Wednesday, February 6, 2008

learning by doing

Sorry for the late post, I realize that after section has past there isn’t really time to discuss its content. I’m going to open with some observations on “Patchwork Girl” and continue on to elaborate on a question about the implications of programming and computer language for humanity and natural language.
Interacting with “Patchwork Girl” seemed to break down into two constituent elements: interaction with the hypertext itself and use of the software “story reader” whose interface determined to a large extent the grammar of interaction. I found that the way in which I explored the text generally fell into two categories. One was a navigation of clicks on the actually text of the piece. The other involved accessing the “view” menu of the software and pulling up different tools which provided ways of viewing the content of “Patchwork Girl” as a chart or tree, etc. While I wanted to be able to use these built in tools along with a kind of ground level, click-through interaction, I found the two methods to be somewhat incompatible, as it was often difficult to progress from a point the text located from a tree, chart, or index.
“Patchwork Girl” catalogs and sequences textual data to dramatic purpose. The piece is deep and encyclopedic. It reveals itself in waves and in various manifestations of the textual form. Particularly impressive is the bibliographic section citing the sources of passages and linking back to their alternative existence in the more narrative hypertext.
Tools and machines always gave us a chance to reflect on the nature of our humanity. As we crafted shovels, wheels, and scythes some reflection about fundamental human goals was achieved in the recognition that certain inventions could help us achieve these goals. The better we developed the shovel, the closer we could come to an understanding of what ideal human digging could be. The shovel was an artificial hand optimized for this one human task. While we have long been able to craft such tools to extend our physical might, the advent of computer technology has given us the opportunity to extend and idealize the human mind.
The problem of communication with computers is that humans speak in general terms that we understand as a result of our human experience, but computers need to be told exactly what to do in a fully detailed and technical way. The challenge of programming is to create software which has more human applications and can communicate in a more human way through a series of exact computer language inputs. As with the other tools I mentioned, computers move towards filling an exact human need for a tool to extend his mental activities. Necessarily, the development of this perfect complement to humanity through computer language will allow humans to learn a lot about what they are and how to represent it in a precise, inhuman way.

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