Concept Experience #2: Choose Your Own Internet Adventure

The experience last week was about hindsight: you checked out your browser history and considered the connections in your thinking that had already occurred, trying to make sense of the associative trails you saw. The experience this week is in the here-and-now and asks you to create some man-computer symbiosis: you will engage in formulative thinking and record your associative trails as you make them.

Another goal of this assignment is to help you further brainstorm your inquiry topic for this course and to help you learn more about it.

1. Based on the interest inventory and your continued thinking about your choice of topic for the inquiry project, choose a Wikipedia page that represents your area of interest for inquiry in UNIV 200. Be specific in finding a Wikipedia page about what interests you: for example, don’t choose scienceàdon’t choose astronomyàdon’t choose spaceàDO choose black holes. Don’t choose moviesàdon’t choose old moviesàdon’t choose horror moviesàDO choose Alfred Hitchcock (and maybe even narrow that to a particular film!).

2. Consider a handful of relevant Wikipedia pages, ultimately choosing one that best captures your specific area of interest. Be sure that the Wikipedia page is detailed and contains plenty of links.

3. Open up a Google Doc/Word Doc to use during this concept experience. Recording this experience as it happens is essential for the reflective writing you will do to illustrate it.

4. On the Google Doc/Word Doc, record the name of the page on which you start and copy and paste the URL. (You may also want to take screenshots of the websites–or parts of the websites–you view so that you can include them in your reflective writing.)

5. Read the Wikipedia page. Choose the link that interests you the most and click it.

6. Read this page, ultimately finding the link that interests you the most and clicking on it. Before you click on that link though, don’t forget to record the name of this page and the URL. Again, you may want to take a screenshot of the page or part of it.

Repeat this process of choosing a link, clicking on it, and reading the new page at least 10 times. If you come to a dead end (a website with no links), click the back button and redo that step. HOWEVER, that dead end was part of your concept experience, so be sure to record it!

The End…

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.



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UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument, 006

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