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CS Wednesday Talks Spring 2011

April 13: Chris Bishop, adjunct assistant professor of computer animation

"Behind the scenes of "Caldera": A computer animated short film production at Hampshire College"
Beginning in the summer of 2009, fellow alum Evan Viera and I have been in production on a new short film titled "Caldera". The project is one of two films being produced through the Bit Films Internships in the School of Cognitive Science, a program that brings together students and professionals dedicated to collaborative, independent graphics work. I will be discussing the interdisciplinary nature of the process behind computer animation and how our program facilitates this process, as well as presenting a showcase of work from "Caldera," which combines the skills of various technical specialists and visual artists.

April 6: Melissa Burch, assistant professor of cognitive development
"Cross-cultural perspectives on autobiographical memory: A comparison of narratives from Chinese, Russian, and English adults"
Socialization processes have been studied extensively within the autobiographical memory literature. The effects of socialization have been explored within the context of parent-child interaction within the U.S. and by comparing parent-child interaction across cultures. It has been hypothesized that different socialization practices reflect the relative importance of social and self identity, with individuality emphasized over group connections for those raised in the U.S. and greater significance of group connections for those raised in China. This perspective has been used to explain the later age of earliest memories for Chinese adults compared to American adults as well as differences in the content of memory narratives. In this talk, I will present data comparing memory ratings and reports from American, Chinese, and Russian adults living in the U.S. Three methods were used to gain information about memory for previous experience. Under some conditions, we replicate findings reported in the literature. When we prompted participants to provide specific types of memory (using a cue word technique, or requesting memories for events related to "shame" and "honor," however, the differences were more limited. I will discuss how these findings may reflect larger cultural values as well as similarities across cultural groups in memory for personally meaningful events.

March 30: Neil Stillings, professor of psychology
Does Hampshire Need More Examinations, Tests, and Quizzes? A Cognitive Psychological Approach
A notable feature of Hampshire's classroom environment is the rarity of exams, tests, and quizzes in comparison to common practice at other colleges. A number of arguments, based on various combinations of principle and evidence from psychological and educational research, have been generated for the relative infrequency of tests at Hampshire. In this talk I explore one potentially challenging line of evidence. An extensive body of recent research demonstrates that testing enhances student learning. On the one hand this research offers an opportunity to revisit aspects of Hampshire's educational philosophy. On the other hand Hampshire's educational philosophy provides a framework for interpreting the testing effect that differs from the ones commonly seen in popular media coverage of the effect.

March 23: Carol Trosset, director of institutional research
Perceptions of Welshness in Patagonia
In 1865, the Welsh became the first European settlers in southern Argentina, and they remain the dominant ethnic group in the state of Chubut. Some towns retain large populations of Welsh-speakers, and a strong awareness of their Welsh cultural heritage. In 2002, Trosset did ethnographic fieldwork in several of these towns. This talk will present an overview of contemporary Welsh culture in Patagonia, which has maintained close ties to Welsh-speaking Wales. Trosset will discuss the results of her structured interview study, which made it possible to compare Patagonian views of Welshness to views held by Welsh people living in Wales, revealing both similarities and differences.

Carol Trosset has been director of institutional rat Hampshire College since 2004. She holds a B.A. from Carleton College and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Her published institutional research areas include student approaches to the discussion of diversity issues, student and faculty expectations of advising relationships, and the nature and validity of the information provided in student end-of-course evaluations. Her academic research focused on aspects of Welsh culture, in Wales and among diaspora populations in Argentina and Australia. Before entering institutional research, she held visiting faculty positions at the University of Arizona, Tulane University, the University of Virginia, Grinnell College, and Beloit College.

March 9: Dr. Ernest Lepore, director of the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science (RuCCS)
Context and Shared Content
Contextualism looms large over cognitive science, linguistics, and philosophy. Ordinary folk have apparently missed the fact that many of our most puzzling and paradox-ridden expressions are sensitive to their context of use familiar words such as "know", "believes", "truth", "good", and "beauty" turn out to require contextualization for application. Fears of the Liar Paradox, the Paradox of the Heap, reconciling Skepticism with Compatiblism, Moral Relativism, all are alleged to vanish once key expressions are recognized as context-sensitive.

Though there is much observational support for contextualism, I want to draw your attention to the observation that most speakers face no difficulty whatsoever in using many of the alleged context-sensitive words to say (or make) the exact same claim, assertion, etc., across a wide array of contexts. So, on the one hand, for many sentences there is evidence that what their utterances contribute depends on features of their contexts of use; while, at the same time, there is evidence (as I will remind you ) that relevantly distinct utterances of these sentences in distinct contexts express agreement.

March 2:  Lee Spector, professor of computer science
Biologically-Inspired Evolution of Computer Programs: Tag-based Modularity in Genetic Programming
Genetic programming is a computational technique that uses ideas from evolutionary biology--random variation and natural selection--to automatically produce computer programs. Natural adaptive systems invariably make use of modularity, and human programmers are more productive when they use modular program architectures. For these reasons it is generally accepted that genetic programming systems will be more powerful when they can more readily evolve programs with modular structures.

In this talk I will present a new technique for evolving modular programs, based on the use of "tags" that evolving programs can employ to label and refer to code fragments. The essential idea of a tag is that it supports binding through matching, even though specific tags may initially have no intrinsic meaning and even though matches may sometimes be inexact. Everyday examples of tags given by John Holland, who first developed the concept, include banners or flags used by armies and the active sites that enable antibody/antigen binding. Systems based on tags have been used to explore a variety of phenomena including the evolution of altruism, but the work that I will present here is the first to apply the concept to general program evolution. I will demonstrate that tag-based modules readily evolve, that this allows problem solving effort to scale well with problem size, and that the technique is effective even in complex environments for which previous techniques perform poorly.

This is joint work with Hampshire College student Brian Martin, Hampshire College alum; Brandeis University graduate student Kyle Harrington; and University of Massachussetts Amherst graduate student Thomas Helmuth.

February 23: Charles Ross, assistant professor of evolutionary biology
The personal nature of speciation
Speciation is often considered as a population level phenomenon described in terms of divergence of genes and genomes across groups. For example, populations may diverge in their genetic makeups due to geographic isolation. The divergence of specific genes may lead to reproductive isolation across these populations, resulting in speciation. These perspectives--looking from the viewpoint of both populations and genes--are informative for understanding the pattern and processes of speciation. Speciation from the perspective of individuals is often overlooked even though individuals are the functional components that make up populations as well as the "phenotypic results" of gene expression (along with environmental influences). Looking at speciation from the perspective of individuals can help to understand the mechanics how populations are isolated, how genes contribute to reproductive isolation, and how speciation actually happens "on the ground."

Charles L. Ross, assistant professor of evolutionary biology, received his B.S. and M.S. in biology from Stanford University, and his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University. He did postdoctoral work at the University of Arizona and New Mexico State University. Charles studies the ecological and evolutionary genetics of hybrid zones and speciation, specifically in crickets. His research and teaching interests include all aspects of evolutionary biology, as well as population genetics, molecular ecology, entomology, and genomics. Other interests include Ultimate, backpacking, and good wine.

February 16: Paul Dickson, visiting assistant professor of computer science
Ubiquitous Computer:
Over the years computers have shifted from being room-size behemoths that only a limited number of people use to hand-held devices that almost everyone has. This ubiquitousness of computers changes their perceived uses and interfaces. This talk will address questions of where computing is going and what computers will be used for in the future. We will look at how mobile computers are effecting human interaction and changes it is having on society. This talk will also address what the possibilities are at Hampshire for being a part of this change.

Paul Dickson, visiting assistant professor of computer science, received a Ph.D. and an M.S. in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a B.S. in engineering from Swarthmore College. His main interests are computer vision and education technology. He is currently working on projects that combine these areas and use image-processing techniques to capture automatically and index the classroom experience.


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