Chaos in Anthro.

Brad M Biglow (bmb@PINE.CSE.NAU.EDU)
Mon, 11 Apr 1994 11:11:39 -0700

I was doing some thinking while I was writinga grant for my educational
simulation. As long as CHAOS shot into the arena, I'd like an opinion or

My educational MU* simulation for teaching Spanish language and culture puts
the instructor at a central, yet diseminated role in the educational process.
Students, not the instructor, determine how much is learned and at what pace.
In keeping with my model for online CMC instruction, I noticed the chaotic
principles involved. While the instructor gives an initial set of instructions
to both the computer simulation and the students, the interaction itself is
amongst the students between themselves and with the machine. According to
the principles of chaos as established by Gleik, the mathematical model says
the "order is found through disorder"...or an initial set of instructions can
result in many different outcomes. THIS is where chaos can apply to my
project. The students determine (through their interaction) the outcome of
the simulation and final evaluation of the project's net worthiness to foreign
language instructional techniques. Through repeated experimental techniques
on the part of the students involved, order is established and an overall
consensus gathered from the data.

Now, following from my own work in educational research, it appears that there
must be other applications of chaos theory to our work as anthropologists.
Development appears to be one area. In fact, the whole arena of Applied and
Practicing Anthropology where the desired outcome is often known, though the
steps taken methodologically to reach that goal vary from situation to
situation and researcher to researcher sheds some light on this theory. The
starting point is always the same-->"some problem we wish to solve." The
results, as we all know, almost NEVER fit the "ideal" we are striving for,
hence, different outcomes. THe system itself, however, still expresses
"order." It follows a logical progression toward its conclusion, no matter
how "disordered" that pattern may seem to the researcher at the time of
his/her research.

Let me know what you think. Let's open up this discussion beyond a mere
literature search.

Brad M. Biglow
Dept. of Anthropology
Northern Arizona University