October 31, 2011

“Since the prevailing image of the computer is that of a logical machine, and since programming is seen as a technical and mathematical activity, the existence of anything but an analytic approach in this area makes a dramatic argument for pluralism. But the computer’s most specific contribution to the critique of canonical styles depends on something more fundamental. The computer stands betwixt and between the world of formal systems and physical things; it has the ability to make the abstract concrete. In the simplest case, an object moving on a computer screen might be defined by the most formal of rules and so be like a construct in pure mathematics; but at the same time it is visible, almost tangible, and allows a sense of direct manipulation that only the encultured mathematician can feel in traditional formal systems (see Davis & Hersh, 1981; Papert, 1980a). The computer has a theoretical vocation: to bring the philosophical down to earth.”

Papert, S. and Turkle, S. (1990) Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete. Versions of this article appeared in the Journal of Mathematical Behavior, Vol. 11, No.1, in March, 1992, pp. 3-33; Constructionism, I. Harel & S. Papert, Eds. (Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1991), pp.161-191; and SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Autumn 1990, Vol. 16 (1).

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