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A strategy for investigating a complex object without knowledge or assumptions about its internal make-up, structure or parts. The method aims at either a formal description of the transformation rules linking inputs and outputs or the construction of a model exhibiting a behavior that approximates what is observable from the outside of the "black box". Initially, the method codified the experiments an engineer would have to perform with a sealed piece of equipment in order to deduce what it does or how it could have been wired. The method is quite general, however. E.g., the linguist who can not utilize available knowledge of brain tissue for understanding linguistic production find himself in a similar situation. The resulting model of a black box is considered "grey" inasmuch as its structure is known, save for the knowledge of the internal make-up of that model's parts. The black box method applies to an extreme case. In practice an investigator may find and should utilize clues to the internal processes by non-experimental means. So, the engineer may conclude from the absence of a wire that a particular switch has nothing to do with a certain component just as the linguist may obtain insights about the use of language by being competent in that language himself. The isomorphism between the black box and its model, which the method aims to establish, does not imply structural correspondences between the two. One may be a mechanical device, a chemical process or human organ, the other may be a mathematical formula, an algorithm or electronic piece of equipment. However, the organization of such a model often leads to fruitful hypotheses concerning the structure of the black box. (krippendorff)
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