Thinking in the abstract
Another significant challenge in understanding Information Technology is getting used to thinking in the abstract or, put another way, using abstraction to think about, visualize, and articulate the virtual.
Abstraction is the thought process wherein ideas are distanced from objects.
Abstraction uses a strategy of simplification of detail, wherein formerly concrete details are left ambiguous, vague, or undefined; thus speaking of things in the abstract demands that the listener have an intuitive or common experience with the speaker, if the speaker expects to be understood.
To design a basketball, a model of the Earth, or an animation of Cartman we might start with an abstract drawing of a sphere. To start to build a house, or an entire sub-division, we might start with an abstract drawing of building plans.
Here's another examle using a characteristic, or property, and a relation. We can talk of the colour red in the abstract. We can describe it vaguely or generally by giving popular varieties of red as in ruby red, fire engine red, maroon, its hue, its RGB colour code, and so on. When we think of something as general and undefined as "red" we can think, visualize, or speak in the abstract. This can be quite useful. Lots of different things have the property of redness. We can use the idea of redness to think of, visualize, and articulate all sorts of things. We can apply the concept of redness in myriad directions. Now apples, tomatoes, wine, and other objects that possess red as a property are specific. The indivdual cases of these objects have a unique and specific, or concrete brand of redness. When we speak of them we speak about individual instances.
Likewise we can speak of relations, action words, and processes in the abstract or the concrete. "Doing something" is an abstract phrase void of detail. "Punching George in the face" is concrete. A sales order process or a procurement process denotes two business processes which virutally every business must manage effectively. In this sense these processes can be thought of in the abstract. But all companies have individual preferences when it comes to managing their business processes. When we talk specifically about how a company implements their processes, what business terms they use, and so on, we would be talking about an instance of that business process. When a customer service representative pulls your file to look over an old sales order they are looking at a concrete instance of that process at work.
Computer software, when it's not physically manifested as instructions stored on a hard drive, exists in the abstract. Concurrent, overlapping, and intersecting pieces of software begin as abstract plans. When they are executed the abstract pieces work together, apply templates, and collate specific data to become concrete instances that provide services and results.
Posted by Mark Hemphill on September 14, 2004 | Permalink
MIS BOOK FOR SALE!!
Posted by: Lindsay Peters | Sep 15, 2004 7:13:50 AM
I also have a MIS book for sale if anyone is interested give me a shout or I will have it at Thursday's class if anyone would like to get it there. $60.00
Posted by: Book4sale | Sep 15, 2004 9:03:52 PM
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