Tuesday, October 06, 2009

computers as tools

I came across this article (seems to be badly formatted- should be run through some wiki software?- I cut and pasted it into emacs to get the line breaks...) by Chris Dent at University of Indiana.

He says that there are two different views we have of computers. One is as "interactive artifacts", and the other is as tools. He suggests that the view as being interactive is flawed and the source of computers resulting in much less increase in efficiency than you might expect. He says that basically it is a flawed metaphor. We think of the computer as like a person, able to interact with us. However, for the forseeable future, computer programs are still rule based within a given domain, not able to form their own categories and make connections between domains. Thus, we have overly high expectations for how easy the interaction will be (the computer can understand what I want!), and also too low expectations for how that experience actually goes (I guess I just don't know how to talk like a computer :( )

He says that the two main ways in which computers are tools are in terms of automating tasks that are now or were previously done by people, and by acting as tools to augment ourselves.
I must say that I get a little uncomfortable thinking of augmentation. But I really like this idea of thinking of computers as tools. It throws away the fiction that we are somehow creating beings, or entities, or some kind of abstract existence out there. Instead we are using tools. These tools may store, represent, and manipulate information. And much more. But turning it back into tools, gives us the responsibility. What tools do we want? How effective are they? What do we want them for?

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