Get the Powers to Act from Fresh Ideas

January 10, 2013

Inventing the Medium and Digital Innovation

In Inventing the Medium, the author states that the digital medium is different from other media in possessing the four affordances:
  1. Procedural. The digital medium can execute conditional behaviors whereas other media cannot.
  2. Participatory. The digital medium can "script both sides of interaction so that each's actions become meaningful to the other side."
  3. Encyclopedic. The digital medium has huge memory storage like an encyclopedia.
  4. Spatial. The digital medium's space is virtual and navigable.
She goes on to match various disciplines to each affordance.
  1. procedural affordance with Computer Science
  2. participatory affordance with HCI(Human Computer Interaction)
  3. encyclopedic affordance with Information Science
  4. spatial affordance with Visual Design
Then she goes on to map each affordance to a well-known web application or service.
  1. procedural affordance with Google
  2. participatory affordance with Flickr
  3. encyclopedic affordance with Wiki
  4. spatial affordance with I-cannot-see-clearly-what
This is impressive, the only trouble is that I don't understand all this well.

For me, the digital medium

  1. can execute very complex instructions, steps, decisions etc. My chair, my doormat, even my TV cannot match this, not yet at least. (a) This is the ability to organize, mobilize, rally, orchestrate people at a distance. (b) This is the software agents' ability to decide on their own, or on behalf of other people or systems.(c) This is the robot's ability to sense its environment, to create it sown environment, to make sense of its environment etc.
  2. can store lots of data and can search, retrieve, sort, and rearrange this data very well. My dictionaries, my book shelves, my encyclopedias cannot match this right now.
  3. can represent space abstractly. My newspapers cannot grow larger and shrink smaller right now. Neither can my libraries, our football fields, or our local bazaars.
Will these 3 points, help me innovate in this medium better? You bet.

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