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18 NOVEMBER 2013

Affordance, Conventions and Design

"Physical constraints are closely related to real affordances: For example, it is not possible to move the cursor outside the screen: this is a physical constraint. Locking the mouse button when clicking is not desired would be a physical constraint. Restricting the cursor to exist only in screen locations where its position is meaningful is a physical constraint.

Logical constraints use reasoning to determine the alternatives. Thus, if we ask the user to click on five locations and only four are immediately visible, the person knows, logically, that there is one location off the screen. Logical constraints are valuable in guiding behavior. It is how the user knows to scroll down and see the rest of the page. It is how users know when they have finished a task. By making the fundamental design model visible, users can readily (logically) deduce what actions are required. Logical constraints go hand–in–hand with a good conceptual model.

Cultural constraints are conventions shared by a cultural group. The fact that the graphic on the right–hand side of a display is a 'scroll bar' and that one should move the cursor to it, hold down a mouse button, and 'drag' it downward in order to see objects located below the current visible set (thus causing the image itself to appear to move upwards) is a cultural, learned convention. The choice of action is arbitrary: there is nothing inherent in the devices or design that requires the system to act in this way. The word 'arbitrary' does not mean that any random depiction would do equally well: the current choice is an intelligent fit to human cognition, but there are alternative methods that work equally well.

A convention is a constraint in that it prohibits some activities and encourages others. Physical constraints make some actions impossible: there is no way to ignore them. Logical and cultural constraints are weaker in the sense that they can be violated or ignored, but they act as valuable aids to navigating the unknowns and complexities of everyday life. As a result, they are powerful tools for the designer. A convention is a cultural constraint, one that has evolved over time. Conventions are not arbitrary: they evolve, they require a community of practice. They are slow to be adopted, and once adopted, slow to go away. So although the word implies voluntary choice, the reality is that they are real constraints upon our behavior. Use them with respect. Violate them only with great risk."

(Donald Norman)



affordancesconceptual modelconstraintsconventionscultural concept of technology • cultural constraints • cultural conventions • cultural group • design modelDonald Norman • guiding behaviour • human behaviourlearned behaviour • learned convention • logical constraints • perceived affordance • physical constraint • physical constraints • real affordancesreasoningshared practices • voluntary choice
29 MARCH 2013

Abductive Reasoning as a Way of Worldmaking

"What is the function of abductive inference? For [Charles Sanders] Peirce it is 'the process of forming an explanatory hypothesis. It is the only logical operation which introduces any new idea; for induction does nothing but determine a value, and deduction merely evolves the necessary consequences of a pure hypothesis. Deduction proves that something must be; induction shows that something actually is operative; abduction merely suggests that something may be' (CP 5.171, cf 1991a, p.333). Abduction may thus be conceived of as a principle that allows us to reconstruct how conceptual order is achieved through the imposition of a hypothesis (in the form of a minimal theory, an idea, a rule or a law–like hypothesis) – which inaugurates constructivist thinking. Here I can only hint at the great variability of this schema; it enables us to bridge the traditional gap between the arts and the sciences because it can be used as a model both of explanation and of understanding."

(Hans Rudi Fischer, pp. 368, 2001)

Peirce, Charles Sanders (CP). (1931–35, 1958) "Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce". Bd. I–VI (1931–34) ed by Ch. Hartshorne and P. Weiss. Vol. VII–VIII (1958) ed. By A.W. Burks. Cambridge, Massachusetts/London.

Peirce, Charles Sanders (1991a), Naturordnung und Zeichenprozeß. Schriften über Semiotik und Naturphilosophie. Hrsg. und eingeleitet von Helmut Pape. Frankfurt/Main, Suhrkamp.

Foundations of Science, special issue on "The Impact of Radical Constructivism on Science", edited by A. Riegler, 2001, vol. 6, no.4: 361–383. "Abductive Reasoning as a Way of Worldmaking", Hans Rudi Fischer, Heidelberger Institut für systemische Forschung und Therapie, Kussmaulstr. 10, D–69120 Heidelberg, Germany.



2001 • abduction • abductive inference • abductive reasoningarts and sciencesCharles Sanders Peirceconstructivismdeductive reasoning • explanatory hypothesis • Foundations of Science (academic journal) • Hans Fischer • hermeneutical procedures • hermeneuticshypothesisinductive reasoninginferenceinterpretation of experience • knowing as inferring • knowledge of the world • language gameslogical rationalitylogical rules of inferencelogical-analytical paradigm • logically false • Ludwig Wittgenstein • manufacturing of knowledge • material environment • paralogical reasoning • paralogism • paralogy • philosophical construction • praxis of living • rationalityreasoning • retroduction • rule system • rule-following • rules of thought • synthetic thinking • traditional logic • worldmaking


Simon Perkins
31 JULY 2012

Michael Polanyi and tacit knowledge

"Central to Michael Polanyi's thinking was the belief that creative acts (especially acts of discovery) are shot–through or charged with strong personal feelings and commitments (hence the title of his most famous work Personal Knowledge). Arguing against the then dominant position that science was somehow value–free, Michael Polanyi sought to bring into creative tension a concern with reasoned and critical interrogation with other, more 'tacit', forms of knowing.

Polanyi's argument was that the informed guesses, hunches and imaginings that are part of exploratory acts are motivated by what he describes as 'passions'. They might well be aimed at discovering 'truth', but they are not necessarily in a form that can be stated in propositional or formal terms. As Michael Polanyi (1967: 4) wrote in The Tacit Dimension, we should start from the fact that 'we can know more than we can tell'. He termed this pre–logical phase of knowing as 'tacit knowledge'. Tacit knowledge comprises a range of conceptual and sensory information and images that can be brought to bear in an attempt to make sense of something (see Hodgkin 1991). Many bits of tacit knowledge can be brought together to help form a new model or theory. This inevitably led him to explore connoisseurship and the process of discovery (rather than with the validation or refutation of theories and models – in contrast with Popper, for example)."

(Mark K. Smith 2003,

Smith, M. K. (2003) 'Michael Polanyi and tacit knowledge', the encyclopedia of informal education,

Hodgkin, R. (1991) 'Michael Polanyi – Prophet of life, the universe and everything' Times Higher Educational Supplement, September 27, page 15.

Polanyi, Michael (1967) The Tacit Dimension, New York: Anchor Books. (108 + xi pages). Based on the 1962 Terry lectures (Yale) this book provides an overview of tacit knowledge. He looks at tacit knowing, emergence and the significance of a society of explorers.


acts of discovery • connoisseurship • creative acts • critical analysisdiscovery process • exploratory acts • formal logic • hunchesimaginingsinductive reasoning • • informed guess • Karl Popperlogical-analytical paradigm • Mark Smith • Michael Polanyiobjectivity • passions • personal commitments • personal feelings • Personal Knowledge (book) • pre-logical phase of knowing • propositional logic • reasoned interrogation • reasoning • refutation • Robin Hodgkin • sensemakingtacit • tacit forms of knowing • tacit knowledge • The Tacit Dimension (book) • theories and models • theory building • theory validation • truth • value-free science • we can know more than we can te


Simon Perkins
21 FEBRUARY 2010

The Logic of Deductive and Inductive Reasoning Methods

"In logic, we often refer to the two broad methods of reasoning as the deductive and inductive approaches.

Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. Sometimes this is informally called a 'top–down' approach. We might begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest. We then narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses with specific data –– a confirmation (or not) of our original theories.

Inductive reasoning works the other way, moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, we sometimes call this a 'bottom up' approach ... In inductive reasoning, we begin with specific observations and measures, begin to detect patterns and regularities, formulate some tentative hypotheses that we can explore, and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories.

These two methods of reasoning have a very different 'feel' to them when you're conducting research. Inductive reasoning, by its very nature, is more open–ended and exploratory, especially at the beginning. Deductive reasoning is more narrow in nature and is concerned with testing or confirming hypotheses. Even though a particular study may look like it's purely deductive (e.g., an experiment designed to test the hypothesized effects of some treatment on some outcome), most social research involves both inductive and deductive reasoning processes at some time in the project. In fact, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that we could assemble the two graphs above into a single circular one that continually cycles from theories down to observations and back up again to theories. Even in the most constrained experiment, the researchers may observe patterns in the data that lead them to develop new theories."

(William M.K. Trochim, Last Revised: 10/20/2006, The Research Methods Knowledge Base)





abstractionargumentbottom-upconceptualisationcreative practicedeductiondeductive reasoningdiscoveryenquiryexperimentation • generalisation • hypothesisinductioninductive reasoninglogic • logical reasoning • predicate logic • propositional logicreasoningresearch • sentential logic • theorytheory building • top-down • working theories


Simon Perkins
31 JANUARY 2009

Strategies for Constructing Meaning

Inferencing, the process of judging, concluding, or reasoning from given information, has been described by some researchers as the heart of the reading process (Anderson & Pearson, 1984). Researchers have found that readers improve their abilities to construct meaning when they are taught how to make inferences (Hansen, 1981; Hansen & Pearson, 1983; Raphael & Wonnacott, 1985). Inferencing is the process that is involved as students make predictions before and during reading.

Monitoring, the process of knowing when what you are reading is not making sense and having some means for overcoming the problem, is an important part of students' metacognitive development (Baker & Brown, 1984a, 1984b; Brown, 1980). Expert constructors of meaning –– strategic readers –– are able to anticipate problems in their understanding and correct them as they occur (Paris, Lipson, & Wixson, 1983); these strategies for correcting problems are often referred to as fix–up strategies. Researchers have found that teaching students to monitor their reading improves their abilities to construct meaning (Palincsar & Brown, 1984a, 1984b, 1986). Strategies for monitoring include such things as asking oneself whether the reading is making sense, rereading, reading ahead, looking up words in the dictionary, or asking someone for assistance (Paris, Wasik, & Turner, 1991).

Summarising, pulling together the important information in longer texts, has been shown to be an important strategy in helping readers improve their abilities to construct meaning (Brown & Day, 1983; Bean & Steenwyk, 1984; Rinehart, Stahl, & Erickson, 1986; Taylor & Beach, 1984). This strategy must be developed with students over time and, because narrative text structure differs from expository text structure, should be taught differently for narrative texts and expository texts. In narrative texts, it involves focusing on the elements of story grammar (Mandler, 1984) or the story map. In expository texts it involves identification of main ideas (Baumann, 1986).

Question Generating
The support for these four strategies is significant. In addition, a fifth strategy, called question generating, is also supported by some researchers as being valuable for helping students construct meaning (Singer & Donlan, 1982; Davey & McBride, 1986). In using this strategy, students generate their own questions to be answered as they read. Brown and Palincsar (1985) demonstrated how effective student–generated questions can be in helping students improve their abilities to construct meaning. However, much research also shows that there may be difficulties in teaching the strategy (Pressley, Johnson, Symons, McGoldrick, & Kurita, 1989; Denner & Rickards, 1987). Therefore, question generating should be used cautiously."
(John J. Pikulski and J. David Cooper)


analysis • constructing meaning • inferencing • learningmonitoringpedagogy • question generating • reasoning • summarising • synthesis


Simon Perkins

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