Author Archives: Runze Liu

Mini Program of WeChat


WeChat, one of the most popular and widely used social media applications in China, has several design principle that may throne its user group. The combinatory design principle exist makes the WeChat an app that “rule it all”. In January 2017, a new program called Mini Program came into use in WeChat app. The program is an integration of various applications; insist on the principle of “to use and to go”. It used the technology of HTML5 web-based application and improve user experience to a large extend. In a few months after the Mini Program appeared, user group of the program has reached more than 200 million people. So why this program so competitive in the market and what is the design principle behind this program?



WeChat is a very popular app in China. It is originally an instant messenger app at first from Tencent Company. It is now the dominating social media apps in Chinese market. As such a successful app, there are many technical design principles there which enable the success for WeChat.

According to the annual report in Tencent Inc Ltd, In 2017, the monthly active user of WeChat app (in both Chinese version of weixin app and international version of WeChat) has reached 889 million people. One user would have 128 contact people within the platform on average, and the number of online payment transaction is more than 600 million per month. As easily can be seen, one of the most distinctive features of WeChat is that it is a combinatory of various functions. WeChat has the function of Facebook, voice message, Instagram, Tweeter, streaming video, online bank and so on. Each time the new functions appearance would bring an increase in user group, and finally lead to such a large scale of user number.

“In 2016, Tencent company, with a set of strategies and comprehensive online economic ecosystem, has reinforce its leading position in the industry and became more competitive. The convenient social and local service functions have enabled the promising future of WeChat and QQ.” (Ma Huateng, co-founder of Tencent)


Why WeChat has such a large user group

The WeChat came to the market in 2011, January. In the very beginning, it has very limited functions as instant message apps, can only be used for text and send photos. In the end of 2011, WeChat has firstly work interactively with other functions online. The app implement the function of Talkbox, which users can use the voice message to communicate with each other, and that is the first time number of user group has increased significantly.

The moment function came the second year since the WeChat came into the market, which came with the boom of user group here, up to more than 100 million people. the moment function, which also called “ friend circle”, it is a sharing function similar to the Instagram and path, you can share your photos or video in moment with texts, or you can record and take pictures then sharing instantly in the moment.

The reason that WeChat have such a large user group can also be attributed to the design thinking of affordance. The clear interface of the app makes functions more visualized trackable and easier to learn. Take a look at the interface of the application, at the bottom is four main pages that can be switched at can be clearly seen named “chats”, which is the place serve as the basic chatting function, “Contacts”, which is the the place that shows all the name of your WeChat contacts, “ discover”, where the function of moment, scan QR code, Shake, nearby people and message in a bottle collect, and “me”, where shows your account information, including your online bank information.

The design principle of dependence is also seen in the app. It’s obvious that to achieve such a mixture of functions, WeChat need to use all the native features of smartphones. For example, to post a picture in the moment, WeChat need the access to the camera, speaker, memory chip, access to Internet. The online payment function also cooperates with the online banking system, and Alipay application, other online shopping website as well. User number has large scale increase each time with the increase of functions. It is going with the development of cellphone. Now WeChat is available to both ios and Android operation system, can cover 94% of smartphones in Chinese market. This illustrate that the dependence of WeChat design is also a factor that enabled the success of this application.


Mini Program

In January 2017, a new program called “mini program” came into exist. The main design principle behind the mini program is modularity. It is a combinatory of all the functions of other apps, which makes the WeChat an app of apps. Mini program is in the form of a formal application with the whole functions. It can be found in the “discover” page after the first time you try the mini program in WeChat. By scanning QR code, or search the name in search bar, sharing from friends or groups, search for nearby programs you may get access to different mini programs. And the interface of the mini program is similar to the original apps. WeChat user who gets into the mini program can also use different functions provided by the program.

From the program creator’s perspective, it is providing a platform for anyone can write code and develop their own app with no need to get permission from the app store for selling. To develop your own mini program, user will need to register for an App ID first. Then setting your program name and tag, combine your ID with certain user account. After that user can log in with ID as manager identity and write code for the program. The text, adjustment can all be done in this page. To help user better and easier to create their own application with more comprehensive functions and interface, the WeChat would also provide the API and access WeChat have to its user-developer, and even with the framework of java code.



The Mini program is making WeChat more a penalty of modularity. The designer is not design anything new, any new technology neither. He was combining the pre-exist technologies together, to create this new and appealing functions. The Mini program, used the concept of HTML5 apps, the search function, scan for QR code, get access to contactor, original technology from other apps or the native function on smartphone that pre-exist already. It combined the new function with the WeChat native functions, but in a new way and making it such an appealing new design. WeChat believe that by housing those applications inside of its app, user would be more willing to stay in one app, and there can still be a boom increase of WeChat user and more business transaction inside WeChat as well. So as the integration of functions within WeChat, those small companies with official website and applications would also be willing to have a mini app within WeChat so that they can be more competitive and gain more users there as well as the resources Tencent would provide. Those big companies’ apps would also want to be part of the program since they may lose their competitive capability if they are the only one that not get involve and their native apps may not as convenient as the Mini Program. For developers, they will also be glad to use this function since it will be harder for them to develop and cultivate and marketing a brand new application by themselves.


Distributed cognitive 

In the WeChat, it has the subscription accounts and service accounts, which are both official accounts created by users that can send news, and provide service information of the account, like hospital information, or restaurants, which can be local service. To complete the service, now the mini program came out as an underpinning of those official accounts. One of the accomplish goal done through the mini program is the connection with offline business. For instance, when you scan the QR code offline, you can get into the WeChat mini program app of the service or anything, the QR code can be poster in subway station, or it can be the offline activity hosted by some real shops, and by get into the mini program you may attend the activity and get rewards or service offline. This kind of connection is actually making user experience not only limited in digital world, but making the service distributed around in the environment through the interface of WeChat app. This program, is realizing the connection between people to people, people to business, people to service.


The interface of Mini Program

To have a clearer concept of what Mini program looks like, take Didi Dache as an example here. The Mini program stays in the last selection of “discover” page within the app interface once you use one of the Mini program. By searching the name of the program, user will be able to find the program there. And when you click into the Mini program page, the program that you previously used will be shown there just under the search bar. Once click into the application page, you can use the function provided by the Mini program. Like in the Didi Dache, I made a comparation of WeChat house app and its native app, the interface is the same and it also provided same functions there.

Didi Dache is a taxi booking application similar to the Uber and Lyft. It is a very popular program in Mini program. Now with this Mini program, you will not need to download the native one to book a taxi, it is just house inside the WeChat app and will not take up your smartphone storage. In the Android operation system it will even able to create a homescreen icon in the smartphone that will make it easier to use.


Thrive of QR code

As the Mini program is tied offline world closely with online apps, the QR code is being an unique hyper markup link invented in China. The QR code is in the form of an icon that can be easy to print offline. With a QR code, people may scan it to pay the bill, to add new friends, to attain information about certain account, or to achieve one website. QR code, with a unique but easy to recognize form, prevailed quickly after appearance. The http can all transferred into a QR code there.

Now with the Mini program’s invention, QR code has become an important part since a lot of the apps would need you to scan the code. For example, many restaurants have the QR code on their poster, and it can be posted not only inside of the restaurants, but also in public place like bus station, flyers, or shopping mall. As it is such a convenience and strong marketing tool, QR code is in large use in Mini program, it acts as the gateway of Mini program that contain the vital information. As this new function would still increase user group, QR code is also going to become more popular around the world.


A tool of connection

The designer of the Mini Program explained that he is trying to think from the perspective of users, to make the program serve people instead of thinking from the interest of the application.

The fundamental principle of WeChat is that the app is only act as an effective tool for communication. All the connection and service would finally lead to the access to some certain people, this is the nature of WeChat usage. It is making efforts on build a bridge between people. This is why the service account and subscription account can be so popular and became one characteristic of WeChat while those business account and online shopping functions is not that welcomed in contrast. What’s more, it should also be highly effective when building the bridge, to make WeChat just a highly effective tool and this is also why the Mini Program was designed to directly use and no need for download and delete afterwards. As the designer of the Mini Program has ever said: the access to website is search bar while the access to application is QR code.


HTML5 app

Now the technology of HTML5 is being largely used for web-based applications. The technology has the advantage that they can storage information for the offline application. And the HTML5 make it possible for all in one application model, that different app will be able to navigate in one web browser.

Baidu, one of the largest search company in China, used to initiate a Light App Campaign, aiming at using HTML5 web based application technology to develop its new function just like mini program, but did not get the same feedback due to its search engine nature that different from social platforms which would have larger user group and easier to communicate.

The Mini Program now is using the HTML5 technology, and pack up the data file information in the zip format, and it is already being stored with HTML5, so that user can open the app within seconds. This design is a change from application to the web appfication, from local storage service to cloud service. We can operate on this application as what we do in PC web browser: we can open several pages at the same time and making them working separately. And we will not download software for one time use and then delate. But the Mini Program is actually a compromise of both web browser and application format, it has the advantages but this also constraints the further development of WeChat program since this still need to install the WeChat application first, and will be effect by the hardware and data flow.

With this technology, the Mini Program will also be very attractive to Android system, since the Mini Program can realize the same program running in both Android system and ios system, it may improve drawbacks exist in Android system due to its massive out-of-control app store, thus improve user experience, which would become a great chance for those app developers with business.


How Mini Program being competitive

The Mini program, since it is firstly published in January 2017, the user group has reached 200 million within months. This is such a huge figure and proved that Mini program is being liked and welcomed by user here. What makes this new mini program so popular in the market?

Firstly, the real time sharing functions of WeChat is also available in mini program. When you share information from one app in mini program, your friends can directly see the information page without search and open the mini program again.

Secondly, the connection between the official account and the app is being settled. Users can open the mini program through the subscription account, and save time for user when they find themselves interested in this website but need extra search and download process to get the application. And when you have problem with the app, you may send message to the official account and get feedback faster.

Thirdly, the Mini program has the function of searching for nearby app. Image one situation that you are in the middle of nowhere and want to search for the nearby station and want to know when the bus would come. In that case, you can use the “nearby program” function, to easily get the app and information with few data.

Also, the Mini program has the function that multiple apps can work in the same time, which means that user will not need to close one processing app before opening the other one. This function is really important and can make the house app more like a real one in the user generate experience. You may also open another mini program within the page of one program, since some program can be related to each other.

As an integration of various function apps, WeChat has large flow of data, which can promote processing speed when using some apps. It cost small amount of money for design and cultivation, does not need to invest more on advertising. The easy use easy go model fits to the rapid life pace in modern life, and thus makes it being advocated by users.



WeChat, a popular social media app with monthly active user of 879 million people, has released a new program called Mini Program, and attained more than 200 million users after a few months. The program is a platform that full of different apps, it is an app of apps. User did not have to download the original app and can use the function of the native app inside the WeChat. Using HTML5 web application technology, users have a better experience and can open the app and use it within one second and realize all in one house apps. The WeChat insist on the principle of design its product as a tool used by its target group. Modularity is also a very important part of design principle which enables the well function of Mini Program. Though with a few disadvantages, Mini Program is becoming more and more popular since its release, and there must be a large market for it since it fits for the future technical structure for application and always focusing on user experience.



  1. Anu Hariharan, Apr 12, 2017. “On Growing: 7 Lessons from the Story of WeChat. “YC Research.

  1. Donald A. Norman. May, 1999.Affordance, Conventions, and Design.” Interaction 6(3).
  2. Janna Anderson, and Lee Rainie. March 23, 2012. “The Future of Apps and Web.” Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project,
  3. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Nick Montfort. 2002. New Media: Eight Propositions.” The MIT Press (Excerpt from “New Media from Borges to HTML,”)
  4. Norman, D. 2013. “The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition. “New York: Basic Books.
  5. Tingyi Chen, Apr 6, 2017. 10 examples of GREAT WeChat design, WALKTHECHAT: WeChat guides and tips

  1. Xiaobo Wang, Baotong Gu. November 2015. “The communication design of WeChat: ideological as well as technical aspects of social media.” Communication Design Quarterly Review 4(1).
  2. Yiling Qiu, Jan 19, 2017. WeChat Mini Program Part I: What Is It and Why Is It Significant? Medium

  1. Tracey Xiang. Jun 4, 2014. “ HBuilder: to Make HTML5 Booming in China.” Technod

How facebook displays its websites so quick?

In the traditional way for a web browser to display pages, our browser software would send our request, connect ISP, get IP address from DNS and then send our request to proxy server, where web pages is being stored. Then the server would send back HTML file to browser’s IP address with an instruction for those sites to send graphics, videos contained in URL to PC as well. The browser would then download CSS as page required. But the process of request for to server and getting back HTML, then download CSS is in sequential and thus take time.

For facebook, they create a new modular solution called BigPipe. They divided face book web page into multiple chunks called pagelets. The home page consists of several pagelets: “composer pagelet”, “navigation pagelet”, “news feed pagelet”, “request box pagelet”, “ads pagelet”, “friend suggestion box” and “connection box”, etc. so the HTML document that being send back  is different part by part here. After receiving request from web browser, the server can send back unclosed HTML, so for each chunk’s CSS downloading and steps after can be done parallel in the meantime, and that would save half of time to display user a web page.

So all these chunks are independent from each other, the display of each part can be done separately. However, when getting URL of other chunks, the browser would look in the folder to check out cookie information. And because other parts is being downloaded, cookies would keep your information so the website can recognize your ID number, and provides you latest information according to your userid. Then the web page would become a combinatory of each chunks as modular and can work separately, the operating system would not need to combine each part information as a whole body to work and fits each other.

To address the scalability problem with such big data, facebook also used disaggregated network, so the software and hardware can be separate and allow compute and storage to be separate in different cluster. So that the network latency and bendwith would be same or better than local disk.

But I am not understanding that as HTML5 is now promising, it now has new multimedia elements and semantic elements, and better at handle unknow HTML information to browser, and storage function will be more powerful to replace cookie, would BigPipe not be useful and competitive here or being replaced?

and I am not that understanding the opposition problem between app vs world wide web, why the app is so deviate from the world wide web since these two feels like interact between each other.

Reference: Ron White, How Computers Work. 9th ed. Que Publishing, 2007. “How the World Wide Web Works.”

Janna Anderson, and Lee Rainie. “The Future of Apps and Web.”  Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, March 23, 2012.

peer to peer network


P2p network is kind of a new technology emerged online, but actually it more contains the design thinking which may completely change the foundation of internet in the future.

The peer to peer sharing and communicating functions of these p2p software or application, I am really appeal to the p2p application like google doc, people gets to working in one document, communicate with each other, it is something completely different from the social network.

By using p2p software, what matters is our personal computer, like sharing a document, our ITP firstly encoded our document, packing it into data package in the way that understandable to the receiver computer, and adding IP address into the data package, turning the packets into the numbers and bundle the data, send it from router to router, and arrives the receiver whose calculation of CRC matches the end. It is directly from one end to anther so there is no central server like LAN. There is a very important thing behind the p2p software, the thought of decentralizing, to giving back power and rights to individual users and turn the big internet company’s table making them not the central of Internet world. This is transform our real world model into the internet, the communication and sharing is become more easier.

This is actually something as the foundation of our internet concept in the very beginning age, where TCP/IP do not have things as users and servers, all the devices, all the connect systems are just the same node. Though with the appearance of web, of browsers, they establish servers, to some extend the servers themselves are equally connected (same position nods), for example the email does not have a very central giant server to cope with all the email, it is all these separate servers working together to sent data packets toward certain router, while individual users are also equally connected to receive and send emails.


What is more important for some p2p applications like google drive is the function of sharing large amount of information online, the real-time sharing is taking important part in this function, and it is what makes it so popular today. This is so excited to all the users online as this is the end of read-only web, making more people actually participate into the internet, and raise the openness of internet.

features of new media

New media, to say is the new medium deal with cultural objects with the new network communication technologies. As Manovich said that: new media is focused on cultural and computing. New media now is an always changing concept today as the technology of networks, mobile portable is all evolving, new media is basically related to computing machines.

And with seeing the foot-mark of different concepts and principles for how new media developed over years, the main features of new media can coordinate with these concepts.


the digital realization of media form make sure that the content can be memorized as data, isolated the context from psychical form. being in this form allow data can be processed in a non liner way and can thus speed up.

Interactive design

Interactive design of software or application is making new media industry more convenience and attractive, the interface design makes the interactive software become possible. So as now on the internet, we can get more involved into some events with devices as interface of smart phone, computer, now interactive television. It is enhancing human ability for innovation or perception, memory, augmenting our mind with various forms like artificial intelligence. The interactive design in new media can be displayed in various aspects, including communication platform, explanation for texts, and user to user or user, user to computer interact in game playing, etc.

Combination and accumulative step

what we have now as a new media is paralleled from the content of traditional media like newspaper, books. It is the consequence of accumulation of archives cultural conventions. So the principle of modularity can be seeing here, the hypertext, graphics are being used here as the data form under control of digital software, to generate new form of media. The combination can go this way: as we are reading an article, it is the normal text form, but it has the hypertext that can direct user to another context, is we have new words that cannot understand, we touch or point the words, the dictionary can explain to us, even animation graphics are inserted in the text. that is the results of same data under different algorithm, which can originally done by human. But with the fast computing speed, the algorithm generate the new phenomena, like videos,:” transformation of quantity into quality.”

History of hypertext

With the development of civil society, we are gradually entering into the information era, the time period where information is exploding in our world. So it is a very important task for people to select out useful and necessary information. But with the emerging of those fundamental concepts and framework, to increase human ability to cope with complex problems, enhance human ability with the aid of machine programs.

Brought up by V. Bush, Memex is a new way for information management and can cope with the large scale of information. He considered that with such huge amount of information, experts in a single discipline is not able to read and track everything in this discipline because of difficulties lie in information searching methods that you have to go over everything. In that case, Memex came up, it is the machine equipment to scan and memory new resources into the type with explanations.

Augment human intelligence
Under the effect of Memex, Doug Engelbart started doing a research program, trying to enhance human ability to tackle complex problem with the aid of computing system to deal with methodology possibilities. And this making the creation of hypertext became possible. Using the NLS he build up the hypertext with colleges 500 miles away with this new symbol manipulating methods.

Ted Nelson had proposed the idea of Xanadu system, thinking that anything written by anyone can be memorized in the common hyper context, which is the medium for information resources considering connections of these non-committal nods, and thus making a network by connect these information nods together instead of inline order like old information system. And since then, there came several famous early systems, such as FRESS, NoteCards, Intermedia, Guide and so on. With the new kinds of media content like video, pictures, there are also hyper mediation. The relationship of information nods came into the link, providing searching path to audience, then came into graph and web. So there are several layer of the hyper text.

The hyper text is similar to human thoughts, without settled order, it is similar to the associated link in human thought. The nods of these systems can be not only text, picture or video, but can also being computer program and generate various possibilities. Then with the came up of hyper text protocol, web, the ARRA start the arpanet, there came the first establish of initiative internet.


finding Python

In this week’s work, I started on the Python program learning.

First part introduced the syntax of Python. These are a set of rules language for constructing patterns. They are the surface form, feels like it is the foundation for language, tells you which pattern in this program world is right and can be recognized by the program. These are easy to understand and is readable for people easier to operate.

As for the gramma of the language process to generate strings, there is the principle of recursive existed gramma rules. That as saying,” the grammar is recursive if the grammar contains a nonterminal that can produce a production that contains itself.” The example shows in the python is a total problem. To calculate the final total of a meal with tax and tips. In the program language for the process of calculating, the string” meal” is both contained in the left side and right side of the equal: meal=meal+meal*tax. The recursive definition is kind of making this language construction simple to express, because you can use the same string of meal over to represent different contains, avoid redundancy in this process. Also the abstraction means is effectively avoid redundancy in the process. Like the “print” instruction would represent of getting complex outcome with this simple one name.

Now there are lots of different computing program setting for different goals like Java, C++ and so on. Different language systems exist to cater different demand, also considering people’s extend of whether familiar with programming language and running cost for different computing program. Now these different programs also make it possible for one computer to running different tasks, not rely too much on environment and devices.

But during the learning process, I feel like the computing language is not as flexible as natural language. When I put some small mistakes in the syntax or even a space wrong would cause the computer unable to work out. The program is designed not able to self-correct small, recognizable mistakes which can be tolerate in natural language.


David Evans, Introduction to Computing: Explorations in Language, Logic, and Machines. Oct. 2011 edition.

Jeannette Wing, “Computational Thinking.” Communications of the ACM 49, no. 3 (March 2006)
Peter J. Denning, “The Great Principles of Computing.” American Scientist, October, 2010.

meaning exist for information theory


In the signal transmitting process, signals, existing as bits, break through the physical constraints and minimize the contained information here. By putting choice half and half, like a flip coin, into the yes and no question, the signal created as binary digit as unit of information, thus make the breakthrough possible. Also, the Peter J. denning said that “transformation opens many new possibilities, most notably the creation of new information”(little confusing), the information is not change until being represented to observers and thus increase. To make transformation work, the computing process of this transformation must have an end instead of an infinite loop, while in the interaction systems, to apply it with intentions and meanings, it can be infinite. As the signals are waves or electric thing, they cost energy to some extend also.


For the classical information theory, Shannon is not taking the meaning part into consideration, he thought it is irrelevant. Shannon is more focusing on the technical part of transmission, the channels for this process instead of human involvement. But that is not the situation as long as the information theory putting into practice. As saying that “Meaningful’ means that the data must comply with the meanings (semantics) of the chosen system, code, or language in question. “ with my personal understanding, that when interaction happened, meaning will exist.

Meaning distribution

So it feels like meaning is distributed in this process, in our interaction with outside data and signs. Like the text being digitized into several bits, transmitted to our smart phone, then interpreted by decoding system within our phone, to become the symbolic sign we are familiar with, which is being described as “referent” within our brain. As we seeing the sign, we recognize its meaning from what we reference before. So it seems like a little similar to the distributed cognition from some aspect? Only standing from the artifacts foothold.



So as mentioned in the article: the information paradox, referent is hard to tell sometimes because with technology development, some of that also exist within digital devices. So for AI system, it now has the ability to deep learning, it is also gain social context and store in its brain, so can it calls the sign also generate meaning for a AI system when it knows how to cooperate signs like traffic lights?


Martin Irvine, Introduction to the Technical Theory of Information
Luciano Floridi, Information: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Peter Denning and Tim Bell, “The Information Paradox.” From American Scientist, 100, Nov-Dec. 2012.

see perceptive affordance

As Norman said in the book Design of Everyday Things, “the term affordance refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used.” Affordance is the property of environment, it is exist in the relationship between animal and environment. It is like the accessible functions of the environment toward animals. So when Norman defined his version of affordance as perceptive affordance, I think comparing to the real affordance, perceptive affordance may be more meaningful in the design area.

Carry around

For a print book, first of all it can be carried by human beings. It can be grabbed by human beings because the size of the thick of a book can fits into human hand. Also the weight of a book is suggested to be affordable by human beings. So it can be the nested affordance, you grab the book, then you find it can be carried around.


The main function of a book is to provide information contained in the words to people. the size of letters printed in the book is able to be seen by people, and the white color of page, black color of letter is making words able to be captured by people.

Flip over

The page of the book is made of wood paper, it is thin and soft, so as long as we touch the page of a book, we find it can be folded with the strength of our hands. Also as the physical constraints, the size of the page can only contain certain amount of information, which also indicates people to flip over the page.


As for the digital book, here is how it looks like in the window of iBook.

The window page is an interface of iBook app, it is the converge point between human perceptive cognition and app.

Touch icon to get book

It is being designed as a shelf; each book has the cover page stand in its little area. This icon of the book suggests us which book it is. And the touchable screen will make people try to touch the icon and thus getting the book. Also when touch at the blank area, there will be no response also indicate people should touch at the certain icon. To me, each icon is also like an interface between a book information and human perception process.

Touch to flip over

After the book is pumped out, when we finish one page, we will try to flip the page over. But as there is no optional icon or any other button, we will try to touch the screen again. And then we find touch the right part of screen can flip over to rest part of the book and touch left part can get to the previous page.

Touch to summon operational page

So when we finish the book or wanted to choose another book, we also know that we can only obtain that goal by touch screen. So when left part and right part is to flip over, we will probably try the central part. We touch the central part and the options show up. There are graphic signs indicate us the function of them.

Also, if you press long on one word you can choose it, copy it, or look up in dictionary. The app is making information can be operated with different intention.

So it feels like this is the perceptive affordance of an app, a digital book, but through the adjustment of perceptive affordance, to think in the user’s role, focus on convention and feedback, we are likely to design a “ good” artifacts that fits user’s expectations.


Martin Irvine, “Introduction to Affordances and Interfaces.”
Kaptelinin, Victor. “Affordances.” The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed., 2013.

Donald A. Norman, “Affordance, Conventions, and Design.” Interactions 6, no. 3 (May 1999)

mediology in a browser

The conventional idea” technology is not culture” is challenged by mediology idea. The “technology” is not affect “culture”, they are not separate sphere, they are somehow related to each other.

So let me apply my understanding to the browser, a window. Here is the picture of Google search browser in my computer.

So we see the search bar first of all. We mainly use this page for search intention. The action unite contains users, who input search terms into the bar and get results; the browser of search engine, the programming in the black box behind the window to show us the outputs, the devices like computer that showing the browser on screen; the microwave of wifi in the air, the Router provides wifi….

So the window is just an interface for us to get access with the results, to what is processing in the devices, is hiding in the blackbox of the devices. Every part of it, the screen, speaker, audio chip, mainboard, keyboard, wifi receiver and so on consist of the devices and contribute to the processing in the devices, and that is the design thinking of modularity.

Also, for the page of the window, we can see the logo of google, and the search bar, and some reminder of previous history. That is the design of a browser, and everything that serves which part is manifested on the browser, that is also the design thinking of making tings visible to users.

A grouping of related tasks involving the transfer of information . Each layer addresses an essential networking tasks.

The thing support the process behind the screen is the internet, a network of networks. There are several layers of how the electric, digit is being packing and processing into things that become readable to us and finally apply to us. The information flow through the fiber and being linked together into data, then the database flow to internet protocol, and got transport by the wave, then comes to the applications, and finally is the content we receive.

So the internet is also now claimed a virtual world, and people are arguing fighting for the Internet freedom, all countries around the world are somehow have different governance toward the internet world, so that is also involving human rights, free speech, the right to be forgotten and so on.

So it feels like the window, can actually have relationship to all these different areas, it is like in the article “Régis Debray, What is Mediology?” said: “Our interest, then, does not concern an object nor an area of the real (e.g., the media), but the relationship between these objects or these areas. Between an ideality and a materiality, a thought and a machine, a plan and a device. “


  • Regis Debray,  What is Mediology?  Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug., 1999. Trans. Martin Irvine.
  • Martin Irvine, “Understanding Sociotechnical Systems with Mediology and Actor Network Theory
  • Werner Rammert, “Where the Action Is: Distributed Agency Between Humans, Machines, and Programs,” 2008. Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR)

How we use GPS

In the long history of development, human beings became so different with animals by using the tools. But things has changed when man are not just creating usages for their own good, to survive the environment, but when he/she gets to learn how to use the tool or borrow it from his/ her family. The tools enhance people’s ability to perform tasks, from the systems view. Then, with more and more cognition of things being invented around us, we may abstract concepts, we have the symbolic artefacts, then we have abstraction layers, the more we know, the higher layer we got, the more efficient we become as learning or gain information. With the external symbolic storage, we can learn with higher efficiency, it is an effective teaching tool. We human get to learn, the cognition is not only in our mind, but distributed in the culture, society, media and so on.

Take the GPS as an example.

When we use the GPS to lead us the road, it is strengthening our performance in arriving the destination. GPS is the artifact, it changes our primary goal of get to the destination into several different tasks, and make the task easier for us to solve. We need to know how to use the GPS, that is how the distribution cognition bridge the gap. To use the GPS, you have to have cognition of everything present by the GPS.  The map is an artefact media that contain the information for you to learn the layout of the road and buildings. You have gain the cognition of the directions, left, right, north, south, from interact with other individuals in your daily life. Then you may follow the lead of the GPS, and accomplish your task.

So our cognition is mostly influenced by the culture, which is deeply the foundation of our cognition, in our mind, then the local district we are in, then the individuals around us. So I think this theory, this model can be very meaningful in the education area, to design some kind of learning environment that similar to how our brain process, if that works, it can really improve our leaning efficiency, this can mean a lot.