Learning & Computing

Learning & Computing Gallery, New Media Museum made with Unity 3D

Gallery under construction, of course! 😉

The Learning and Computing Exhibit is about the community of people who pioneered the exploration of the intersections of computational media and the human mind. In many ways the roots of this exhibit are also the roots of the New Media Museum because the collection began as an extension of Mary Hopper’s academic work in a cluster of related areas. More specifically, many of her experiences and the collection supporting those experiences were a direct result of her work with Robert Lawler. This exhibit is really best understood as a celebration of his and his colleagues’ groundbreaking journeys into the intersection of mind and computation.

Robert Lawler

Robert Lawler, 1980
Robert Lawler, 1980

Robert Lawler is both a donor and adviser to the New media Museum. His contributions and insights are based upon a fascinating career. He entered computing as a Systems Engineer with IBM in 1960, and then later on he was a researcher at the MIT AI Lab, in Le Centre Mondial pour l’Informatiques (Paris), GTE’s Fundamental Research Labs, the National Research Council, and at Purdue University. He has also been a consulting contractor for Apple’s Advanced Technology Group and for the Leadership Development Research Unit of the Army’s Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. He has worked in business, government, and academia, both in US and in Europe, and keynoted conferences in the US, Europe, and Asia.

Now a Purdue Professor Emeritus, he has also held visiting positions at MIT, Harvard, Exeter (UK), UNESCO (Paris), Geneva (CH): and at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman. He has written popular, technical and scholarly articles (Creative Computing, BYTE, Journal of Mathematical Behavior); he edited with M. Yazdani two Volumes on Artificial Intelligence and Education, has written two analytical studies: Cognition and Computers (with chapters by others) and Computer Experience and Cognitive Development. With Kathleen M. Carley, he wrote Case Study & Computing.

His career has culminated with the publication of the Natural Learning Case Study Archives (NLCSA). This work incorporates all of his prior work into a single system with simple facilities permitting collaborative use of these archives by other analysts through the internet.


Natural Learning Case Study Archives: Research Process


Here are the three books that Robert Lawler wrote about his studies of his three children’, and they are linked to the text of those books on his Natural Learning Case Study Archives site.
webcoverrob1 webcovermrm1 learningwithcomputers
Related sites
Learning and Computing: A Collection of Papers About Education, Computing, Psychology and Artificial Intelligence (Robert W. Lawler)
Natural Learning Case Study Archives, v 0.8 (Robert W. Lawler)

Colleagues @ Purdue

Over the course of the 1988-1989 academic year, Lawler invited some of his closest colleagues out to Purdue University to give a series of lectures, and he has posted those online as part of the NLCSA corpus. One potential series of events that could be hosted by the New Media Museum would be showings of these videos accompanied by panel conversations. Primarily due to Mary Hopper’s work with Robert Lawler over the years, The New Media Museum also has a variety of materials related to these three historic figures in the collections.

Oliver Selfridge


Oliver Selfridge was a British-born pioneer of Artificial Intelligence. In a 1958 paper, Pandemonium: a Paradigm for Learning, he outlined a neurologically inspired system of electronic machine components, which he called “demons”, that reacted to common elements in each other. A decade later two fellow mathematicians summarized his ideas as leading to an “Oliver” (an “Online Interactive Vicarious Expediter and Responder”), which was a computerized personal assistant. Such a machine, Selfridge explained, would infer what he wanted it to do from what it had learned when working with him. –Telegraph, 2008


Video: Oliver Selfridge @ Purdue (1989)

Related sites
Oliver Selfridge (The Telegraph, December 2008)
Oliver Selfridge, an Early Innovator in Artificial Intelligence, Dies at 82 (John Markoff, New York Times)
Oliver Selfridge (Wikipedia)
Pandemonium architecture (Wikipedia)

Marvin Minsky


Marvin Minsky made many contributions to AI, cognitive psychology, mathematics, computational linguistics, robotics, and optics. In his later years he worked chiefly on imparting to machines the human capacity for commonsense reasoning. His conception of human intellectual structure and function is presented in two books: The Emotion Machine and The Society of Mind. He received the BA and PhD in mathematics at Harvard (1950) and Princeton (1954). In 1951 he built the SNARC, the first neural network simulator. His other inventions include mechanical arms, hands and other robotic devices, the Confocal Scanning Microscope, the “Muse” synthesizer for musical variations (with E. Fredkin), and one of the first LOGO “turtles”. He received the ACM Turing Award, the MIT Killian Award, the Japan Prize, the IJCAI Research Excellence Award, the Rank Prize and the Robert Wood Prize for Optoelectronics, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal. –Media Lab, 2015

Video: Marvin Minsky @ Purdue (1988)

Among his many accomplishments, one less mentioned is his contribution to the science fiction cannon with his collaboration with Harry Harrison on The Turing Option. This is a picture of the book in the New Media Museum’s collection.

Related sites
Marvin Minsky (Media Lab)
Society of Mind (Marvin Minsky)
Marvin Minsky (Wikipedia)

Seymour Papert

Dr. Seymour Papert was a mathematician and one of the early pioneers of Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, he was internationally recognized as the seminal thinker about ways in which computers can change learning. Born and educated in South Africa where he participated actively in the anti-apartheid movement, Dr. Papert pursued mathematical research at Cambridge University from 1954-1958. He then worked with Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva from 1958-1963. It was this collaboration that led him to consider using mathematics in the service of understanding how children can learn. Then in the early 1960’s, Papert went to MIT where, along with Marvin Minsky, he founded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-authored their seminal work, Perceptrons (1970). He is also the author of Mindstorms: Children Computers and Powerful Ideas (1980) and The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer (1992). –Media Lab, 2015

Bob & Seymour (copyright 2010, Robert W. Lawler)

Video: Seymour Papert @ Purdue (1988)

SP Quote


The Gears of My Childhood (Seymour Papert)
Essay published as foreword to Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (Basic Books, 1980)
Mindstorms (Seymour Papert, 1980)

These are two more books published by Seymour Papert.

Related sites
SP thinkingaboutthinking
Thinking about Thinking about Seymour (MIT Memorial Event)

The Learning Barn (S. Papert)
Seymour Papert (Papert.org)
Seymour Papert (MIT Media Lab)
Seymour Papert (Wikipedia)