004Irritable credit copy


                                    Scientific Revolution

                                    Not Just “Innovation” 

Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and when successful, finds none."                                                                                             

                                                                                     T. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970)  



                                        Childhood’s End

We have in effect already turned the world over to the children  --  our challenge is to respect that fact and support their efforts to reinvent the world, to rethink it from the ground up.  The issue is make the children comfortable / productive in the driver's seat  -- they are already there, and they know it.  All this in the face of adult anxiousness about loss of power in this new world.

How to go about that?  I wrote a dissertation on something called "Open Systems Listening: Conversation As a Research Tool”, Ph.D. Diss.,1988, about a paradoxical environment of inquiry.  It suggested that the first step in a problem solving / consumer  research effort is not to lay out the obvious questions and then proceed.

The first step is to allow (absolutely no sub-text, environmental or behavioral, saying "I am smarter than you.") the consumer, our new bosses -- the children, to explain what questions they would like to discuss.  Are they smart enough to deal with the issues of education, etc.?  Yes, indeed.  The trick is to make them honest partners in the formulating the question effort.  And only then direct those questions to the relevant for-profit / not-for-profit domains / constituencies.

Sounds impossible, but it is not. 

To put it another way, do the questions we ask at Education Conferences reflect what the children want / feel is relevant?  Or do they reflect our turf battles, our available skills, our future?  

Who will speak for them?


"I appreciate your drive to put children's voices front and center in the Ed reform and tech discussions. We adults certainly have not had a stellar record!

                                 Michael Levine, Director, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Street Workshop (5/23/14)

                                Education and Research 

                                      Hands And Mind

The S3 is about mental and manual rotation, in the face of contradiction of action and environment:  an illogical universe, and its implications:

A simple block and ball networking system which leverages full-spectrum cognitive / perceptual processing, learning algorithms, and the art of design, with an emphasis on advanced thinking and intuition -- and its reflection upon itself (not "mere facts", but principles):  functional relations, particularly goals and feedback (What are my assumptions? Are they justified?)

Cognitive payoff is the key.

The GAO report (4/10/13) on STEM education points out that few of the "complicated patchwork of overlapping programs" are ever assessed for their effectiveness. 

Soffers that assessment:  an easily measurable foundation for early exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM):  step-by-step abstract / visuospatial reasoning actions.

A partnership of Hands and Mind. 

A cognitive tool. 


“The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be 'voluntarily' reproduced and combined... this combinatory play [emphasis mine] seems to be the essential feature in productive thought before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others."

                                           Albert Einstein:  letter to Jacques Hadamard,

                                                     The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field, 1945 

S3 is all about about pattern, "'voluntarily' reproduced and combined", the rule which governs a system or phenomenon, exactly like numeric, musical, or visual relationships -- and its simultaneous mental and manual rotation.

In Hands and Mind, Cybernetic terms, the Sis about regulatory switching (synchronizing concurrent communication / interference among rotating S3s), a variety increasing, heuristic routing (ball or vector) system (in Paul Baran’s Distributed Communication, Adaptive Message Block Network terms):  


seeking best paths (optimization) in an unfriendly (blocking) network / environment of switchable links; where dynamic programming is required to optimize incompletely understood and changing systems (using locally implemented full switching at all nodes, not a hierarchy of routing control centers).

          "Is Rotation of Visual Mental Images a Motor Act?"

"The relationship between the mechanisms of visin and of visual mental imagery, such as mental rotation, has been well established. The relations between mental rotation and motor action, on the other hand, have hardly been studied …."

"Two vs Three-Dimensional Presentation of Mental Rotation Tasks"

                  Think Low-tech -- Reciprocity of Hands and Mind


                        "Manual Training of Mental Rotation in Children"

                                                  "Mental and Manual Rotation"

"The Contributions of Egocentric and Allocentric Reference Frames in Haptic Spatial Tasks"

"Assistive Technology for Cognition" - Alzheimer's / Autism (ASD)

"The increasing use of technology to help individuals compensate for cognitive impairments is one of the most notable advances in neuropsychological rehabilitation in recent years (Wilson, 2009) .... ATC refers to a range of tools that includes low-tech and mainstream devices as well as specialized technology."

"Acquisition of Internal Models of Motor Tasks in Children with Autism" (ASD)

                      "Motor Processes in Mental Rotation"

      "… Visualization In Learning and Teaching Mathematics" 

“What is the structure and what are the components of an overarching theory of visualization for mathematics education? ….

"An ongoing and important theme is the hitherto neglected area of how visualization interacts with the didactics of mathematics. Effective pedagogy that can enhance the use and power of visualization in mathematics education (Woolner, 2004) is perhaps the most pressing research concern at this period: very few studies have addressed this topic since Presmeg (1991) reported the results of her study of classroom aspects that facilitate visualization….

“The role of visual imagery in mathematical problem solving remains an active question in educational research” (Stylianou, 2001, IV p. 232). And not only in mathematical problem solving, but in the interactional sphere of classroom teaching and learning of mathematics at all levels, the need for research on visualization remains strong."

From "Research On Visualization In Learning and Teaching Mathematics": Norma Presmeg, in Handbook of Research on the Psychology of Mathematics Education:  Past, Present and Future, 2006.

"Simultaneously develop Lower and Higher-Order Thinking Skills"

"Lower-order exercises are fairly common in existing curricula, while higher-order thinking activities are much less common. Higher-level thinking tends to be difficult for students because it requires them not only to understand the relationship between different variables (lower-order thinking) but also how to apply—or transfer—that understanding to a new, uncharted context (higher-order thinking)" ….

Hong Kong and Shanghai, two of the highest-performing systems in the world, moved away from the transmission model [teachers transmit factual knowledge to students through lectures and textbooks] a decade ago."

          "Are Constructivism and Computer-Based Learning       

                            Environments Incompatible?"

"Calls for the widespread use of computer-based educational technology often justify themselves by the potential to support some version of constructivism, seen to be a major improvement in education over more behaviorist or information transfer notions of teaching. The strong claim that computer-based educational technologies are inherently constructivist cannot be sustained because current technology largely fails to provide four key components of a constructivist environment: an engaged learner, hands-on interaction with the materials of the task, an authentic problem-solving context, and human interaction during the learning process…."

     Stephen Gance:  "Are Constructivism and Computer-Based Learning Environments Incompatible?", 2002



              Low-tech / High-tech Interface (TUI) Assessment

                        (physical cubes, etc., with input / output devices),d.aWc

                       S3 Dialectical Process in A Nutshell


The Sis a demonstration of Hegelian dialectics of pattern and of process, a mixing of different levels of abstraction, self-reference.


                                                                        Binary Processor (0/1)

It is a dialectic engine of paradox, developing logic and intuition; a tangible, lucid demonstration of basic behaviors (consciousness) of the brain by mechanical concepts (switches); a cubical maze module (four tunnels = four binary (0/1) switches = gate array) offering a development of choices (control flow) to create linearly independent / dependent paths, using a ball, or symmetry in mathematics.

Each new S3 attitude  simultaneously reprograms four "gravity feed" chiral tunnels differentially.  Each tunnel, with twenty-four possible attitude combinations (impede (0) / allow (1) ball flow), is effectively a two-state rolling ball "tilt-switch", a binary logic gate. 


The S3 manipulator must, by logic and intuition, mentally and manually rotate the S3 and its dynamic, interdependent, parts and hierarchical reference frames about multiple axes of rotation (easily calibratable), while coping with ambiguous contradictions of pattern and of process -- and plan accordingly.  

That is, the manipulator must continuously focus on the binary (0/1) issues (part) of a given tunnel, proceed upward through the logic hierarchy to the S3(s) (whole), and then go back down the hierarchy and repeat the process (while coping with contradiction of action and environment).

An oscillating, intermittent restriction of cognition and perception within a dynamic logic hierarchy (contradictory cognitive and perceptual signals / messages at different levels, where acknowledgement of that contradiction is forbidden:  Double Bind).

Thus, it is transformative, a kick-start, a self-generating, self-sustaining causal loop, a cycle of cognitive development where the manipulator is both agent and object of change.

In behaviorist, operant conditioning terms, the S3 manipulator is both experimenter and experimental subject (rewarded with a falling ball), while the pigeon manipulator in Skinner’s Box (a topology of axioms) is simply experimental subject (rewarded with a falling ball of food).  Note that the S3 flip-flops guarantee intermittent reinforcement (a seminal issue). 

In other words, the Smanipulator has the additional incentive / cognitive development benefits of a working scientist formulating a dynamic systems problem, and then solving it -- no small reward.

Sis about reference frame: allocentric (locations with respect to perspective of perceiver vs. egocentric (locations within frames external to and independent of perceiver) -- spatial processing switching -- an architecture of nested uncertainty, of constant and unexpected contradiction. 


                                                 allocentric / egocentric spatial processing switching




The Sis about awareness of environment, modifying self-behavior on the basis of experience (feedback), through the optimization of multiple simultaneous paths, in a constant stream of evolving problems, within a topology of paradox, in Bateson's terms, a “Double Bind” paradox:  an environment of contradictory signals / messages at different levels, where acknowledgement of that contradiction is forbidden. 

(In Zen Koan Master tells student: "If you tell me this stick is real, I will beat you. If you tell me  this stick is not real, I will beat you. If you say nothing, I will beat you." Student escapes the paradox by changing the "level of communication”.  She takes the stick from the teacher, and breaks it.  Thus,  Zen mechanics of enlightenment, with an implicit injunction forbidding discussion of the contradiction -- the sanity / wisdom of the Master.)



S"combinatory play" simultaneously demands a spiral of pattern recognition (inductive - abductive / deductive flip-flop) while impeding it (gestalt figure / ground illusion flip-flop) introducing active resistance, error (in “new" Cybernetic terms, overcome entropy by using noise as positive feedback), exciting curiosity:  topology of paradox. 

Sis about continuous synchronous switching:  nested, dynamic, switching of cognitive and perceptual and mathematical dichotomies, where the manipulator must constantly re-examine reigning assumptions, transcend and control nested and evolving recursion and contradiction, by inventing new propositions.


Exactly what are the effects of a topology of paradox (Sor cockpit) on Animal / Machine?              

Is discovery through paradox a significant tool?  It is for the followers of Zen (cognitive mechanics).

Does the switching, the SDialectic (mental and manual rotation), repetitive flip-flop”, abrupt, continuous change in context (gestalt illusion), structure of reasoning (inductive - abductive / deductive), etc., develop / impede the decline of abstract thought?  Why?


What are the benefits of the S3 demand for visuospatial reasoning by simultaneous mental and manual (unlike computer assisted learning) rotation?  How is it different from TUI (Tangible User Interface)?

Is the absence of that simultaneous mental and manual visuospatial training a significant weakness in computer assisted learning, particularly before middle school? 

What are implications of mental and manual rotation, analogical connection of high-level perception in visuospatial terms across the age-spectrum, for the study / amelioration of Alzheimers / Autism (ASD)?

Light can be shed on these questions by "asking" Smanipulators to describe their frames of reference, their reasoning for their reasoning, regarding their wayfinding ability / navigation strategies.  ("Ask" by "subtextual" word and deed in such a way that the evident superiority of the expert is minimized -- the subject is the expert, the researcher must be “ignorant.”

The dialectical epistemological premise of the S(cognitive tool for the individual -- internal dialogue) is rooted in Synthesis of Cybernetics and Systems Thinking: communication / signal operating in an unfriendly (blocking) environment, was introduced in “Open Systems Listening:  Conversation As a Research Tool”, 1988  (Listening Post:  cognitive research methodology for group -- external dialogue).  "What people hear is not what is going on.


" … request for conversation is … the cornerstone of our misunderstanding …. It implies a simple (means / ends) as opposed to a joint causality [S3] .... Not just  a crude, inept version of written propositional statements, e.g., "what they were trying to say is …rather multi-layered messages in which a communication about the nature of the exchange is negotiated on many levels."  

                   M. S. Sommer, "Open Systems Listening: Conversation As A Research Tool", Ph.D. Diss.,1988 

A topology of paradox.

"… a kind of Strange Loop, an interaction between levels in which the top level reaches back down towards the bottom level and influences it, while at the same time being itself determined by the bottom level.”    Gödel, Escher, Bach


Protocall analysis:

"Ask" why they learn best (seeing things, or touching things, or thinking about things) -- their own learning / cognitive strategies.

“Disciplined first-person accounts should be an integral element of the validation of a neurobiological proposal, and not merely coincidental or heuristic information.

                      Varela, F., "Neurophenomenology:  A Methodological Remedy To The Hard Problem” (1996)

Frame / calibrate those "naive" insights along simple, commonsense, researchable axes (how / why / what they did, tried to do, failed / succeeded in doing, etc.

Calibrate S3 manipulation and those insights against base-line (visuospatial / creative thinking / abstraction, etc.).


                       The Environment Is The Message

                                            e.g., “Go play in the traffic.”


                        Exactly what is SPlay / Einstein's "combinatory play”

“The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be 'voluntarily' reproduced and combined... this combinatory play [emphasis mine] seems to be the essential feature in productive thought before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others."

                                           Albert Einstein:  letter to Jacques Hadamard,

                                                     The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field, 1945 


© Michael S. Sommer, Ph.D. 2015