What Are We Thinking About When We Are Thinking About Computers?
Computers offer themselves as models of mind and as "objects to think with." They do this in several ways. There is, first of all, the world of computational theories. Some artificial intelligence researchers explicitly endeavor to build machines that model the human mind. Proponents of artificial life use computational processes capable of replication and evolution to redraw the boundaries of what counts as "alive." And second, there is the world of computational objects themselves: everything from toys and games to simulation software and Internet connections. Such mundane objects of the computer culture influence thinking about self, life, and mind no less than the models of the computational philosophers. Computers in everyday life make possible a theoretical tinkering similar to what Claude Levi-Strauss (1968) described as bricolage- the process by which individuals and cultures use the objects around them to reconfigure the boundaries of their cognitive categories. In The Science Studies Reader, Mario Biagioli (ed.). New York: Routledge, 1999.