X Marks the Thought (Mapping my Dreamers Concept Experience)

Weird title right? Well the X or should I say Xs/Xes here is the frameworks or ideas that will connect at least three dreamers that I have learned about in this class. The dreamers that I plan to link are Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”, Doug Engelbart, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”, and Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, “Personal Dynamic Media”.

I choose these dreamers for a fairly simple reason; they build on each other ideas. Engelbart directly quotes from Vannevar Bush’s reading and Kay and Goldberg builds on to the ideas of “Augmenting Human Intellect” and the “Memex/Dynabook/meta-medium”.

I came up with seven frameworks, some more explicit than others, that connects each of these readings. They are symbiosis, augmenting human intellect, meta cognition, personalization, storing memory/data, organization, and associative trails. I will address each of these frameworks in the order above with quotes from each reading as proof of some sort of connection. A quote can and may have more than one framework.

Symbiosis:

The symbiosis that I am talking about is the collaboration of man and medium. The reason why I did not say computer is because in each reading, the idea of a meta-medium/computer is similar but with slightly different form and name (Memex, Computer, and Dynabook).

From “As We May Think”:

  • “Whenever logical processes of thought are employed—that is, whenever thought for a time runs along an accepted groove—there is an opportunity for the machine.”

From “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

  • “man-computer symbiosis” to refer to the close interaction relationship between the man and computer in mutually beneficial cooperation.”

From “Personal Dynamic Media”

  • “Devices” which variously store, retrieve, or manipulate information in the form of messages embedded in a medium have been in existence for thousands of years. People use them to communicate ideas and feelings both to others and back to themselves.
    • The quote “people use them(medium) to communicate ideas and feelings” directly state a connection between man and medium.

Augmenting Human Intellect:

The idea of augmenting human intellect has a direct interaction with symbiosis. The medium or computer enhances the human mind as people continue to use it. The medium is capable of speeding up human evolution. The purpose of the dreamers pushing for this augmentation is for people to be able to better solve “complex” problems.

From “As We May Think”:

  • “This is a much larger matter than merely the extraction of data for the purposes of scientific research; it involves the entire process by which man profits by his inheritance of acquired knowledge.”
    • This quote highlights the idea that “man profits by his inheritance of acquire knowledge”. It is not directly related to a medium but it is talking about augmenting human intellect through knowledge and that’s what a medium like the computer will allow mankind to do, acquire knowledge.
  • “Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. In minor ways he may even improve, for his records have relative permanency.”

From “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

  • “By “augmenting human intellect” we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems.”
    • Augmenting human intellect is directly taken from this reading and it is very clearly stated and explained here in this sentence.

From “Personal Dynamic Media”

  • “Although thinking goes on in one’s head, external media serve to materialize thoughts and, through feedback, to augment the actual paths the thinking follows.”
    • Kay and Goldberg believes that medium can augment human thinking but they add on to the idea by stating that a “feedback” is necessary.

Meta Cognition:

Meta cognition is thinking about the way one think. The dreamers in these readings must have all thought about how people think and what they needed in order to come up with an idea that could improve the way someone thinks.

From “As We May Think”:

  • “The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.”

From “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

  • “Humans rose above the lower forms of life by evolving the biological capability for developing abstractions and concepts. They could manipulate these concepts within their minds to a certain extent, and think about situations in the abstract. Their mental capabilities allowed them to develop general concepts from specific instances, predict specific instances from general concepts, associate concepts, remember them, etc.”
    • Engelbart mentions that the mind manipulate information and allow for prediction, association, memory, and much more.
  • “However, Korzybski 4 and Whorf 5 (among others) have argued that the language we use affects our thinking to a considerable extent. They say that a lack of words for some types of concepts makes it hard to express those concepts, and thus decreases the likelihood that we will learn much about them. If this is so, then once a language has begun to grow and be used, it would seem reasonable to suspect that the language also affects the evolution of the new concepts to be expressed in that language.”
    • The major idea here is that language or how people communicate affect the way they think.

From “Personal Dynamic Media”

  • “Considering children as the users radiates a compelling excitement when viewed from a number of different perspectives. First, the children really can write programs that do serious things. Their programs use symbols to stand for objects, contain loops and recursions, require a fair amount of visualization of alternative strategies before a tactic is chosen, and involve interactive discovery and removal of “bugs” in their ideas.”
    • In their reading, Kay and Goldberg focuses more on the way children thinks. They did this through letting children actually experiencing the dynabook first hand. Some notable ideas from this quote is that children are capable and that they seem to prefer symbols and visualization.
  • “Second, the kids love it! The interactive nature of the dialogue, the fact that they are in control…. all contribute to a tremendous sense of accomplishment to their experience. Their attention spans are measured in hours rather than minutes.”
    • Notable Information: Children likes feeling accomplished, attention spans are measured in hours rather than minute which is odd because children are expected to have low attention spans.

Personalization:

Personalization is another way of saying individualism. It is how the medium is made so that everyone of all ages can use it and may use it differently than others. Through personalization, the accessibility of knowledge and the ease of use of the medium will be increased.

From “As We May Think”:

  • “Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library.”

From “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

  • “But another kind of view might be obtained by extracting and ordering all statements in the local text that bear upon consideration A of the argument–or by replacing all occurrences of specified esoteric words by one’s own definitions.”
    • “one’s own definitions”

From “Personal Dynamic Media”

  • “We design, build, and use dynamic media which can be used by human beings of all ages.”
    • Human beings of “all ages”.

Storing Memory/Data:

Each of the reading mentions how man is limited in memory and a medium that can store large amount of these memory and allow for its retrieval is necessary.

From “As We May Think”:

  • “Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory”

From “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

  • “All of this information (the building design and its associated “thought structure”) can be stored on a tape to represent the design manual for the building. Loading this tape into his own clerk, another architect, a builder, or the client can maneuver within this design manual to pursue whatever details or insights are of interest to him–and can append special notes that are integrated into the design manual for his own or someone else’s later benefit.”

From “Personal Dynamic Media”

  • “The Dynabook can be used as an interactive memory or file cabinet. The owner’s context can be entered through a keyboard and active editor, retained and modified indefinitely, and displayed on demand in a font of publishing quality”
    • The idea of “interactive memory or file cabinet” has to do with memory storage and information being “modified indefinitely” is more personalization.

Organization:

Storing information if fine but grouping them will be necessary in order to retrieve them.

From “As We May Think”:

  • “There is, of course, provision for consultation of the record by the usual scheme of indexing. If the user wishes to consult a certain book, he taps its code on the keyboard, and the title page of the book promptly appears before him, projected onto one of his viewing positions.”

From “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

  • “What’s more, our entire conceptual framework represents the first pass at a “theoretical model with which to organize our thinking and action.”

From “Personal Dynamic Media”

  • “The current version of the system is able to automatically cross-file several thousand multifield records (with formats chosen by the user), which include ordinary textual documents indexed by content, the Smalltalk system, personal files, diagrams, and so on”

Associative Trails:

One of the biggest factor in retrieving and searching for information is associative trails. This is when contents are connected through their similar uses or meanings. The way they are connected is through trails left by people using links. An example given to me is “white house”. If a data is just organized by words instead of meaning, searching up “white house” could show many contents of literal white houses but that probably is not what most people are looking for. The White House that a person would normally look up is where the president lives in the United States. A person that searches for information on this white house could create links or trails leading to several other contents that talk about the White House of the President instead of a literal “white house”.

From “As We May Think”:

  • “When the user is building a trail, he names it, inserts the name in his code book, and taps it out on his keyboard. Before him are the two items to be joined, projected onto adjacent viewing positions. At the bottom of each there are a number of blank code spaces, and a pointer is set to indicate one of these on each item. The user taps a single key, and the items are permanently joined.”

From “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

  • “It is also probable that clever usage of associative-trail manipulation can augment the human’s process structuring and executing capacilities so that he could successfully make use of even more powerful symbol-structure manlpulation processes utilizing the Memex capabilities.”
    • This is talking about both associative trail and augmenting human intellect.

From “Personal Dynamic Media”

  • “The multiple-window display capability of Smalltalk has inspired the notion of a dynamic document. A document is a collection of objects that have a sensory display and have something to do with each other; it is a way to store and retrieve related information.”
    • Both associative trail and organization

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