Experimenting with computing and in computing: Stretching the traditional notion of experimentation

Conference Date
Lyon, France
Date Published
September 2017
Conference Date: 2017, Vol. 14, Pages 2-3.
(doi: 10.7551/ecal_a_002)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license
Article PDF (653.9 KB)

Experimentation represents today a ‘hot’ topic in computing. If experiments made with the support of computers, such as computer simulations, have received increasing attention from philosophers of science and technology, questions such as “what does it mean to do experiments in computer science and engineering and what are their benefits?” emerged only recently as central in the debate over the disciplinary status of computing. In this work I argue that an extension of the traditional notion of controlled experiment is necessary to give reasons for the different experimental practices encountered in computing and using computing tools, such as computer simulations. Taking inspiration from the discussion on exploratory experimentation in the philosophy of science – experimentation that is not theory-driven – I introduce the idea of explorative experiments that can contribute to enlarge the debate about the nature and role of experimental methods in computing. Moreover, I stress that, when experiments are explorative, control should be intended in a posteriori form, in opposition to the a priori form that usually takes place in traditional experimental contexts.