[SIGCIS-Members] history, technology and education of theoretical math/cs concepts

Paul Fishwick metaphorz at gmail.com
Thu Oct 8 11:56:46 PDT 2020

There is a topic that has interested me, but I have been unable to make much headway in

past years since I am not sure where to look.


Consider that Kathy, an 8th grade student, knows more about how to use a computer than

her parents, who may know more than her grandparents. When learning to use digital

technology artifacts such as “menu”, education is imparted on Kathy. She learns something

about tree structures, and possibly finite state machines (FSMs). This is done invisibly because

she did not have to learn discrete mathematics and automata theory to use the computer.


One hypothesis that all technology is this way. We use technology and technology

uses us (by invisibly transferring new mental models). The introduction of

the mechanical clock changed how we conceptualize time. Fast forwarding to digital 

technology, Kathy must have conceptualized trees and FSMs as mental models even

though this theory was not made explicit.


My searches have taken me to psychology (where the dominant discourse is about

dysfunction where technology is concerned), history of technology as well as the history

of science. This relates to math and computer science education too—teaching FSMs to

people through implicit means. Learning something without knowing that your learning



If anyone on this list has a good place for me to dive, let me know. 




Paul Fishwick, PhD
Distinguished University Chair of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication
Professor of Computer Science
Director, Creative Automata Laboratory
The University of Texas at Dallas
Arts & Technology
800 West Campbell Road, AT10
Richardson, TX 75080-3021
Home: utdallas.edu/atec/fishwick
Media: medium.com/@metaphorz
Modeling: digest.sigsim.org
Twitter: @PaulFishwick

ONLINE: Webex,Collaborate, TEAMS, Zoom, Skype, Hangout


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