This page will house the assignments for the INQUIRY phase of this course.

10.8.15 Today we explored those boxes that are often imposed upon us unjustly or without our consent.  How do we get out of those boxes, and how do we stay out? For Tuesday’s preparation, complete the following:

  1. Reading and Nugget Experience:
    1. Read Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, “Personal Dynamic Media”
    2. Blog post making nugget from “Personal Dynamic Media” as meaningful as possible
  2. Refine Inquiry Project Proposal…again. Focus on refining the specific angle you will take.
  3. Test Prep (Due Thursday Oct. 15th)
    1. Make a visual map (you choose the type) that articulates the key concept(s)/theme(s) of the course and shows how the authors we have read relate to those concepts/themes. You will then frame your inquiry project in relation to that map.
  4. First Argument Paper (Due Tuesday Oct. 20th)
    1. You will create a one page (two page maximum) argument convincing others that your paper topic is interesting and significant.

10.6.15 Today we discussed two things. (1) The logic of the course including its overall purposes and directions. (2) Four foundational elements of argument. For preparation on Thursday, please complete the following:

  1. Revisit your self-assessment post. Given the class discussion, look at what you have done focusing on your blogs and participation and put a critical lens to the quality of that work.
  2. Revisit your inquiry project proposals, which should have been presented in both a google form I sent out and a blog post. We need to refine our questions so that we can take systematic steps toward researching our topics.
  3. Reply to at least three of your peer’s blog posts.


  1. Be Prepared! We will have an assignment next week that maps all the thinkers we have read this term and contextualize their work in relation to the course theme and goals. You may wish to get started on this. Here is a post by a student in another section that synthesizes two thinkers: Engelbart and Bush. It is a good example. Use your resources!
  2. Future Reading: What do you think about this report? We will use it as we reflect on our final arguments in weeks to come.

10.1.15: Today we welcomed a guest speaker: Christina Engelbart. As we continue into the world of inquiry and action, we are poised to read another author. The readings are not only challenging our conceptions of what it means to ask questions, but showing us ways to ask interesting questions that have global implications.  By NEXT class, please complete the following:

  1. Read Ted Nelson, Computer Lib / Dream Machines (excerpts. pdf download) and pick a nugget to work with. Specifically focus on the concepts of “fantics” and/or “thinkertoys”.  I’m curious to explore the implications of these concepts to your inquiry proposals.
  2. Revise your inquiry proposal questions you developed this week. Reach out to your peers for feedback and also respond to at least three peers so as to help them along. Remember that your topic has to be INTERESTING and SIGNIFICANT.
  3. Post progress report reflection. Look over the assignments thus far over the term and compare them with what you have accomplished. Remember that we are looking for quality work. Have you utilized the resources (instructor, peer, writing center, texts, etc.) to build the best possible products? Have you been engaged in the class? What type of thinker are you embodying (A, B, C)?  Write a post that explores the thinking and action you have invested in this class thus far.

9/29/15: Today we worked on our inquiry questions. We explored what it means to be “in the web”, “of the web” and “for the web.” The theme of this course explores what the web is and can be and our places within it. By NEXT class please complete the following:

  1. Blog about your inquiry project question. Why this question? What makes it interesting? What makes it significant? What led you to this topic?
  2. Revisit your blog posts on Doug Engelbart. Look at the institute’s website. Thursday we will host Christina Engelbart who is the Executive Director. What questions will you have for her?
  3. OPTIONAL: Who are you on the Internet? Take time to design your blog to reflect some dimension of you.

9/10/15: What follows is what we will start working on on this date. Must be completed by the next class session. 
Read at least these excerpts from Doug Engelbart, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”:

Chapter I, “Introduction,” parts A (“General”) and B (“Objective of the Study”)
Chapter II, “Conceptual Framework,” parts A (“General”) and B (“The Basic Perspective”)
Chapter III, “Examples and Discussion,” part A (“Background”) sections 2 (“Comments Related To Bush’s Article” and 3 (“Some Possibilities with Cards and Relatively Simple Equipment”)
Nothing from Chapter IV
Chapter V, “Summary” (all)
Chapter VI, “Conclusions” (all)
and of course, pick your nugget.

You should also watch some or all of “The Mother Of All Demos.” There’s a nice set of highlights made by SRI International that’s great as an overview.

Nugget Experience 3

  • Blog post making nugget from “Augmenting Human Intellect” as meaningful as possible. Don’t forget the links (make them interesting, make them revelatory, make them creative).

Revisit your last nugget experience and rework it in light of our in class lesson on asking deep questions.

9/3/15: What follows is what we will start working on on this date. Must be completed by the next class session. 

Thinking about Learning and Development

  • Create a page in your blog that is dedicated to recording (1) your existing skills and dispositions, (2) resources, frameworks, methods, strategies and practices that have helped you develop your skills and dispositions, and (3) new resources and skills that you work with in this, and other, classes.

Nugget Experience 2: 

  • Blog post making nugget from “Man-Computer Symbiosis” as meaningful as possible

Concept Experience 2: Formulative vs. Formulated Thinking

Formulative Thinking Concept Experience: “Analyzing the obvious”

“It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.”  Alfred North Whitehead

DO NOT EVER STOP“It means ‘Ask the next question.’ It’s the symbol of everything humanity has ever created, and is the reason it has been created. This guy is sitting in a cave and he says, ‘Why can’t man fly?’ Well, that’s the question. The answer may not help him, but the question now has been asked. The next question is what? How? And so all through the ages, people have been trying to find out the answer to that question. We’ve found the answer, and we do fly. This is true of every accomplishment, whether it’s technology or literature, poetry, political systems or anything else. That’s it. Ask the next question. And the one after that.” – Theodore Sturgeon Copyright Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust (fair use asserted for educational purposes)

Last week’s concept experience asked you to reflect on how the computer records, reveals, and makes shareable your own associative trails. Many of you found some surprises there, which is very interesting.

This week’s concept experience asks you to reflect on how you interact with the computer to create new associative trails deliberately but without a preconceived formula. In other words, how can you use the computer not like a map but like a compass? To answer this question, you’ll be in the intersection between what’s prescribed (like a recipe) and what’s utterly random (like a rock hitting your windshield as you’re driving).

This intersection is harder to find than you may think (a Marvel No-Prize for anyone detecting the reference there). Some of you noticed that as soon as you started the associative trails concept experience, you could no longer ignore that you were doing the associative trails concept experience, and this made your associative trails different from what they usually are. School does that to you, sometimes. But there’s an interesting trick you can learn to do in which you force yourself into what Zen masters call “beginner’s mind.” This concept experience may not get you all the way there, but it’s worth a try.

Here’s the experience:

1. Start with a blank piece of paper (real, or virtual). At the top, write “Analyzing the obvious.” On the next line, write the most obvious thing you can think of. Something like “water is wet” or “most plants are green.” (You can use either of those if you want, but there are many obvious things to analyze so you’ll probably want one of your own for extra fun.) If you get stuck, write down as many obvious things as you can think of. Do this quickly. You’ll find your flow soon. Then pick the one you like best.

2. Now notice the time you start your experience. You don’t need a URL yet, just the time. You’ll find the URL in your history, later.

3. Now pretend that your obvious statement is the research hypothesis for your inquiry project. If this doesn’t make you feel a little silly, then you haven’t chosen a truly obvious thing to analyze.

4. Now start your research on your computer. Your job is to analyze this obvious statement. Here’s where you’ll need to be creative. You’ll need not just to solve problems, but to find problems too. You’re not just looking for answers. You’re looking for better questions. Obvious things can’t be analyzed unless you come up with really good questions. You’re taking a leap of faith, trusting what Alfred North Whitehead observed and trusting that you can be persistent and creative enough to experience some of that for yourself. (Hint: “why” questions can work well, but they’re not the only way by any means.)

5. Work on this concept experience for at least 90 minutes. You can take breaks if you want, but the longer you can work uninterruptedly, the better the chance that you’ll get better.

6. After you’ve finished, look over your history and write an extended and extra-thoughtful, extra-creative blog post that reflects on how you interacted with the computer as you analyzed the obvious. Your history will help you. Don’t wait too long to do the blog post–do it while the experience is fresh in your mind.


Here’s the passage in which Licklider distinguishes formulative thinking (the concept we want you to experience here) from formulated (or preformulated) thinking (the kind where you have clear procedures already in place).

Present-day computers are designed primarily to solve preformulated problems or to process data according to predetermined procedures. The course of the computation may be conditional upon results obtained during the computation, but all the alternatives must be foreseen in advance. (If an unforeseen alternative arises, the whole process comes to a halt and awaits the necessary extension of the program.) The requirement for preformulation or predetermination is sometimes no great disadvantage. It is often said that programming for a computing machine forces one to think clearly, that it disciplines the thought process. If the user can think his problem through in advance, symbiotic association with a computing machine is not necessary.

However, many problems that can be thought through in advance are very difficult to think through in advance. They would be easier to solve, and they could be solved faster, through an intuitively guided trial-and-error procedure in which the computer cooperated, turning up flaws in the reasoning or revealing unexpected turns in the solution. Other problems simply cannot be formulated without computing-machine aid. Poincare anticipated the frustration of an important group of would-be computer users when he said, “The question is not, ‘What is the answer?’ The question is, ‘What is the question?’” One of the main aims of man-computer symbiosis is to bring the computing machine effectively into the formulative parts of technical problems.

HELPFUL EXTRA HINT from Dr. Feynman:

(optional–do you use hints in games? I do sometimes, and sometimes I don’t):

Watch this video interview with Nobel-prize-winning physicist Dr. Richard Feynman. He analyzes the obvious fact that two magnets repel each other when you bring their identical poles together.

Super-Special Morale Booster Pack:

(“Bear in mind … Whitehead’s observation that analyzing the obvious has produced some of [humanity’s] most dramatic intellectual accomplishments.) Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner


  • What is your interpretation of an “associative trail”?
  • Look at and comment on at least five of your peers’ associative trails posts. In doing so, write a blog post on your blog that describes two surprising associative trails. What interesting places can our minds go when connecting with others?


  1. Create a twitter account. We will use the hashtag: #thoughtvectors 
  2. Nugget Experience: Compose a blog post that looks for a nugget (i.e. a pertinent passage from a reading that grabs you in some way) from “As We May Think” and make it as meaningful as possible.  It could be a passage that puzzles you, or intrigues you, or resonates strongly with you. It could be a passage you agree with, or one you disagree with. The idea here is that the passage evokes some kind of response in you, one that makes you want to work with the passage to make it just as meaningful as possible.
    To make it meaningful: Clear your browser history. Then, find something (a digital primary text) on the web to help flesh out why this nugget is significant, or to offer as an example or illustration of one of Bush’s concepts. It can be anything (an object image, GIF, video, etc.), so long as you are interested in it and your interest  is sparked from the nugget within the text.  Key question: How does the nugget connect to the text you select, and why is your interpretation of it important? Write no more more than two paragraphs.

    1. Here are some examples posts.
  3. Concept Experience: “Associative trails”. See below for the general definition of a concept experience. This concept experience challenges you to explore how you interface with the web.
    1. Take a screenshot of your browser history: It’s fine if the screenshot includes work you did for the nugget assignment and other things you have done on the internet that are unrelated. The idea is to use this tool as a lens into what you are exploring and how you explore it. Was there anything that lead to something else that might have opened you to a totally different topic?You can find the history of your browser under the drop down arrow on the right in the browser box.  To take a screenshot of your browser history:
      • In Firefox, click on History–Show all History–>Make box bigger–>Take Screenshot
      • In Chrome and Safari, click History–>Show History–>Take Screenshot
      • Avoid using Internet Explorer

      After taking the screenshot, make sure to save it  somewhere so that you can post it on your blog for the Concept Experience Assignment.

    2. Review your browser history screenshot. We can look to this as a snapshot of the associative trails you made across the web as you went from reading “As We May Think” to composing the nugget post.Compose a blog post including your screenshot that reflects on your own associate trails. Key questions: What do you think these trails say about your thought processes? What do they say about how you were conceptualizing your digital example for the nugget post?
  4. Begin to blog about what a grade means. Specifically, what is an ‘A’ thinker versus a ‘C’ thinker. Post your initial reflections on your blog and categorize it “grades”.


  1. Read Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think.”
  2. Set up your blog and make it known to the class by registering it here.
  3. Blog post: a self-portrait in words and more. “How Does It Feel When I Think?” – post your thoughts on your blog which will be linked to the course site.
    1. You can mine other student blogs to this topic on the Thought Vectors site. Here is one example.
  4. Begin thinking about what a grade really means. Read more here under the 8.27.15 section.
  5. Watch the videos here. Also watch the video on the syllabus.