This week’s readings on ecology had me thinking about the kinds of ecologies (networks) that I have grown from, the ones I am connected to, and the ones to which I am apart. This view of organisms, peoples, and objects game me the sense that everything is connected to everything in some way (big or small). This was probably reinforced because I was watching Neil deGrasse Tyson‘s Cosmos: A Space Odyssey. In the most recent episode, he made a comment about how we are each our own little universe. However, we are all connected. We are all made of star dust. He discusses evolution and how closely related humans are to chimpanzees and (most shocking to me) trees. The cosmos (and human life, specifically) is presented as being a massive network in which energy shifts and things transform. In this week’s episode, he stated that we are interconnected with the environment. We shape the environment. However, the cosmos (environment) ultimately exists and continues on without us.
Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind “Form, Substance, and Difference”
Bateson presents evolution as an interactive process that centers on evolution occurring through differences. The world is built through and between differences. He uses the ideas of map and territory. Territory doesn’t go onto a map, but difference does.
He begins by discussing cybernetics and information theory has caused a change in epistemology. The answer is not lie hard sciences but in understanding the relations among actors (human, animal, objects).
A key statement from this chapter is:
“The unit of survival is a flexible organism-in-its-environment“(457).
This statement jumped out to me because Bateson is arguing for an examination and understanding of the connections among individuals, society, and the environment. These systems are interrelated and impact one another. This system is a way to examine human behavior.
Gibson, “The Theory of Affordances”
Gibson’s article, the foundational text, on affordances, presents that everything has afordances. They can be be negative or positive (benefit/injury or life/death). The environment and the animal are connected “inseparably.” The environment acts as a constraint on the animal. The animal can alter affordances of the environment. However, the animal is still controlled by the environment and a product of it.
What stood out the most to me in this article was Gibson’s discussion of the conflation of affordances and qualities. We name qualities, but in actuality we are referring to what the object afford us. I know that I need to tease this out more to understand why I felt it was so significant to Gibson’s argument.
Norman, “Affordances and Design”
This was my favorite article this week for two reasons. First, it was short and to the point. Second, it unpacked the term affordances. I appreciated the differentiation between affordances and perceived affordances. Norman argues for a return to the original definition of affordances. The term has become convoluted and is being used to refer to things beyond its reach.
J.J. Gibson invented the term to refer to “actionable properties between the world and an action (a person or animal)” (Norman).
Affordances are a relationship. This is significant in regards to thinking of affordances in terms of networks and connections between the world and actors. Norman clarifies the term by discussing “perceived affordances.” He presents that the design world is more concerned with “what the user perceives than what is actually true”
He goes on to discuss cultural constraints and cultural conventions. Physical constraints are related to real affordances. However, cultural constraints are linked to cultural conventions, as cultural constraints are “learned conventions.”
Norman provides four principles for screen interfaces:
1. Follow conventional usage, both in the choice of images and the allowable interactions
2. Use words to describe the desired action
3. Use metaphor
4. Follow a coherent conceptual model so that once part of the interface is learned, the same principles apply to other parts.
Norman’s article reminded me of Snapchat the most because of the idea of perceived affordances. I have not framed this in terms of networks. However, there are clear connections in regards to the design of Snapchat and the idea of perceived affordances. This connects to the perception versus the reality of Snapchat’s function.