CFP: Conference on Notational Engineering (5/96)

JeffLong (
3 Oct 1995 23:03:45 -0400

The Past and Possible Future of Revolutionary Notations


The George Washington University Notational Engineering Laboratory (NEL),
in cooperation with The GWU School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
(SEAS), will sponsor a Conference on Notational Engineering: The Past and
Possible Future of Revolutionary Notations, a.k.a. NOTATE'96.

The main conference will be held Thursday and Friday, May 23-24, 1996.
Specialized workshops will be offered on Saturday, May 25, 1996. The
Conference will be held at the Marvin Theater on the campus of The George
Washington University, in Washington, DC. We invite submission of
abstracts of papers by January 26, 1996 pertaining to the history,
philosophy, psychology, sociology, limitations, or future of any
notational system: writing, mathematics, chemistry, dance, music, money,
speech, encryption, logic, etc.

NOTATE'96 information will be updated periodically and is accurate as of
9/6/95. Please check the NEL World-Wide Web site at where there is a page
dedicated to the conference. Prospective participants who have e-mail
addresses may pre-register (without commitment) to automatically receive
all further updates about NOTATE'96 by e-mail. See the pre-registration
information below. A Conference and Workshop Registration Packet will be
sent to you by regular mail upon request.

We invite your participation to make this a great conference!

1. Organizing Committee

* Jeffrey G. Long, Senior Research Scientist, George Washington
University; Director, Notational Engineering Laboratory.
* Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies,
University of Texas at Austin
* Peter J. Denning, Associate Dean and Chair of Computer Sciences
Department, George Mason University
* Robert K. Logan, Professor of Physics, University of Toronto

2. Purpose of Conference

Almost everyone -- scientists, engineers, musicians, dancers, business
managers, accountants, to name a few -- uses notational tools such as
mathematics, flowcharts, and special languages to represent ideas,
practices, and patterns. Most existing notational systems arose
separately in their various domains. But there is no unifying discipline
that studies the history, evolution, foundations, limitations, and
breakdowns of notations. Such a discipline is needed if we are to ever
creatively apply scientific principles to design new and/or improved
notational systems with full cognizance of their capabilities and
limitations. NOTATE'96 is intended to initiate the birth of such a new
field of inquiry, called notational engineering.

Improved methods of representation would permit new levels of
understanding and expression by human beings. People who understand the
principles of notational technology, beyond mere literacy in a given
notation, may be more skilled at using notational technologies to find
solutions to problems. One of the goals of notational engineering is to
identify these principles and help others to learn the practices of
selecting or creating appropriate notations so that they might be more
effective problem-solvers. Such work will benefit not only science, but
also government, business, and the arts.

A notational system may be defined as any system of signs that has both a
semantics and a syntax. A notational system is not the same as a semiotic
system (which has semantics but no syntax) or a formal symbol system
(which has syntax but no semantics). The power of notation derives not
from the signs they use -- for example "A" or "6" -- but from abstractions
such as entity, group, instruction, value, relation, form, or quantity.

Notational engineers will seek to provide insight into the limitations of
existing notational systems by exposing the presumptions that each
notational system imposes upon its users. From an understanding of how
notation affects human perception, cognition and action, notational
engineers will be able to help users of notation to more consciously and
effectively select the best available analytical framework to resolve
currently intractable problems. Since complexity is always in the eye of
the beholder, notational engineers may be able to help people see domains
in new and clearer -- less complex -- ways.

3. Intended Audience

NOTATE'96 will be a clearinghouse to bring together people from academia,
government and business in many nations who are either studying or
otherwise coping with:

* various "problems of representation" (e.g. knowledge representation)
* various "process problems" (e.g. software development, dance, music)
* the foundations, properties and limitations of various symbol systems
* the intellectual history of one or more symbol systems
* the ontogenetic development of symbol processing abilities in humans
(e.g. genetic epistemology)
* the notational capabilities, or lack thereof, of other species
* economic and other effects of acquiring "literacy" in one or more
notational systems
* anything else pertaining to systems of signs that have both a semantics
and a syntax.

Symbol systems of interest include, but are not limited to:

* linguistic notations (speech, phonetic writing, etc.)
* mathematical notations (algebra, geometry, calculus, etc.)
* chemical notations
* musical and dance notations
* logic notations
* software, system and process notations
* money as a notational system.

The working language of NOTATE'96 will be English. No simultaneous
translation in other languages will be available. The notation can indeed
be a limitation!

4. Call for Papers

Anyone interested in the issues addressed by NOTATE'96 is invited to
submit an extended abstract. Accepted abstracts, developed into brief
papers, will be presented at the Conference. Papers will be published in
the Conference Proceedings. A prize of US$250 will be awarded to the best
paper presented at the Conference. Authors must obtain any necessary
employer, client, or government releases prior to final submittal. At
least one author per accepted paper will be expected to attend NOTATE'96
to present the work.

4a. Extended Abstracts

Authors are invited to submit extended abstracts to NOTATE'96. Abstracts
should be one (1) to two (2) pages long, and include the paper title, the
author's name, postal address and e-mail address, and a list of up to five
(5) keywords. Abstracts must be received by Friday, January 26, 1996.
Papers which have been previously published or presented may be submitted.
Abstracts and subsequent papers must be written in English. Abstracts
may be sent by normal mail, by fax or by e-mail (preferred) as follows:

* Regular Mail: Send five (5) copies of the abstract to Jeff Long,
NOTATE'96 / Notational Engineering Laboratory / CMEE Department, Phillips
703-A / The George Washington University / Washington, DC 20052
* E-Mail in plain text to:
* Fax the document to: (202) 994-0238

The abstracts will be reviewed for their scientific merit, originality,
significance and relevance to the topics addressed by NOTATE'96.
Notification of acceptance of abstracts will be sent to the authors before
Friday, March 1, 1996. The appropriate formatting instructions, and the
address for submission of each final paper, will be sent to the authors
together with the notification of acceptance.

4b. Final Papers

Final papers should be from five (5) to ten (10) pages long. Final papers
may be submitted anytime until the close of the Conference.

4c. Conference Proceedings

All final papers will be included in NOTATE'96 Proceedings, which will be
published on the NEL Web Site. Printed copies of the Proceedings may also
be ordered for an additional fee.

5. Key Dates

* Deadline for submitting abstracts: Friday, January 26, 1996
* Notification of accepted/declined abstracts: Friday, March 1, 1996
* Early registration ends: Wednesday, May 1, 1996
* Conference: Thursday and Friday, May 23-24, 1996
* Workshops: Saturday, May 25, 1996
* Deadline for final papers to be included in Proceedings: Saturday, May
25, 1996

6. Tentative Conference Agenda

To foster the development of community and communication, the Conference
will be limited to a single track consisting of three (3) keynote
addresses and twenty (20) presentations. Each speaker may give a
presentation for twenty (20) minutes, followed by a ten (10) minute
question-and-answer/discussion period. A 15-minutes break is scheduled
every 2 hours.

6a. Thursday, May 23rd

* 9 AM - 12 PM: Keynote Addresses (3 presentations)
* 1 PM - 5:15 PM: General Session (8 presentations)
* 6 PM - 10 PM: Dinner Cruise of Potomac River

6b. Friday, May 24th

*. 9 AM - 12:15 PM: General Session (6 presentations)
* 1:15 PM - 4:15 PM: General Session (6 presentations)
* 4:15 PM - 5 PM: Closing Session; Best Paper Award.

7. Tentative Workshops Agenda

One or more focused workshops will be held on Saturday, May 25th. The
workshop hours will be from 9 AM to 5 PM, and will be held off-campus, at
a downtown Washington hotel.

7a. Workshop on Ultra-Structure Theory and Applications

A workshop will be held to discuss "Ultra-Structure", a proposed new
notation for complex systems and processes. The workshop will present
several invited papers and a discussion of current computer models of the
"deep structure" of a wide variety of system classes, including:

* artificial life
* scientific arguments
* legal systems
* organizational systems
* musical systems
* gaming systems.

An introduction to Ultra-Structure theory may be found in the article
"Ultra-Structure: A Design Theory for Complex Systems and Processes" in
the January 1995 issue of "Communications of the ACM".

7b. Other Workshops

Other workshops will be held as leaders emerge to put them together!
People wishing to organize and lead workshops on any topics related to
Notational Engineering are invited to make proposals at the earliest
opportunity. Potential workshop topics might include, but are not limited

* proposed new notations in a specific field (e.g. music, business, dance)
* the historical evolution of a specific notational system and its
notational revolutions
* issues in developmental psychology, notational competence (literacy) and
* philosophical (metaphysical) implications of effective notations
* notational engineering vis-a-vis semiotics, formal systems theory, and
formal language theory.

8. Fees and Registration

To make NOTATE'96 as affordable for everyone as possible, meals, parking,
printed proceedings, and other optional items are not included in the
basic registration fees. Note that NOTATE'96 Proceedings will be freely
available on the NEL Web Site.

* Conference Fees:US$145, optional printed copy of Conference Proceedings:
US$25. Partial scholarships are available.
* Optional Workshop: US$100, printed copy of Workshop Proceedings: US$15.
Each workshop will last all day.
* Optional Dinner Cruise of Potomac River: (Friday, 3 hours): US$50/person
(total actual cost is higher; dinner is subsidized by NOTATE'96)

Early Registration Discount: A twenty percent (20%) discount on the
Conference and Workshop fees may be taken by attendees who submit their
paid registration before Wednesday, May 1, 1996. Payment may be made by
credit card, check or money order.

9. Pre-Registration

To pre-register (without commitment), please give the following
information to the Registrar, Rhonda Van Diest, at telephone: (202)
973-1110, or email:

* your name
* that you wish to be put on the e-mail list for NOTATE'96 announcements
* whether you wish to have a Registration Packet sent to your postal
* whether you hope to submit a paper for NOTATE'96
* your postal mailing address.

10. Registration Packets

A Conference and Workshop Registration Packet will be sent to you by
regular mail upon request. The Registrar is Rhonda Van Diest:

* phone: (202) 973-1110
* email:

11. Area Hotels/Bed and Breakfasts

Washington has many hotels and B&Bs. We suggest you make your
reservations early as this will be the beginning of the summer tourist
season. For reservations and more information you may wish to contact
some or all of the following places:

* There is limited on-campus housing in student dormitories, priced
tentatively at US$45/person/day (single occupancy) or US$27/person/day
(double/triple occupancy). Please indicate on your pre-registration form
if you are interested in this option.

* The Bed & Breakfast League makes reservations at 60 Washington area Bed
and Breakfast establishments. There is a $10 booking fee. Open
Mondays-Thursdays 9-5, Friday 9-1. B&B rates are $50-130. Call (202)

* Washington DC Accommodations makes reservations at hotels only. There
is no booking fee. Open Mondays - Fridays 9 - 5. Hotels rates are
$85+.Call (800) 554-2220.

* Hotels very near the University include the State Plaza Hotel
(202-861-8200), the Hampshire Hotel (202-296-7600), and the New Hampshire
Suites (202-457-0565).

In addition, the Washington Convention and Visitors Association can
provide general information about planning your visit to Washington. Call
(202) 789-7000.

We hope to see you here!