Breakdown into the Virtual User-Involved Design and Learning

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Date: Spring 2001
Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE)
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,272 words

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Science has been changing rapidly over the last decade. Like everything else around us it seems to be in the turmoil of altering, mutating, or disappearing. Most likely the idea of change is a cultural phenomenon, and could be seen as a side-effect of the "strange attraction" the media have invoked upon us. Chaos and all the modern self organizing hocus pocus splattered all over popular interpretations of too complex phenomena to talk about.

One of the distinguished factors in all this may be the evolution of computer science, realizing its potentiality of calculation, representation, and symbolization. This goes beyond the mere superficial digitalization of all scientific data, of the analyses programs, the evaluation and the dissemination of results. Suddenly a lot of people grew weary with the way things were going, they gathered together a couple of simple hypotheses and started to advocate controversial views of quintessential theories. Some 20 years ago, it was obvious that interdisciplinarity as a mission, had failed, but at the very same time it became apparent that the traditional pillars of academic wisdom were cracked and that the well kept disciplinary domains were merging, to the horror of many. Only one element was hampering the demolition of the dusty temple: the lack of a common methodology, a collective vocabulary, and a general theory that could function as a fertile ground for the postulation of even wilder things to come.

Then suddenly the words were all over the place: chaos and order, complexity, artificial life, cellular automata, self-organization, virtuality, smart materials, fuzzy logic, dynamical patterns, adaptive systems...The palace revolution had started and the rebels took over the security guards.

Some older guys who previously had been pushed into the peripheries, headed the group of renowned postmodemists... and are now considered the intellectual barometers of this time, and have the status of pop stars with equal broadcasting time.

From the beginning, the new frame of analysis and research was not restricted to the hard sciences such as genetics, physics, biology, or to deviant groups within artificial intelligence and logics. There was a strong belief that whatever was to be discovered or disputed could be of interest to any denomination within the social and human sciences, and arts as well. In an introduction to Ilya Prigogine's and I. Stenger's Order out of Chaos AlvinToffler suggested this as early as 1984.

Ever since, most areas have been tuning in: recent publications from sociology, philosophy, anthropology, and also communication theory use perspectives drawn from this "scientific revolution." Though the unresolved questions remain: how can we look at and what exactly is this, and how can we represent all this? But there is a new authoritative certainty--whether right or wrong is not at stake here--that former views just yield a less complete picture of the world. Furthermore, the idea is out that we have to live with a lot of contradiction, and heterogeneous theories applied with less certainty than what we have put to use in the past.


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Gale Document Number: GALE|A75578612