Weekly Writing for Week 6

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Banruo Xiao

In this week’s readings, affordance is described as a social and/or cultural product. It could be seen as a norm guiding the designer to think about how a product/service to be convenient to users. At the same time, people rely on the affordance to learn social behavior.

For example, the affordance of a book includes, first, readers do not need to learn how to open a book. The behavior of opening and closing can be subconscious, since only one side can be flipped. Second, the other side of a book is designed to be solid and supportive for reader to hold. Inside a book, the text usually starts from the left side, following people’s reading habits. However, in Taiwan, the text starts from the right side with vertical layout to fit the reading behavior of local residents. Furthermore, the size and the font of the text are designed to make people read it clear. Also, the nature of the paper implies that people can take notes in blank area. At the same time, people are easy to pick up and carry a book, because the size and the weight are designed to be used with hands and to conform to people’s capacity.

However, since the book has its own constraints. For example, it is hard to search for a specific paragraph, to save the paper sources and to share, because the property of papers limits these actions. With the emerging technology development, hard copy is gradually transferred to electronic source. People can carry thousands of books in a one-book sized tablet, such as iPad and Kindle. People no longer stay in the library and check out books to do research. In a word, the interface has changed from paper to a combination of pixels and bits. However, the affordance of a tablet has many similarities with a real book. For example, reader still needs to flip to read the next page; the layout still follows local resident’s reading pattern. They are similar because people get used to read a book with these behaviors. A new pattern would only become a constraint.

The difference is the behaviors including taking notes, flipping page and highlighting sentences do not directly act on the screen of the tablet. Instead, the behaviors are transformed and interpreted by computing code and operation system. Indeed, affordance is defined as a relationship between interface and agency. No matter how interface or agency change, there are some universal standard of affordance remain. There might be minor changes, but at least for a book shown in a hard paper and shown on the pixel based screen, the affordances are basically the same.