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Prize lecture: What do we Think we are Doing?

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Alan will be repeating the talk he was invited to give at IEEE Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC) 2017, given after receiving an award for 20-year Most Influential Paper. His 1996 paper [1] challenged the VL community to ask What do we think we are doing? It might now be called a Systematic Literature Review, although formal procedures for SLR were not developed until later. It made a textual analysis of publications in which authors described a cognitive rationale for VL research, observing that many relied on insights from folk psychology, from introspection, or speculative computer analogies to the brain. This was a study of metacognition – beliefs about one’s cognitive ability that shape the mental strategies we choose. In the case of programming language designers, the choices being shaped were not their own problem-solving strategies (something we all do), but the design rationale for new languages (which will affect others).

[1] Blackwell, A.F. (1996). Metacognitive Theories of Visual Programming: What do we think we are doing? In Proceedings IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages, pp. 240-246.

This talk is part of the Rainbow Group Seminars series.

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