On Serendip

The Brain's Images: Co-Constructing Reality and Self

Paul Grobstein
Bryn Mawr College
11th Annual Usability Professionals Association
11 August 2002

From the "reflex machine" to the brain as a semi-autonomous, evolving, creative agent
A Summary ...

  The Brain - is wider than the Sky -
For - put them side by side -
The one the other will contain
With ease - and You - beside-

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Was Dickinson right? The brain THAT big ... bigger than the sky, with room left over for the "self" beside?


Moreover ...

  • The brain is not passive; it is instead an active inquirer
  • It is equipped not only to learn but to create
  • It has equally important unconscious and conscious parts
  • The interaction of the two is an important part of the brain's ability to learn/create
  • Both "reality" and "self" are works in progress; so too is "right" and "wrong"
  • Parents, educators, usability professionals (and everyone else) need to approach the brain from this perspective
  • You can't ever get it "right", but you can always get it "less wrong" ... by creating materials which help the brain create new stories
  • "Serendip is a gathering place for people who suspect that life's instructions are always ambiguous or incomplete ... and hence need to be continually rewritten."

    Stop by, join in.

Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there. ----- Jelaluddin Rumi, 13th century Sufi poet