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20 AUGUST 2014

Musical sense-making and the concept of affordance: an ecosemiotic and experiential approach

"Is music something 'out there', a kind of structure or artefact, that can be dealt with in a static way? Or does it rely on processes which call forth interactions with the sounds? Should we conceive of music users besides the music, and think about music as something which is perceived, conceptualised and enacted upon in order to be meaningful? Is music an ontological category, or a sounding phenomenon that calls forth epistemic interactions with the sounds? And can music be considered as a sonic environment and the music user as an organism that generates music knowledge as a tool for adaptation to the sonic world?

These questions revolve around the ecological concept of coping with the (sonic) world (Reybrouck, 2001a, 2005a, b). Musical sense–making, in this view, can be addressed in terms of interactions with the sounds, both at the level of perception, action and mental processing. It is a position that broadens the scope of music research, encompassing all kinds of music and sounds, and going beyond any kind of cultural and historical constraints. Music, in this broadened view, is to be defined as a collection of sound/time phenomena which have the potential of being structured, with the process of structuring being as important as the structure of the music. As such, it is possible to transcend a merely structural description of the music in favour of a process–like description of the ongoing process of maintaining epistemic contact with the music as a sounding environment. A central focus, in this approach, is on the role of musical experience and the way how listeners make sense of music as it sounds (see Blacking, 1955; Määttänen, 1993; Reybrouck, 2004; Westerlund, 2002)."

(Mark Reybrouck, 2012)

Reybrouck, M. (2012). "Musical sense–making and the concept of affordance: an ecosemiotic and experiential approach". Biosemiotics, 5 (3), 391–409.

TAGS

2012 • adaptive control • affordancesbiology • biosemiotic claims • Charles Sanders Peircecircularityconceptual framework • consummation • coping with the environment • cybernetics • ecological approach to perception • ecological psychology • ecosemiotic claims • empirical evidence • enactive cognition • epistemic interactions • epistemic interactions with sound • experiential cognition • formation of formfunctional significance • functional tone • interaction with the environmentinterdisciplinary focus • interpretant • Jakob von Uexkull • James GibsonJohn Deweylistening • Mark Reybrouck • music • musical behaviour • musical sense-making • neurobiological research • ontological category • operational description • perceptual phenomenonpragmatismsensemaking • sounding music • sounding phenomen • systemic cognition • William James

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
18 JUNE 2014

Calm Technology: designs which require only peripheral attention

"The most potentially interesting, challenging, and profound change implied by the ubiquitous computing era is a focus on calm. If computers are everywhere they better stay out of the way, and that means designing them so that the people being shared by the computers remain serene and in control. Calmness is a new challenge that UC brings to computing. When computers are used behind closed doors by experts, calmness is relevant to only a few. Computers for personal use have focused on the excitement of interaction. But when computers are all around, so that we want to compute while doing something else and have more time to be more fully human, we must radically rethink the goals, context and technology of the computer and all the other technology crowding into our lives. Calmness is a fundamental challenge for all technological design of the next fifty years. The rest of this paper opens a dialogue about the design of calm technology. ...

We use 'periphery' to name what we are attuned to without attending to explicitly. Ordinarily when driving our attention is centered on the road, the radio, our passenger, but not the noise of the engine. But an unusual noise is noticed immediately, showing that we were attuned to the noise in the periphery, and could come quickly to attend to it.

It should be clear that what we mean by the periphery is anything but on the fringe or unimportant. What is in the periphery at one moment may in the next moment come to be at the center of our attention and so be crucial. The same physical form may even have elements in both the center and periphery. The ink that communicates the central words of a text also peripherally clues us into the genre of the text though choice of font and layout.

A calm technology will move easily from the periphery of our attention, to the center, and back. This is fundamentally encalming, for two reasons.

First, by placing things in the periphery we are able to attune to many more things than we could if everything had to be at the center. Things in the periphery are attuned to by the large portion of our brains devoted to peripheral (sensory) processing. Thus the periphery is informing without overburdening.

Second, by recentering something formerly in the periphery we take control of it. Peripherally we may become aware that something is not quite right, as when awkward sentences leave a reader tired and discomforted without knowing why. By moving sentence construction from periphery to center we are empowered to act, either by finding better literature or accepting the source of the unease and continuing. Without centering the periphery might be a source of frantic following of fashion; with centering the periphery is a fundamental enabler of calm through increased awareness and power.

Not all technology need be calm. A calm videogame would get little use; the point is to be excited. But too much design focuses on the object itself and its surface features without regard for context. We must learn to design for the periphery so that we can most fully command technology without being dominated by it.

Our notion of technology in the periphery is related to the notion of affordances, due to Gibson and applied to technology by Gaver and Norman. An affordance is a relationship between an object in the world and the intentions, perceptions, and capabilities of a person. The side of a door that only pushes out affords this action by offering a flat pushplate. The idea of affordance, powerful as it is, tends to describe the surface of a design. For us the term 'affordance ' does not reach far enough into the periphery where a design must be attuned to but not attended to."

(Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown, 1997)

"The Coming Age of Calm Technology," Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown, In Beyond Calculation: The Next Fifty Years of Computing, Peter J. Denning and Robert M. Metcalfe, New York, Springer–Verlag 1997.

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TAGS

1997affordancesambient awarenessaround usattentionattunementbecoming invisible • blend into the background • calm • calm technologycalmness • distributed computing • Donald Norman • encalm • encalming technology • engaged interaction • everyday thingsexcitement • explicitly • human computer interactioninteraction designJames GibsonJohn Seely Brown • Mark Weiser • peripheral attention • periphery • sensory phenomena • sensory processing • technological change • technological design • technology affordancesubiquitous computing • William Gaver • Xerox PARC

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
06 APRIL 2014

Limitations of the Decision Cycle Model of Interactive Interfaces

"One central idea missing from the decision cycle model is the notion that goals are often not fully formed in an agent's mind. As anyone who has ever tried to write an essay knows, we do not always act by moving through a decision sequence where we have a clear idea of our goal. Often we explore the world in order to discover our goals. We use the possibilities and resources of our environment to help shape our thoughts and goals, to see what is possible, and we have no clear idea of what we want to do any more than we always have a clear idea of what we are going to write before we begin the process of writing. This is a different orientation than the classical Cartesian view that we know things internally and just communicate fully intact thoughts in external vehicles. In this more dynamic interactionist view, the action of externally formulating thoughts is integral to internally formulating them too. We do not have a clear and distinct idea in mentalese awaiting expression in English or French. The very action of putting 'thoughts' in words helps to formulate them. If this is generally true about many of our actions it means that the goal of an interactive interface is not merely to allow users to do what they want to do, it must also allow them to discover what they want to do. ...

The overhaul I propose to the decision cycle model begins by noting that the way we cope with badly formulated goals and plans is by relying on two facts: we tend to operate in the same workplace over time, and we are usually clever enough to figure out on-line what we must do next. If one observes most creative activity it is apparent that there are both planful and improvisational elements to it. Creative activity is improvisational because agents are opportunistic -- they pursue ideas and possibilities as they emerge regardless of whether those ideas or possibilities have been anticipated. Creative activity is planful because the skilled agent tries to prepare the environment so that he or she has the greatest chance of stumbling on excellent ideas and possibilities. Thus, although an agent may not know, in advance, what he will create, he knows that by doing certain actions, or by arranging the environment in a certain way, or by laying out certain tools, he is doing the best he can to put himself in a position to recognize unimagined possibilities. This setting up the environment to facilitate on-line choice and improvisation I call preparation. It is a key component of skilled activity. There are others. To accommodate them in a decision model requires adding new forms of action, and new forms of interactivity throughout the decision cycle."

(David Kirsh, 1997)

TAGS

1997active learning • agent-environment-agent loop • approaches to ambiguitycognitive sciencecomputational complexity • David Kirsh • decision cycle model of interaction • discovery through designDonald Norman • dynamic interactionist view • ecological approach to cognition • educational constructivism • Edwin Hutchins • environment maintenance • environment preparation • event cognition • explanatory concept of engagement • exploratory actions • human computer interactionimprovised method • interactive interfaces • interactive learning environments • James Gibson • Jim Hollan • John Bransford • learning environment design • mental processes • mentalese • naming process • perception is interactive • personal exploration of phenomena • reshaping the cognitive congeniality of the environment • Robert Shaw • sensory feedback • theory of interactivity • visibility and recognition

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
28 DECEMBER 2013

Connectivist Learning Theory

"A central tenet of most learning theories is that learning occurs inside a person. Even social constructivist views, which hold that learning is a socially enacted process, promotes the principality of the individual (and her/his physical presence–i.e. brain–based) in learning. These theories do not address learning that occurs outside of people (i.e. learning that is stored and manipulated by technology)... In a networked world, the very manner of information that we acquire is worth exploring. The need to evaluate the worthiness of learning something is a meta–skill that is applied before learning itself begins. When knowledge is subject to paucity, the process of assessing worthiness is assumed to be intrinsic to learning. When knowledge is abundant, the rapid evaluation of knowledge is important. The ability to synthesize and recognize connections and patterns is a valuable skill. Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age. We can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from forming connections. Karen Stephenson states: 'Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people's experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. 'I store my knowledge in my friends' is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people.

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self–organization theories"

(George Siemens, P2P Foundation)

TAGS

accepted knowledge • Albert Bandura • Albert-Laszlo Barabasi • Andrew Clark • Brent Davis • Chris Jones • collective knowledge • complexity of views • connection forming • connections and patterns • connectivism • conventional wisdom • Dave Cormier • David Rumelhart • David Wileydigital age • embodied cognition • Ernst von GlasersfeldEtienne Wengerevaluate and select • evaluate worthiness • evaluation skills • Gavriel Salomon • George Siemens • heedful interrelating • I store my knowledge with my friendsindividualismisolated individualJames Gibson • James McClelland • Jean Lave • Jerome Bruner • Karen Stephenson • Karl Weick • know-how • know-what • know-who • knowledge collectionknowledge commons • knowledge evaluation • knowledge synthesis • learning is socially enacted • learning theory • Lev VygotskyLudwig Wittgenstein • Mark Mason • Marshall McLuhan • Martin de Laat • Marvin Minsky • meta-analysismetacognition • Michael Spivey • Neil Postmannetwork societynetworked world • networks are everywhere • P2P Foundation • patterns of connections • patterns of knowledge • paucity • Paul Churchland • recognition rules • Ronald Barnett • Roy Pea • self-organisation theories • self-organising systemsensemaking • Seymour Papert • shared knowledge • shared learning interests • situated learning • social cognitive theory • social construction of knowledge • social learning theory • social-constructivist approach • Starr-Roxanne Hiltz • systems thinkingwicked problems

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
05 JULY 2013

Technologies, Texts and Affordances

"In contrast to recent sociological emphases on the social shaping of technology, this article proposes and illustrates a way of analysing the technological shaping of sociality. Drawing on the concept of affordances (Gibson 1979), the article argues for a recognition of the constraining, as well as enabling, materiality of artefacts. The argument is set in the theoretical context of one of the most recent and comprehensive statements of anti–essentialism (Grint and Woolgar 1997). The position is illustrated through a reinterpretation of some case studies used by proponents of the radical constructivist position."

(Ian Hutchby, 2001)

Ian Hutchby (2001). "Technologies, Texts and Affordances" Sociology May 2001 vol. 35 no. 2 441–456.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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