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Which clippings match 'Affordances' keyword pg.1 of 3
27 JUNE 2016

The Materiality of Research: 'Woven into the Fabric of the Text: Subversive Material Metaphors in Academic Writing'

"In the social sciences, though, often we write about our research as if theories and arguments are buildings. Theories have frameworks and foundations and they need support. Arguments can be constructed, shored up by facts and buttressed with a solid line of reasoning. Sometimes they can be shaky and even fall down. But as well as communicating what we mean, metaphors structure our thinking. Or, at least, the metaphors we choose when we write can reveal a great deal about underlying assumptions. The theories-as-buildings metaphor always makes me imagine an enormous wall made of rectangular bricks, orderly and straight, progressing upwards and onwards. The researcher's job is to climb the scaffolding, find a gap near the top and make a brick to fill it, or to knock a few crumbling bricks out and replace them with others, strong and freshly fired. Or rarely, to grab a spade and start digging a new foundation, because this metaphor doesn't work like Minecraft: bricks can't float, unsupported.

Why does this way of thinking about knowledge hold such sway over us? For one thing, it offers a comforting sense of progress and control. Buildings have blueprints; their construction appears to proceed in a predictable fashion; engineers can calculate precisely where the load bearing walls and lintels need to be; construction workers know how to mix the mortar so it won't crumble. Making buildings is also something that happens in the public sphere; even with houses, the insides only become private when the work is finished and people move in. And though we all know full well that knowledge creation doesn't actually happen in the controlled and predictable way the metaphor implies, this is the structure that it imposes on our writing: an activity that is orderly, involves rationality over emotion and inhabits the public sphere not the private."

(Katie Collins, 27 May 2016)



2016academic writingaffordances • building metaphors • conceptual metaphorcreative practicecultural practicesfeminine voice • generative practice • integrative practices • Katie Collins • material metaphors • metaphors structure our thinking • needlecraft metaphors • piecing together • predictable fashion • progress narrativesresearch activitiesresearchersewingsocial sciencestitching • theories-as-buildings metaphor • theory building • thinking about knowledge • underlying assumptions


Simon Perkins
17 DECEMBER 2015

Even tails can have unexpected affordances

"Affordance is a term used to describe the potential uses or actions latent in materials and designs. Glass affords transparency and brittleness. Steel affords strength, smoothness, hardness, and durability. Cotton affords fluffiness, but also breathable cloth when it is spun into yarn and thread. Specific designs, which organize these materials, then lay claim to their own range of affordances. A fork affords stabbing and scooping. A doorknob affords not only hardness and durability, but also turning, pushing, and pulling. Designed things may also have unexpected affordances generated by imaginative users: we may hang signs or clothes on a doorknob, for example, or use a fork to pry open a lid, and so expand the intended affordances of an object."

Caroline Levine (2015) "Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network", Princeton University Press.

Fig.1 YouTube clip titled "What tails are for!" showing an unexpected affordance for a dog's tail.



affordancescandid videochildhood agencychildhood imaginationchildhood innocence • children and their pets • designed thingsdivergent thinkingdog • dogs tail • free range playimaginative thinking • imaginative users • intended affordances • Lance Ellis • latent actions • latent uses • mischievous behaviour • painting a picture • perceivable action possibilities • potential actions latent in designs • potential actions latent in materials • potential uses latent in designs • potential uses latent in materials • rethinking limitations • tail • technology affordances • unexpected affordances • useful significanceyoung child


Simon Perkins
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.


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


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.



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


Simon Perkins
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

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