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On Computing: The Fourth Great Scientific Domain

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Computing isn't simply about hardware or software, or calculation or applications. Computing, writes Paul Rosenbloom, is an exciting and diverse, yet remarkably coherent, scientific enterprise that is highly multidisciplinary yet maintains a unique core of its own. In On Computing, Rosenbloom proposes that computing is a great scientific domain on a par with the physical, life, and social sciences. Rosenbloom introduces a relational approach for understanding computing, conceptualizing it in terms of forms of interaction and implementation, to reveal the hidden structures and connections among its disciplines. He argues for the continuing vitality of computing, surveying the leading edge in computing's combination with other domains, from biocomputing and brain-computer interfaces to crowdsourcing and virtual humans to robots and the intermingling of the real and the virtual. He explores forms of higher order coherence, or macrostructures, over complex computing topics and organizations, such as computing's role in the pursuit of science and the structure of academic computing. Finally, he examines the very notion of a great scientific domain in philosophical terms, honing his argument that computing should be considered the fourth great scientific domain. Rosenbloom's proposal may prove to be controversial, but the intent is to initiate a long overdue conversation about the nature and future of a field in search of its soul. Rosenbloom, a key architect of the founding of University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies and former Deputy Director of USC's Information Sciences Institute, offers a broader perspective on what computing is and what it can become.

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