On Oct 10, 2008, at 9:01 AM, RK Stamper wrote:
At last an opportunity to respond to comments on this thread. Please forgive the length.
Jeff Schiffel and Pat Hayes discussed the rights and wrongs of adopting Gibson's affordances without making careful reference to its earlier meaning.
I feel no obligation to work in the field of perceptual psychology, having adopted Gibson's idea and perhaps bent it to my purpose. I see little distortion anyway apart from the fact that Gibson presumes an objective reality whereas I wish to understand the mechanisms whereby we arrive at a shared belief in an objective reality.
I'm an engineer and I regard what I have done (hopefully) to solve a difficult problem as no worse than bending a piece of metal from one machine to serve my purpose in another. The test is: Does it work? HCI people are welcome to their interpretation (Paola).
Fair enough (bending to a new purpose), and my point is not to denigrate your goals or work. But purely to help us all understand one another, it helps to have some warning about such re-use of terminology, especially artificially coined technical terminology. In this case, the re-bending is particularly sharp, as a key aspect of the original meaning has, it seems, been completely reversed. The fact that affordances are objective is central to Gibson's whole program, and indeed could be said to have been the rock on which his whole methodology - a proposal at the time for a new approach to psychology, to replace behaviorism - was based. It is certainly central to the great influence that Gibsonian ideas have had in AI work, for example. So to have the new, bent, affordances hailed for the exact opposite reason - their being subjective and culturally relative - is at the least somewhat unsettling. Whatever these 'New Affordances' are, they must be quite different from the old affordances. So we all need to be especially clear, when talking to one another, what exactly it is that we are talking about. The simple use of "affordance" in this forum is now viciously ambiguous, and should be avoided. We should all distinguish between Gibsonian affordances (objective, computable, properties of the world) and Stamperian (?) affordances (subjective, non-mechanical, culturally relative.)