The Feyerabend Project at ECOOP 2002

Call for Position Papers: Feyerabend - Redefining Computing

This incarnation of the Feyerabend workshop is to be held in conjunction with the 16th European Conferences on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP 2002), University of Málaga, Spain, June 10-14, 2002


Fifty years into the First Computing Era some of us in the computing arena have come to realize we have made a false start that cannnot be fixed, and for us to finally be able to produce lasting, correct, beautiful, usable, scalable, enjoyable software that stands the tests of time and moral human endeaveor, we need to start over. Perhaps we will be able to salvage some of what we have learned from the First Era, but we expect almost everything except the most mathematical and philosophical fundamentals to be brushed aside.

In 1975, Berkeley philosopher Paul Feyerabend wrote a book called "Against Method", in which he said: " of the most striking features of recent discussions in the history and philosophy of science is the realization that events and developments ... occurred only because some thinkers either decided not to be bound by certain "obvious" methodological rules, or because they unwittingly broke them. This liberal practice, I repeat, is not just a fact of the history of science. It is both reasonable and absolutely necessary for the growth of knowledge. More specifically, one can show the following: given any rule, however "fundamental" or necessary" for science, there are always circumstances when it is advisable not only to ignore the rule, but to adopt its opposite."

In "The Invisible Computer", Donald Norman wrote, "...the current paradigm is so thoroughly established that the only way to change is to start over again."

The Feyerabend Project is an attempt (triggerd by Richard P. Gabriel) to repair the arena of software development and practice. This workshop is one in a series leading up to an event to reinvent computing. For that event, a most diverse group of 75 people will be put together. The result of the two-week event will be the first steps toward a roadmap for massive rebuilding of computing - both as a theoretical endeavor as a practice - and toward a plan to accomplish it.

Just like the OOPSLA2001 Feyerabend workshop, this workshop will focus on the very basics from object orientation since the basic philosophy behind OO might definitely serve as a fertile soil of thoughts to be injected into the Feyerabend project.

The goal of this workshop is to bring together everyone who is interested in the redefinition of computing and/or in the use of alternative metaphors/languages/ideas for entering the Next Era of computer science. The major problem with the current flow of ideas is that current approaches merely enable the construction of software that is too brittle and too rigid in order to survive and operate in our real world which is dynamic and constantly subject to change.

We will try to funnel the brainstorm sessions into two different streams of thought.

One is about possible notions of computation for the Next Era. In previous workshops this was accomplished by setting up front a metaphor (biology, physics,...) and let the participants brainstorm about how the achievements and concepts of the metaphor can be used to understand and steer the very notion of a computation.

On the other side, we will try to recover ideas from the object oriented line of thinking in the Feyerabend project, since "object" is indeed a well-established metaphor from the world of concrete matter. Here, participants are asked to take a step back and find out what the essential concepts of object orientation really are, probably different from what has been stated 10 - 20 years ago. At the same time, it is also important to spot the neglectable ingredients in order to find opportunities for new research directions.

The shared goal of these streams of thought is to collect diverse contributions for a reconsideration of existing technology. This is pretty much in the same spirit of the 'computational rainbow' exercise that has been done in one of the previous workshops: the goal of that exercise was to emphasize the existing diversity in computing which might have become hidden or ignored 'due to middleware'.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

Just like in the previous Feyerabend workshop, the concrete organiztion of the workshop will depend on the number of participants and on their interests. Even though more than 20 people participated, they collectively decided not to split up in groups and to have a plenary discussion instead. Three 'talking cloths' were passed around the room to prevent people from interrupting each other. In the same way, we plan to organize the workshop in an ad hoc way depending on what the participants feel is most appropriate at the time.

Submission Guideline

Authors are strongly invited to submit a position paper or essay containing their vision on the redefinition of computing. The essay should not exceed 4 pages and should be submitted by April 8, 2002. Accompanying this paper, authors are expected to submit a topic of discussion they would like to see addressed during the workshop. Submissions are required in electronic form. Please send an e-mail containing your essay in Postscript or pdf to All essays will be published on the workshop web site.

Deadline for paper submission: April 8, 2002
Notification of acceptance: April 29, 2002

Organisers - Short Biography

Wolfgang De Meuter is a research assistant at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He has been active in the field of object-orientation since the early nineties. He has done research about (the denotational semantics of and evaluators for) prototype-based languages. His current research interests include programming languages and their evaluators, aspect-oriented programming, meta-programming and more recently also language constructs and abstraction barriers for strong mobile systems.

Pascal Costanza has an MS degree from the University of Bonn, Germany, and has been a research assistant at the University of Bonn for the last 4 years, focusing mostly on programming language constructs for unanticipated software evolution. Currently he pursues these issues in the Tailor Project which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Previously, he has also been involved in the definition of the programming language Lava.

Martine Devos works as researcher for Avayalabs. Her main focus is on the use of IS - and "softer software" - to support change programs and learning. Special interests are software product lines, the use of patterns in organisation, the human side of IS and facilitating workshops. She participated in, and organised, several workshops and panels on System Envisioning, the use of creativity in requirements developing. She was conference-chair of EuroPlop 2000 and Tools Eastern Europe 2002.

Dave Thomas has over 30 years of experience as a developer, professor, consultant, architect, manager, president, and CEO. He has held academic positions in Engineering and Schools of Business and Computer Science at Carleton University and currently holds an adjunct research professorship at Carleton University, where he was previously director of the Object-Oriented Research Group. Dave is the founder, past CEO and president of Object Technology International Inc. He has been the principal visionary and architect for IBM VisualAge Java/Smalltalk tools and virtual machines as well as IBM's over all object/component strategy. In 1997, Dave Thomas formed Bedarra Corporation, a privately held management consulting company that helps clients develop technology-leveraged products and services, new R&D programs and modern "Just In Time Software" processes.