Vn38.01 Robby’s Place in the Project 6/28/77
Robby raised a very difficult question today — how much of the
work he does at Logo will be a part of my doctoral thesis. The answer
Robby required, and it is a superficial answer, that the thesis will be
about Miriam’s development, was bound to disappoint him. My answer to
his question attempted to provide him with a perspective from which he
could see the value of his contribution to the project, could imagine
that contribution being adequately recognized in the future, and view-
point from which he could judge my preferring to study Miriam’s devel-
opment as a back-handed compliment.
The facts from which we began he knew well: that he was doing
precisely ‘the same experiments’ as Miriam; that the sessions with him
were being recorded as faithfully as were those with Miriam; that some-
times he did work that was beyond Miriam’s grasp (e.g. his understanding
of GUNSIGHT, an absolute coordinate variant of the SHOOT program).
The other outstanding fact was his seeing how hard I work: I sleep
little and spend the rest of my time transcribing the data and planning
future sessions. He sees every day that I have no free time. I ex-
plained to Robby that, for now, I was forced to choose; in effect I had
chosen to work with Miriam’s data first. Since I have also recorded
his work and can transcribe it later, that work is not lost although
little of it will appear in the thesis.
Here I suggested beyond the thesis lies the idea of a book, one in
which his work would appear as central as Miriam’s and even more so.
For Robby has worked at Logo longer than Miriam, and his sessions of
past years were for us the pioneering precursors of the more sharply
focussed study that this thesis work represents. I sketched for him
the theme of this book as our family’s involvement with computers and
the impact of that involvement. He could appreciate that our experience
now is unique, that his is a central role in that story, from its begin-
ning till whenever it ends, and that Miriam’s contributions follow his.
As for choosing to focus this study on Miriam, I explained my
intention was not to see how much she could learn (for Robby now appears
capable of learning more and more rapidly), but to understand the way
she learned things in detail. Further, I could not hope to understand
well how Robby learned new material because he already knew too much.
Robby recognizes that he knows far more about World War II than I do.
Referring to this as an example, I asked how I could hope to under-
stand his learning when he knew some things better than I knew them.
This issue touches a critical nerve of the project, for it is a family engagement
as well as being a focussed study of Miriam’s development.