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Observations, Analyses, and Models

The Intimate Study


The Intimate Study was a theoretically driven collection of information, undertaken with the confidence that data could be extracted from the information and then serve as grounds for answering significant questions about how mind emerges from the interaction of a person and the world inhabited.

The collection is organized as a catalog. Here is a summary of that material, from Computer Experience and Cognitive Development.

material reproduced from pp. 14-17 of CECD, Constructing a Corpus

Activities and Observations Recorded

At the beginning of The Intimate Study, we were four in my family, two parents and two children, Robby, age 8, and Miriam, age 6. The specific objective we followed was to trace in fine detail Miriam’s learning for the six months following her sixth birthday (April 9th through October 8th, 1977). This is the CORE of The Intimate Study; it is extended beyond this core period by later observations. I recorded her behavior in well structured situations and followed her beyond the confines of the computer laboratory with naturalistic observation in the various settings of her everyday world. Miriam was under continual observation for six months.

An Unschooled Child and Continually Available Subject

When The Intimate Study began, Miriam was attending kindergarten (one making no substantial academic demands upon her). As the study ended, Miriam completed her first month of first grade. Miriam was an unschooled school-age child. I frequently visited kindergarten and was a part of her social world as well. When her friends came to play, on rainy days there was no place to escape them in our small dwelling; on sunny days, they often asked me to join them at the tree fort, in the garden, playing in the courtyard, or pushing them on the space trolley. We lived in the carriage house of an old suburban mansion. By distance and dangerous roads, in effect, the children were imprisoned on the mansion’s spacious grounds unless they could get a parent to act as chauffeur. Very occasionally, the children would visit friends or go shopping with their mother. But over the summer, most of Miriam’s friends were away, and their mother preferred shopping alone.

With very few exceptions, the only times Miriam spent away from home were in my company; most of those times were the hours at project Logo’s Children’s Learning Lab. Her young age, the limits of her world, and my having the time permitted us to share a common world for the period of The Intimate Study. The data collected during this period are grouped into four matters: profiles; sessions; vignettes; and the log.

see The Profiles for detail

The profiles are a series of initial and terminal cognitive examinations. Through these, Miriam’s capabilities and styles of thought may be compared with data in the psychological literature and with normal education skills through her performance of these specific tasks [note 2]:
– School tasks: reading and arithmetic skills.
– Piagetian tasks: one-to-one correspondence; class inclusion; continuous quantity; time; object volume; combinations; substance; weight; displacement volume; backspinning a ball; beam balance; multiple seriation.
– Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: test L-M at 6 years, 19 days.
Other materials of an idiographic character were collected but are not reported here.

see The Sessions for detail

The sessions were mechanically recorded, all on audiotape and many on videotape. Processing of the marginally edited transcripts and working materials of these sessions is described below. These relatively formal, directed working sessions at MIT’s Logo lab (approximately 70) and at home (approximately 20) exhibit more than four months of interactions between Miriam and me in a computer-centered environment. The data are as detailed as any critic could wish.

see The Vignettes for detail

Richly interpretive, highly subjective, open to error and overstatement, these materials are essentially ephemeral literary constructs whose purposes are to document events in the social world of our family and to connect themes emergent in the more structured data. The vignettes are like snapshots of thinking or short stories that surfaced in the small society of our family. They are based on selective naturalistic observation of Miriam’s behavior beyond the range of mechanical recording and in situations where the recording itself would have been obtrusive. I attempted to capture all unrecordable and significant expressions of development Miriam exhibited during The Intimate Study.

To the extent that they record observations by an ever-present scientist in the midst of the action, they attempt to elevate anecdotal reportage to the status of naturalistic observation through the claim that they record ALL thematically interesting behavior in those settings beyond the range of mechanical recording. Though imperfect, these data may still be accepted as additional, well-placed pieces in the puzzle, pieces that have in fact been essential in helping me grasp patterns in the development of Miriam’s mind. Each vignette includes a short sketch of the point of view from which I judged the content significant.

see The Log for detail

These daily notes for the last five months of The Intimate Study record how Miriam spent her time. The observations are quite variable in level of detail and quality. The objective was to note what Miriam was doing every half hour or hour. Lacunae exist (occasions where I was asleep or otherwheres) and even a day or two may have been missed. No analysis of these observations has been attempted here.

Processing Observations of the Corpus

A description of our typical day during The Intimate Study will illuminate how the data were rendered in their first processed form. Early in the morning, the children and I would ride to the Logo Lab and execute our day’s experiment. Each session was mechanically recorded; printed output was collected and labelled with session numbers. We would drive home for lunch, following which the children would occupy themselves with their own amusements for the remainder of the day. I would spend several hours transcribing the recordings of Miriam’s work in manuscript. After that, I composed vignettes, attempted to understand ongoing work, and planned future sessions. Usually this work occupied me until late in the evening.

Throughout the day and outside the laboratory, I would interrupt this processing to note in the Log what Miriam was doing. The essential value of the Log was in returning me regularly to observe Miriam’s activity. The lag time to transcription for recordings was usually kept down to several days at the maximum. For vignettes, the lag was more variable but usually under a week. Those days when the children did not want to work, I was able to catch up. Consequently, the data were processed to this rudimentary state in nearly real-time. Figure I summarizes the elements of the corpus and how the materials relate to the analyses in this book.

Miriam's Behavior during The Intimate Study

Available in this place, for the first time, is the complete text of naturalistic observations captured in a set of “vignettes” which I wrote shortly after the observations were made. [ RWL]

Other materials are planned for addition to this collection of materials include those mentioned in the citation from CECD.

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