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We cannot afford to ignore the potential of richly interactive digital text

In researching ‘affordances’ I came across James Gibson and this quote:

“Psychology, or at least American psychology, is a second rate discipline. The main reason is that it does not stand in awe of its subject matter. Psychologists have too little respect for psychology”
James Gibson (1972)
A Theory of Direct Visual Perception. In J. Royce, W. Rozenboom (eds.). The Psychology of Knowing

Same can be said for computer science. But I was looking for what he had to say about ‘affordances’:

“The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary, the noun affordance is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment.”
James Gibson (1979)
The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception

The choice of word is apt:

afford (v.)
Middle English aforth, from Old English geforðian “to put forth, contribute; further, advance; carry out, accomplish,” from ge- completive prefix (which in Middle English regularly reduces to a-; see a- (1)) + forðian “to further,” from forð “forward, onward” (see forth).
The prefix shift to af- took place 16c. under mistaken belief that it was a Latin word in ad-; change of -th- to -d- took place late 16c. (and also transformed burthen, spither, murther, etc. into their modern forms).
The notion of “accomplish” (late Old English) gradually became “be able to bear the expense of, have enough money” to do something (late 14c.), and the original senses became obsolete. Of things, “be capable of yielding,” 1580s, which is the sense in afford (one) an opportunity. Related: Afforded; affording.
Douglas Harper

The term has come to me through the work of Don Norman who applied the term affordances to the context of human–machine interaction (what people think/see/feel that the computer interface can let them do) in his The Design of Everyday Things 1988.

The reason for my interest in this now is that this can also be employed to information, where ‘affordances’ are what the documents ‘express’ to human and machine readers. This is what Visual-Meta is. And it is visual since anything but keeping the meta on the same level as the content is brittle.

Augmenting text augments our thinking.

With rich affordances enabling rich interactions, documents change shape from flat repositories of frozen text, and expand into multiple dimensions of possibilities, reaching out to connect with other documents and providing opportunities for people to grasp their content in powerful new ways. We can only provide depth by surfacing the information.

This is what I am working on, and for.

Published inThoughtsVisual-Meta

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