Applying Affordances on Objects on the Digital World
To fill the gap between affordances and digital objects in this section we are going to showcase some examples of digital objects and corresponding affordances. In the previous sections we have already elaborated in this direction but here we would focus further on the close connection that exists between the two. Actually, those two notions are inseparable in any world either physical or digital. There can be no Affordance as an abstract entity without an application on any object or an Object that can have no affordance applicable to it.
The web as it is formed today allows users to interact with certain various objects, and for its own, it provides a number of available choices of interaction. For example, if a user wants to buy a book from a library website, this is not possible. He may be forced to visit the Amazon website, for example, if there is a universal book object, there should be also a way to extend its affordances according to how a user would need to interact with it.
In this direction, the Android SDK developing team proposed the web intents initiative that aimed at allowing developers to extend affordances within the Android ecosystem by ranging the application-to-application communication. Nowadays, this has also been adopted by Chrome, with Mozilla and Twitter also making clear its intentions in this direction
According to [Verborgh et al. 2012], much of the work on this track has to be addressed by the creation of new applications based on his proposing paradigm.
Google on the other side with the implementation of schema.org: action regards that first all of the efforts have to be invested in the vocabulary at development time. Then the server is responsible to address those affordances on processing time. One similar approach in a broader scale after the web intents initiative is the web apps [Yves et al. 2014] working group by W3C trying to create common interfaces for the APIs to enhance reusability both regarding responses (schemas) as well the affordances over the objects.
The schema.org combined effort aims to create a holistic approach to tackling the problem for both describing a huge variety of web objects, as well as possible actions on top of them. Another similar effort more focused on social actions like notifications regarding a post is the activity streams initiative (https://github.com/jasnell/activitystreams.jsonld ), where a long list of possible objects and their actions have been documented and it is expected by applications developers to respect those guidelines. Towards this direction of standardization of digital objects and their actions, W3C has kick-started an interesting initiative that aims into concluding about the nature of a digital object in the near future (http://www.w3.org/Submission/2015/SUBM-wot-model-20150824/ ).
The areas of online courses are common, there are courses which are mostly videos and documents, and there are also the Learning Objects which are the families of possible actions and transitions. For example, if I choose the Object of a complete novice, I will be driven to choose a specific series of steps, in which I always have the option to skip or revisit. Hence, this example is meant to showcase that the idea of possible actions, affords in digital objects has been already partially an option, and there are the corresponding signifiers to make those actions visible. In this case, the skip button, the replay and even more.
Finalizing this section, it is important to mention two more noteworthy ontologies in this area. The first is the Pivon ontology discussed in detail by Hervás, Bravo, and Fontecha, which is a complete framework for describing relationships and interactions between users and devices. The second one is the umbel ontology (http://umbel.org/), which attempts to map existing vocabularies and ontologies into creating an interoperability layer between existing approaches. It is already grown significantly as can be seen on the figure below, and it is a remarkable effort that strives towards the correct direction.
Figure 1 – The Umbel Ontology
An attempt for some Definitions
It is important to try and set some solid ground by trying and experimenting with the ideas of digital objects and affordances and as well as defining them. In Ibn Sina’s words, the essence is the idea of a thing but existence is the thing itself. Similarly, we could say that affordance is the idea of an action, and activity is the action itself. Ibn Sina’s core ideas regarding the ontological argument could be briefly summarized in the following bullets:
- an essence can exist in a physical form.
- an essence can exist in the mind.
- an essence can exist in itself, without relation to something we can physically or comprehend mentally.
If we apply the ideas of the affordance theory, we could safely suggest that an affordance can exist in the form of an activity when an affordance is embodied, it can exist only in theory Or we can say that there is an affordance called theGlassFliesToTheMoon, and even though there is no evidence of that happening, we cannot conclude that this is not possible to ever exist as a possibility.
This discussion could be further enhanced by applying some of Aristotle’s ideas and more recently the ones by Hume, Kant, or the ideas about the phenomenological perception of Husserl.
In attempting to summarize all the aforementioned arguments, we could borrow a definition by (Simondon, G., 2011) regarding the technical object, which in our discussion could be summarized by stating:
“is not made of matter and form only. It is made up of technical elements arranged from a certain system of usage and assembled into a stable structure by the manufacturing process”.
In our case we could say that a digital object is:
“A thing that is not made of matter and form. It is made up of technical elements arranged from a certain system of usage and assembled into a stable structure. The technical elements are relationships to other such objects.”
This definition provides an overview of digital object with a comparison to affordances. We can conclude that they are both complementary and we cannot define them separately.
To further demonstrate the necessity of such a definition a simple example is going to be explored. We have used numerous times our trash bin icon in our computer to clear unwanted files from our operational system. What is this application: Is this an object or an agent? When we interact with the icon, for the person is an object, but for the operating system is an agent.
This paper outlined and discussed a detailed state of the art on digital objects and affordances. A variety of research approaches and uses in those were portrayed. These incorporate enhancements in classifying knowledge, identifying patterns and defining objects and affordances in the digital world amongst others. The best in class in each of the considered applications is looked into, and intrinsic difficulties are highlighted. The study concludes that current approaches into defining digital objects and possibly their affordances are indeed challenging and pretty interesting showing a new direction of possible usages and a new era of web expansion. This includes functioning regarding mobile development, web services, Internet of things, smart cities, accommodation, governance, the aspect of business and tourism among many more variables of the socio-economic and cultural development of human and technology. It is obvious that the development of innovation will assume a noteworthy part in cutting-edge detecting, as the advancement of equipment required for detecting applications will be driven by these technological advances.
The main application of this conversation about digital objects and affordances can be applied to smart cities, where numerous new items with countless different applications will be dynamically infused into the system that will be a city and there has to be a way to resolve those in a dynamic way. As already briefly mentioned, the whole discussion and the need for analyzing and defining those abstract concepts takes place here because there will be an essential prerequisite in the direct future by agents to interact with new kind of objects and agents as well as objects would need to be sustainable for a much longer time. Those agents should be decoupled by developers and the requirement of continuous maintenance.
One of the most interesting questions that are raised from our research is the nature of digital agents and who those can be distinguished from digital objects. This can be properly addressed in the future, but for the time being it seems that each such agent has a double nature that can be expressed according to the current state of being and usage.
References (Throughout the Series)
- Hui, Y. (2012). What is a Digital Object? Metaphilosophy, 43(4), 380-395.
- Morrissey, S. M. (2014). “How Can We Know the Dancer from the Dance?” Intention and the Preservation of Digital Objects. New Review of Information Networking, 19(1), 1-15.
- Couclelis, H. (2010). Ontologies of geographic information. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 24(12), 1785-1809.
- Benoit, G., & Hussey, L. (2011). Repurposing digital objects: Case studies across the publishing industry. Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, 62(2), 363-374.
- Dappert, A., Peyrard, S., Chou, C. H., & Delve, J. (2013). Describing and Preserving Digital Object Environments. New Review of Information Networking, 18(2), 106-173.
- Karanasios, S., Thakker, D., Lau, L., Allen, D., Dimitrova, V., & Norman, A. (2013). Making sense of digital traces: An activity theory driven ontological approach. Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, 64(12), 2452-2467.
- Aleida, A. (2008). “Canon and archive,” In: Astrid Erll and AnsgarNünning (editors). Cultural memory studies: An international and interdisciplinary handbook. New York: Walter de Gruyter.
- Attila, M. (2009). Digital libraries as information organizations: The re–unfolding of the memory/information paradox, Seventeenth European Conference on Information Systems (Verona, Italy).
- Birger, H. (2000). Documents, memory institutions and information science, Journal of Documentation, 56 (1) 27–41.
- Claudio, C. (2007). Digital technologies and risk: A critical review, In Ole Hanseth and Claudio Ciborra (editors). Risk, complexity and ICT. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar, 23–45.
- Deanna, M. (2003).Requirements for the future digital library, Journal of Academic Librarianship, 29(5), 276–279.
- Fernando, B. (2009). Audience manufacture in historical perspective: From broadcasting to Google, New Media & Society, 11(1), 133–154.
- Hamid, E. (2009). Digital artifacts as quasi–objects: Qualification, mediation, and materiality, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(12), 2,554–2,566.
- Jan, A. (2008). Communicative and cultural memory, In: Astrid Erll and AnsgarNünning (editors). Cultural memory studies: An international and interdisciplinary handbook. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 109–118.
- Jannis, K., & Hans, H. (2009). Work, control and computation: Rethinking the legacy of neo–institutionalism, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 27, 257–282.
- Jannis, K. (2009b). The making of ephemeria: On the shortening life spans of information, International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 4,(3), 227–236.
- Karen, C. (2008). Managing sameness, Journal of Academic Librarianship, volume 34, number 5, pp. 452–453.
- Lawrence, L. (1999) Code and other laws of cyberspace. New York: Basic Books.
- Lynne, B. (2009). We’re in danger of losing our memories: We have to make sure digital doesn’t mean ephemeral, says the head of the British Library, The Observer (25 January). Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jan/25/internet-heritage.
- Nadine, H. & Dirk L. (2009). What users see — Structures in search engine results pages, Information Sciences, 179(12),1,796–1,812.
- Neil, P. and Robin, W. (2009). Software and organizations: The biography of the enterprise–wide system or how SAP conquered the world. New York: Routledge.
- Ross, M. (2008).Worst practices in search engine optimization, Communications of the ACM, 51(12), 147–150.
- Paskin, N. (2003). Naming and Meaning of Digital Objects. Retrieved from http://www.doi.org/topics/060927AXMEDIS2006DOI.pdf
- Thomasson, A. (2007). Ordinary Objects.Oxford University Press.
- Gaver W. W (n.a). Technology affordances. Rank Xerox Cambridge EuroPARC. Cambridge.
- Li, Q. (2012). Understanding enactivism: a study of affordances and constraints of engaging practicing teachers as digital game designers. Educational Technology Research & Development, 60(5), 785-806.
- McGrenere, J. & Ho, W. (2000). Affordances: Clarifying and Evolving a Concept. Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2000, Montreal, May 2000.
- Natraj N et al. The visual encoding of tool–object affordances. Neuroscience (2015), http: //dx.doi.org/10.1016/j. neuroscience.2015.09.060.
- Norman, A. D. (2008). Signifier Not Affordances. Nielsen Norman Group and Northwestern University.
- Norman, A., D. (1999). Affordance, conventions, and design. The Nielsen Norman Group.
- Oliver, M. (2005). The Problem with Affordance. E–Learning, Volume 2, Number 4, 2005.
- Oliver, M. (2005). The Problem with Affordance.2 (4), 402.
- Ranker, J. (2015). The Affordances of Blogs and Digital Video. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58(7), 568-578.
- Taipale, S. (2014). The affordances of reading/writing on paper and digitally in Finland. Telematics and Informatics 31 532–542.
- Tan, L., Peek, P. F, & Chattaraman, V. (2015). HEI–LO Model: A Grounded Theory Approach to Assess Digital Drawing Tools. Journal of Interior Design 40(1), 41–54.
- Uhl, A., & Gollenia, L. A. (2014). Digital enterprise transformation: A business-driven approach to leveraging Innovative IT. Burlington, VT: Gower Publishing.
- Verhulsdonck, G., & Limbu, M. (2014). Digital rhetoric and global literacies: Communication modes and digital practices in the networked world. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
- Vidal, G. M., Geerts, M., & Feki, M. A. (2013). The Role of Affordances and Interaction Bits in the Design of a New Tangible Programming Interface: A Preliminary Result. Bell Labs Technical Journal (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), 17(4), 157-174.
- Yoon, K. (2015). Affordances and negotiations of the digital reputation society: a case study of RateMyProfessors.com. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 29(1), 109-120.
- Zhao, Y., Liu, J., Tang, J., & Zhu, Q. (2013). Conceptualizing perceived affordances in social media interaction design. Aslib Proceedings, 65(3), 289-303.
- Simondon, G. (2011). On the mode of existence of technical objects.Deleuze Studies, 5(3), 407-424.
- Verborgh, Ruben, Thomas Steiner, Davy Van Deursen, et al. 2012. Functional descriptions as the bridge between hypermedia APIs and the Semantic Web. Proceedings of the Third International Workshop on RESTful Design. ACM, April 17.
- Yves Lafon,Xiaoqian Wu, Art Barstow and Charles McCathieNevile. “W3C WebApps Working Group.” 2008. 20 Sep. 2014, <http://www.w3.org/2008/webapps/>.
- Hervás R., Bravo J., Fontecha J. A context model based on ontological languages: A proposal for information visualization. J. UCS. 2010;16:1539–1555.