channels his reasoning, and builds the house of
    his consciousness" (Whorf 1956 [1942], 252) (37)

    A crucial turn (Bardini)
    Engelbart thus decided to focus on the configurations themselves, the
    "pattern-system" or "network" ordering the concepts that make up our world,
    rather than on the linear expression of those concepts, the way in which
    they usually are communicated:
    With the view that the symbols one works with are supposed to represent a
    mapping of ones associated concepts, and further that ones concepts exist
    in a "network" of relationships as opposed to the essentially linear form of
    actual printed records, it was decided that the concept-manipulation aids
    derivable from real-time computer support could be appreciably enhanced by
    structuring conventions that would make explicit (for both the user and the
    computer) the various types of network relationships among concepts.
    (Engelbart and English 1968, 398).

    In this way, according to Bardini
    Engelbart proposed to use this pattern system as a way by which computers
    could become devices that would allow humans to expand the house of their
    consciousness. When one stretches the notion of technology to include the
    way humans use language - as Engelbart realized very early, according to his
    own account - it becomes clearer how it was the influence of Whorf - and
    beyond that, of a nexus of independent thinkers like him - that was central
    to the development of the personal computer. --> hypertext (37)


             Date: Sat, 31 Aug 2002 09:52:09 -0700
             From: Charles Ess <cmess@lib.drury.edu>
             Subject: Re: 16.188 (concept, topic &al.) mapping?

    I've run into some literature on concept-mapping over the past five years -
    in part, as part of a collaboration with a colleague in architecture, as
    we've exported architectural pedgagogies into humanities teaching. I'm not
    sure I have any good bibliography to offer to complement yours - but I just
    wanted to make sure: are you familiar with Edward Tufte's several books on
    the visualization of information? They are classics in both architecture
    and other domains, so far as I can tell, and I'm pretty certain they've
    already been mentioned on Humanist one way or another.
    If so, grand. If not, let me know and I'll get the more precise details.

    Charles Ess

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