Concurrent comics : programming of social agents by children
Sammanfattning: This thesispresents a study of how the visual language of comics can be usedfor programming of social agents. Social agents are interactive andanimated characters that can express emotions and behaviours inrelation to other agents. Such agents could be programmed bychildren to create learning games and simulations. In order to makeprogramming easier, it would be desirable to support the mentaltransformation needed to link the static program source code to thedynamic behaviour of the running program. Comic books use arepresentation that captures the dynamics of a story in a visuallydirect way, and may thus offer a convenient paradigm forprogramming of social agents using a static representation. Thethesis addresses the questions of how comic strips and other signsused in comics can be applied to programming of social agents in away that makes the source code resemble the appearance of therunning program, and how such programs are understood by children.To study these questions, a comic strip programming tool called-Concurrent Comics- has been developed. In ConcurrentComics, social agent programs are represented as a collection ofevents expressed as comic strips. The tool has been used bychildren at the age of ten and eleven during several field studiesin a school. In classroom studies, the children were successful increating language learning games with the Concurrent Comics tool ina relatively short time (2 to 3 hours). However, most games had anarrative character and a fairly linear structure. The results fromthe field studies show that the children tend to interpret comicstrip programs as sequential stories. Still, the program examplespresented show that comic strip programs look similar to and have adirect visual mapping to the runtime appearance. The conclusion isthat the language conventions of comics can be used to representsocial agent programs in a visually direct way, but that childrenhave to learn the intended interpretation of comic strips aspotentially non-linear and concurrent events to program moresimulation-oriented and open-endedgames.
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