Archive for the ‘awareness’ Category


Survey instrument: digital workers’ preferences of informal learning opportunities in socio-technical learning ecosystem

January 12, 2017

The survey was developed based on the informal learning interactions in workplaces described by Ley and associates [2014]. The survey items elaborated possible socio-technical system functionalities using the ideas from the prototypes of Learning Layers tools. The online survey comprised of three groups of statements that represent the socio-technical learning system dimensions for informal learning at work:

  1. Sensemaking statements: Learn & organize knowledge (11), Share knowledge (5), Annotate knowledge (5)
  2. Scaffolding statements: Search Resource (3), Find Resource (2), Awareness of resources (5), Find expert (4), Share help requests (2), Get expert Guidance (6)
  3. Knowledge maturing statements: Accumulate knowledge in system (5), Co-construct knowlede (7), Validate resources and experts with technology means (5)

ANNEX. Survey: Socio-technical learning ecosystem opportunities for informal workplace learning

Learn and Reorganize knowledge

  • I find it useful identifying learning needs at work using the computer support
  • I find it useful revisiting the exciting learning moments later on
  • I find it useful taking records (notes, memos, reminders, photos, videos etc.) to capture my learning moments at work
  • I find it useful that learning records captured at work could be used for further learning.
  • I find it useful organizing the records of my learning moments into meaningful learning episodes
  • I find it useful making records of which tools/resources I have used at work
  • I find it useful reflecting (writing, audiotaping etc.) about learning records to make sense of what was learned
  • I find it useful organizing records of learning into personal portfolio
  • I find it useful collecting into personal portfolio learning resources about interesting topics
  • I find it useful composing different views of records in portfolio for different purposes.
  • 5I find it useful learning from videos of good practice and failure created by others

Annotate knowledge

  • I find it useful adding keywords/notes to my learning records
  • I find it useful organizing learning records/resources with tags/keywords suggested by the system

Share knowledge resources

  • I find it useful that my reflections about learning will become part of shared resources
  • I find it useful that author can decide the access and sharing rights for each record in the personal portfolio
  • I find it useful that each document could be shared with others for learning purposes
  • I find it useful sharing documents/folders with other professionals for learning
  • I find it useful sharing documents with other professionals across workplaces

Search knowledge resources

  • I find it useful searching the latest information about the topics of my learning interests
  • I find it useful using mobile devices for searching learning materials directly at work
  • I find it useful searching suitable learning materials from the shared system

Find knowledge resources

  • I find it useful finding learning materials related to my work easily during working
  • I find it useful to access my previous learning records when I need them during work

Awareness and recommending

  • I find it useful to get automatically notices about shared resources and learning activities of other professionals in my field
  • I find it useful to get automatical notices about the modifications of certain normatives or guidelines
  • I find it useful discovering new learning interests by getting notifications of learning interests and needs of others
  • I find it useful getting system suggestions of the most relevant learning materials that other users have considered useful
  • I find it useful using guidance materials created by other learners

Find expert

  • I find it useful expanding social networks with new experts
  • I find it useful of requesting help from my social network at work
  • I find it useful identifying trustful learning experts by their rank of the quality of help they have provided
  • I find it useful getting suggestions to expand my social network with relevant experts who can provide guidance

Get expert guidance

  • I find it useful negotiating problem/task context while receiving/providing guidance
  • I find it useful getting less guidance when competence increases
  • I find it useful mainly receiving guidance how to better organize my learning activities at work
  • I find it useful mainly receiving hints how to make sense of new knowledge in work context
  • I find it useful being guided by experts in using collective resources
  • I find it useful being guided by experts in using the objects and tools at work

Share help requests

  • I find it useful seeing the help requests from others that match with my expertise
  • I find it useful sharing the help requests in my social network to locate most relevant experts


Co-construct knowledge

  • I find it useful co-constructing new learning resources from different people’s contributions
  • I find it useful that learning resources can be improved by incorporating different viewpoints from experts
  • I find it useful that learning resources can be improved by integrating related resources
  • I find it useful improving official descriptions of work processes, normatives and guidelines by local networks of experts
  • I find it useful discussing normatives and guidelines locally among experts
  • I find it useful creating knowledge of work processes as a result of many contributors‘ efforts
  • I find it useful collecting knowledge of good guidance and support from actual guiding practices at workplaces

Validate with technology means

  • I find it useful that other professionals in the network can rate learning resources
  • I find it useful that other professionals in the network can endorse my competences
  • I find it useful endorsing personal expertise by networking peers
  • I find it useful rating or commenting learning materials from my task context to make them better contextualized
  • I find it useful rating experts based on provided guidance

Accumulate knowledge

  • I find it useful that everyone’s learning events can be automatically traced
  • I find it useful that each tool and learning material has digital records and use-histories.
  • I find it useful that digital documents would capture discussions about learning episodes around them
  • I find it useful that learning resources can collect discussions about them
  • I find it useful that learning resources can be improved by accumulating their use-histories
  • I find it useful that normative guidelines at work would consist of ‚official‘ immutable and ‚inofficial‘ mutable content
  • I find it useful influencing the collective knowledge by personal notes
  • I find it useful accessing the use-histories of objects, tools or digital learning resources

Using ‘social navigation’ and ‘participatory surveillance’ terms for co-creation and joint action

October 8, 2009

Olga Levistova wants to deal in her master study the question: How does social surveillance become into participatory surveillance. Her investigations are related with our hybrid ecosystem studies in which we refer to certain swarming phenomena that take place as a result of something like social awareness and monitoring, social surveillance, and social navigation.

Here is the final thesis!

I started to wonder about the terminology, it seems some of these terms have an overlap and we need to think which is the right concept we are talking about.

Gary T. Marx (2005) wrote in the “Encyclopedia of Social Theory”:

Information boundaries and contests are found in all societies and beyond that in all living systems. Humans are curious and also seek to protect their informational borders. To survive, individuals and groups engage in, and guard against, surveillance.

Traditional surveillance often implied a non-cooperative relationship and a clear distinction between the object of surveillance and the person carrying it out. The new surveillance with its expanded forms of self-surveillance and cooperative surveillance, the easy distinction between agent and subject of surveillance can be blurred.

The new social surveillance can be defined as, “scrutiny through the use of technical means to extract or create personal or group data, whether from individuals or contexts”. The use of multiple senses and sources of data is an important characteristic of much of the new surveillance.

However, social surveillance has been detected in social software systems:
eg. Myspace and Facebook: Social Surveillance for the 21st Century

Christian Fuchs writes in his “Social Networking Sites and the Surveillance Society” about the rise of surveillance society.

He refers that Focault makes clear that surveillance is a repressive, coercive process:

Surveillance means that someone “is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication” (Foucault 1977: 200).

Next Fuchs points that Giddens (1985) does not see surveillance as something entirely negative and dangerous, and argues that surveillance phenomena also enable modern organization and simplify human existence.

Further on, Fuchs refers to Anders Albrechtslund (2008) who argues that social networking sites show that surveillance is not necessarily disempowering, but is “something potentially empowering, subjectivity building and even playful”.

“Online social networking can also be empowering for the user, as the monitoring and registration facilitates new ways of constructing identity, meeting friends and colleagues as well as socializing with strangers. This changes the role of the user from passive to active, since surveillance in this context offers opportunities to take action, seek information and communicate. Online social networking therefore illustrates that surveillance – as a mutual, empowering and subjectivity building practice – is fundamentally social” (Albrechtslund 2008).

Participatory surveillance term is explained by Albrechtslund (2008) in Online social Networking as a participatory surveillance.

Albrechtslund refers that the term originates from Mark Poster and T.L. Taylor.

Poster argues that individuals are not just disciplined but take active part in their own surveillance even more by continuously contributing with information to databases. Taylor uses the concept to study collaborative play in the online computer game World of Warcraft.

However, Nicolas Nova and Paul Dourish have also used another term social navigation:
“ Social navigation is a term coined by Dourish and Chalmers (1994) that refers to situations in which a user’s navigation through an information space is guided and structured by the activities of others within that space.” (Nova and Ortelli, 2004).

The point is to find traces from other’s activities to help you performing the task you want to..

Alan J. Munro, Kristina Höök, and D. R. Benyon write in Social Navigation of Information space (1999):

Social navigation is a vibrant new field which examines how we navigate information spaces in ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ environments, how we orient and guide ourselves, and how we interact with others to find our way. This approach brings a new way of thinking about how we design information spaces, emphasising our need to collaborate with others, and follow the trails of their activities in these spaces.

Both in case of participatory surveillance and social navigation the focus seems on more how individual is benefiting if using the information available from other people’s action traces.
This is one, individual side of the phenomenon. Another side is collaboratively emergent action, artifacts etc. that may result from these monitoring behaviors – the system level phenomena
For example, swarming describes such non-coordinated aggregation behaviors, which become possible because of the signal traces left to the environment or read from other members in the system.

Question is, do we see such agglomeration behaviors in system as part of social surveillance or social navigation, as part of the means that INDIVIDUALS can use? Can we use term participatory surveillance or social navigation in agglomeration/global result context, or are we blurring the picture?

I believe that dynamic ontospace term can be used for the representation of our actions and meanings in social web.
Agglomeration of content or activities in ontospace, which makes them traceable uses semantic means. Visibility is often achieved by tags and mashups, pushing information to many spaces.

Paul Dourish and Matthew Chalmers distinguish between semantic navigation and social navigation:

[semantic navigation offers] the ability to explore and choose perspectives of view based on knowledge of the semantically-structured information.

In social navigation, movement from one item to another is provoked as an artifact of the activity of another or a group of others.

In 2008 Daniel Tunkelang wrote in his blog The Noisy channel:

Following Dourish and Chalmers, let us define social navigation as the ability to explore and choose perspectives of view based on social information. Social navigation, defined as above, offers users more than just the ability to be influenced by other people. It offers users transparency and control over the social lens. It allows us to think outside the black box.

Tunkelang uses the term perspective, that comes close to our own framework of taking perspectives in ontospace.

Taking perspectives, and becoming aware of and guided by collaborative perspectives seem for me the cue to noticing traces for participatory actions, collaboration, co-creation.

We assume in our paper about “Writing narratives as a swarm” with Mauri Kaipainen:

A perspective is a personal prioritization of shared ontospace dimensions. A perspective is by definition individual, but sharing perspectives determines niches. If noticing such prioritizations to be shared by more than one individual, these perspectives become community-defining, and facilitate some community actions more than the others, and contribute to the determination an abstract community-specific activity niche.

However, so far we have not used neither the social navigation nor participatory surveillance terms to signify that process. Should we use it?

Albrechtslund, Anders. (2008). Online Social Networking as Participatory Surveillance. First Monday 13 (3).
Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and punish. New York: Vintage.
Giddens, Anthony. 1985. A contemporary critique of Historical Materialism. Vol. 2: The nation-state and violence. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Poster, M., 1990. The mode of information: Poststructuralism and social context. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
T.L. Taylor, 2006. “Does WoW change everything? How a PvP server, multinational player base, and surveillance mod scene caused me pause,” Games & Culture, volume 1, number 4, pp. 318–337.


Ecological aspects for learning theory of new Digital Age

March 25, 2008

Recently, the widespread public use of social software has triggered for the need to theoretically ground the learning phenomena in this new environment.

Siemens (2005) has suggested Connectivism as the learning theory for new Digital Age. Connectivism focuses on how information, situated externally from people in the web, and creating meanings publicly in social software environments, aids through connective processes the new creative learning- and knowledge-building cultures.

Besides information-centred view to learning, what Connectivism carries, the other view should explain how learning is triggered by the involvement into the activities or by the observation of the activities of other individuals and groups. This view suggests that embodied cognition could be also considered as part of our knowledge.

Thus, while modelling the learning theories the new social software environments call for, an activity centred view to learning would be of same importance as the information-centred view, and should be theoretically entwined with the latter.

In order to extract the new principles of learning, while considering the activities that are part of the digital culture in social software environments, the web of social software tools with its inhabitants as an evolving and ecological environment must be described. The interrelations between individuals, and the real and virtual places they adopt for themselves in the process of manifesting their ideas, and engaging themselves into various learning activities in self-directed manner should be theoretically explained. This new ecological perspective to learning in social software environments can reside on the ideas of Gibson‘s and his followers approach to ecological psychology, elaborated approach of Engeström’s Activity Theory, rising theory of embodied cognition, but also on the Lotman’s school of cultural semiotics.

Some aspects to be considered and elaborated:

It is generally accepted that learning and tools used by certain culture from one side, and individuals of this culture and their learning and tool-using habits from another side, are influencing and shaping each other mutually (see Vygotsky, 1979). By definition the more social software tools are used, the better they become adjusted to the cultural habits of their users. The more user-defined interrelations between the meanings exist and can be activated by certain social-software specific microformats, the better the systems get for social retrieval of information. The more users‘ activities in social environments are externally marked by the users, for example with machine-readable formats describing people, the links between them and the things they create and do (FOAF), the better the access to the activity-related information and people becomes. The positive side effect of it is also, that the systems obtain new qualities for monitoring and getting awareness, that would open the gateway to the otherwise non-traceble communities in which the members are not personally related into social networks through shared activities. They may or may not have an awareness of each other, but they share similar meanings or perform same type of activities. Access to such people in new environments is potentially opening a multi-dimensional place where individuals can learn from each other or where shared group activities can be initiated for learning purposes. The more people get involved into the similar activities while evoking for themselves certain functions the social tools offer, the stronger the pressure gets of developing the systems towards facilitating this activity, and the more this activity becomes part of the learning culture in this environment.

This presumes the ecological relationships between people and their objectives for action in certain learning environments, and the personally differentiated perception of meanings and tools in their surrounding environments which would all-together dynamically shape the social software environments as places for learning. In particular, the focus is on how social software systems become accommodated with their users through evoking different affordances in the environment, discussing the multi-dimensionality and dynamicity of such places, and explaining how creativity and active participation are triggered in these places ecologically through different types of interactions.

The inhabitants of social web are characterised as distributed selves between different real and virtual social spaces. They express their identity as part of indistinct activity patterns, involving different social tools and different people. They influence social environments by virally spreading ideas that weave people and social places into invisible meaning dimensions. They leave activity traces as cultural prompts for new similar activities within certain dimension of the environment. The personal meaning-space and activity-space may be or may not be transcendent for the other individual learners in the web if the learner is distributing one‘s self between different social software tools.

The awareness of different dimensions of the social web as places for creative learning is obtained by perceiving the other inhabitants of social web as similarly distributed wholes. Tracing the meaning-spaces and activity patterns of other people twined between the distributed real and virtual places they inhabit, the dimensions of social space become unfolded and usable for our own self-directed learning.

Two aspects here are important. The meaning centred aspect suggests to use distributed self to be aware of more communities and their meaning spaces, and to create conditions for transferring information from one conceptual dimension to another. This precondition for cross-border meaning-building activities has been focused both in cultural semiotics as well as in the theory of Connectivism. Weaving one’s own coherent meaning web on top of such connections in distributed places is part of learning practices individuals do in social web to propagate their own self. Second aspect is finding people to learn together with. To be involved in the similar activities, similar spaces need to be used for interaction. The activities the members of such lose communities get engaged with, do not necessarily have to be centrally coordinated, but rather may emerge and exist as social patterns.

Learning through meaning building, and learning from participating in socially shared activities can be explained all together as part of emergent hybrid ecologies. The architecture of such environments interrelates various meaning dimensions, activity dimensions, and the distributed selves. By distributed self people can access different dimensions, propagate their meanings and activities into these dimensions, and use crossing borders of different dimensions for creative knowledge-building, as well as, for embodying and embedding cultural practices of new social web.


Call for book chapters

March 12, 2008

Here is a nice initiative for book chapter calls.

Submission Deadline: April 30, 2008

Educational Social Software for Context-Aware Learning:
Collaborative Methods and Human Interaction

A book edited by:
Niki Lambropoulos

Centre for Interactive Systems Engineering, London South Bank University, London, UK
Margarida Romero
Université de Toulouse II, FR


Socio-cultural and ecological explanations to self-reflection

February 10, 2008

I was reading this sunday morning the chapter from the Cambridge Handbook of Sociocultural Psychology (2007) by (eds.) Jaan Valsiner and Alberto Rosa:

Social basis of self-reflection
by Alex Gillespie


Since i have been thinking in terms of inter-subjectivity, activity theory and cultural semiotics earlier, while now my understanding has more and more shifted towards the embodied cognition and hybrid ecology ideas, i tried to see where my standing-point is and where it differs from socio-cultural ideas.

It seems to me that the basic idea in this chapter is recognizing that signs (but then also tools, since both are mediators of action what person needs to realize his objectives in an environment?) are created during culturally constrained actions as multi-perspective and inter-subjective representations, including both the actor’s and the observer’s experiences of that action.

Gillespie suggests that in different social acts we will get experiences of the both sides of the act in lifetime (learner/teacher, giving/receiving), so we can activate these perspectives simultaneously when the we need to create/activate a mediator (sign, tool) to carry out any act.

The re-using of the signs means activating these embodied experiences and switching between these multiple perspectives when using certain sign either alone or with the others in interaction.

In Gillespie’s elaboration i can see direct relations with embodied cognition and mirror-matching theories: these theories assume that we need to experience something, embody it, and only then we can observe others doing it so that it might reactivate our similar neural processes. But embodied cognition has not dealt with this constant activation of different experiences simultaneously – my own perspective as an actor, and the other’s perspective as an observer of that action.

Secondly, in embodied cognition the representational mediation, the processing of signs that represent something is excluded, and the observation, hearing or reading can directly activate sensory-motor paths that make as feel and act.

Following Gillespie, and relating it how i understand these issues, in case of conscious self-reflective activities we might simultaneously activate several previously embodied affordances of the environment (extracted dimensionalities) to do something what we wish to do (eg. my experience of learning and also my experience of teaching), then we are running these sensory-motor activations in parallel/simultaneously/one-by-one that means as a result that we sometimes suppress some affordances in the environment that we initially perceived as coupling with our anticipated affordances for doing some actions.

Rupture and the use of internalized actions as part of self-reflection in this case are the constraints we put to the anticipated affordances of actions internally before even trying to carry them out. Can it be like conscious hindering certain sensory-motor neural activation patterns as part of our decision-making of what act to perform?

Mirroring from others and the social conflict are the constraints emerging from the environment as the response to find/make use our anticipated affordances of action. It means we consciously accommodate our sensory-motor activation paths ecologically, searching in other people, in the environment for coupling affordances of our anticipated affordances for action and hindering those sensory-motor activation paths that do not find the match to become activated.

These are some ideas what i got reading the following parts from the Gillespie’s article:

Self-reflection can be defined as temporary phenomenological experience in which self becomes an object to oneself.

People use semiotic mediators, or signs by which they pick out certain affective experiences or situations, thus distancing themselves from both self and immediate situation. These signs are combined into complex semiotic systems (representations, discourses, cultural artifacts, symbolic resources), that provide even greater liberation from the immediate situation.

Such distance enables self to act upon self and the situation.

Four socio-cultural theories of the origin of self-reflection:

1. Rupture theories of self-reflection posit that self-reflection arises when one’s path of action becomes blocked or when one faces a decision of some sort.

Peirce: A problematic situation. a small irritation or rupture stimulates reflective thought (1978/1998).

Dewey (1896): in ruptured situations the object becomes subjective because the actor has two or more responses toward the object, and the self-reflection arises.
However, from Pavlov’s experiments it is shown that contradictory responses can co-exist without leading to self-reflection.

According to Piaget (1970) the problem situation forces the child to abstract and recognize his/her developing schemas when these schemas lead to unfulfilled expectations.

It was not clear from this explanation, why semiotic mediators must be stimulated.

2. Mirror theories of self-reflection suggest that the defining feature in self-reflection is the presence of an other.

The other perceives more about self-reflection than self can perceive.
The reflective distance from self which self-reflection entails first exist in the mind of other. This can be fed back to self by other, such that self can learn self from the perspective of other (Bakhtin 1923/1990).
Other provides feedback to the self same as mirror provides feedback about our appearance that we cannot perceive unaided.

The society can be a mirror as well, leading to self-reflection (Cooley, 1902). According to him, self is a social product formed out of our appearance to the other person, the imagination of his judgement of that appearance, and some sort of self-feeling such as pride or mortification.
Cooly always related self-reflection with judgements leading to emotions such as pride, shame, guilt etc.

Questions: How does self take the perspective of the other? Is other a passive mirror, neutrally reflecting back to self?

3. Conflict theories of self-reflection suggest that self-reflection arises through social struggle.

Hegel: self-consciousness arises through gaining recognition from an other who is not inferior to self. Self and other treat each other as physical objects, and thus deny any recognition to each other. Due to this denial they enter into a struggle, the outcome of which is the relation of domination and subordination, that is master-slave relation. The slave can get recognition from the master but not vice versa. Slave struggles for recognition, developing new skills and competences. Self-onsciousness arises from struggling for recognition.

Psaltis & Duveen: Explicit recognition of new acquired knowledge by other and self is needed for durable cognitive development through interaction – the interaction needs to provide mutual self-reflection.

Sigel’s (2002) Psychological Distancing Theory asserts that discrepancies introduced by utterances of others can put a cognitive demand on the child which can in turn lead to representational work and thus distancing.

Activity Theory (Engeström, 1987) assumes that problematic situation includes problems introduced by the perspective of others. Participants within an activity system prompt each other to reflect upon the conditions and rules of their ongoing interaction. Thus contradictions between different counterparts of an activity system lead to reflection.

Social representation theory (Duveen) emphasizes that there are contradictions in the bodies of knowledge that is circulated in modern societies. Bauer and Gaskell (1999) suggest that people become of aware of the representations at the points at which they overlap or contradict each other. This coexistence of multiple forms of knowledge in the society can lead to self-reflection.

Similarly to rupture theories, it is not clear through which semiotic processes self-reflection arises.

4. Internalization theories of self-reflection posit that thought is a self-reflective internal dialogue with absent others, between their internalized perspectives.

Self-reflection arises through internalizing the perspectives that the other has upon self, followed by self taking the perspectives of other upon self.

Vygotsky (1997) emphasized that the process of internalization is a process of transformation rather than simple transmission. Signs are first used to mediate the behaviours of others, and later used to talk about self, reflect upon self, and mediate the behaviour of self.

Mead and Vygotsky conceive the sign (or significant symbol) as comprising two perspectives – the actor perspective and the observer perspective.

On one hand, there is the embodied actor perspective (the response) to some object (the child reaches hand to point to an object she wants to get). On the other hand, there is the distance introduced by the observer perspective of the other on the action (mother sees the grasping gesture indicating desire to get the object). The grasping becomes pointing when the child uses both of these perspectives.

Thus the sign (significant symbol) is fundamentally inter-subjective: it evolves both actor and observer perspectives in both self and other.

Questions: if the sign is composite of the perspective of self and other, how does this composite form, how are these two perspectives brought together.

Gillespie (2005) now starts to generate his own theory. He relies on the Mead’s theory of the social act suggesting that people move amongst the positions with a relatively stable social/institutional structure (host/guest, buyer/seller).

Each social act pairs (eg. giving/receiving, teaching/learning) entails reciprocal actor and observer positions and perspectives which mots people have enacted. They have previously been in these social positions of the other. Thus we are able to take these perspectives in each social act. The self becomes dialogical, containing multiple social perspectives for each act.

The social act is the institution that first provides individuals with roughly equivalent actor and observer experiences, and second, integrates these perspectives within the minds of individuals. When both actor and observer perspectives are evoked within a significant symbol (or sign) /like in gesture/, then there is a self-reflection, because self is both self and other simultaneously.

Gillespie calls self-reflection triggered by an actor perspective self-mediation and the self-reflection triggered by an observer perspective on an actor short-circuiting.

Gillespie assumes that different socio-cultural theories of self-reflection are not in opposition, but rather theorize different proximal paths leading towards self-reflection.

The magic of social act is that it integrates the actor and the observer experiences or perspectives into the formation of signs enabling higher level of semiotic mediation. Conceiving of the sign as this integration of perspectives elucidates the logic of self-reflection.

Whenever one uses the sign it can carry self from one perspective to another continuously.
Introducing the concept of sign (significant symbol) as a complex semiotic system entails abandoning the assumption that complex semiotic systems mirror the world. Instead, it conceptualizes these semiotic systems as architectures of inter-subjectivity, which enable translations between actor and observer perspectives within a social act.

Any narrative is not just a narrative that is analogical to self’s own experience, it is an inter-subjective structure that enables translations between actor and observer perspectives. Partially integrated actor and observer perspectives are the pre-condition for self-reflection. Rupture, feedback, and social conflict can cause self-reflection because of a pre-ecxisting and only partially integrated architecture of inter-subjectivity.


Artefact ecologies

January 17, 2008

Today i found a paper, which partially comes close to some ideas about tools, affordances and embodiment as some ecological system. Some ideas or formulations i don’t support 100 % (eg. artifacts have affordances perceived by the user who acts with them) and these seem to be not in accordance with the way they explain the dynamic and mutually influencing and emergent nature of affordances. Maybe it is the question of formulation rather than the step back. There notion of embodiment is not based on new ideas from neural findings.

Artefact Ecologies: Supporting Embodied Meeting Practices with Distance Access

Dhaval Vyas
Alan Dix

Material artifacts related with practices play a critical role in the activity formation.

Authors introduce the notion of artifact ecologies, which refer to a system of consisting digital and physical artifacts, people, their work practices and values, and lays emphasis on the role artifacts play in embodiment, work coordination and supporting remote awareness.

From the biological ecologies they take the following characteristics:
Ecology is made up of heterogeneous objects (environment) and organisms (species)
Organisms interact mutually
Interactions emerge between counterparts of the ecology
Organisms and objects are mutually adaptive
Organisms are co-adaptive with other organisms

artifact ecology Vyas & Dix, 2007

Artifacts have affordances perceived by the user(s) who then act on them.
However, performing action changes the situation culturally, cognitively, physically (eg. user’s awareness of affordances increases when using an artifact).
This leads to reflection on the potential uses of artifacts and people’s roles (constraints on action).
Once the users are aware, their perceived affordances change.

They distinguish 3 levels of affordances: personal, organization/community and culture level, which differ also on the level of how rapidly they can change.
Affordances of different levels influence each other.
For example affordances one person can perceive may depend on the affordances the community perceives or culture uses as norms.

They refer to Ilyenkov (1977), who sees the creation of artifacts and tools as embodying practices of the community, claiming that artifacts embody cultural norms and values.

The notion of artifact ecology offers a set of analytical properties of artifacts that emerge from the interaction between participants and artefacts in different situations.

Embodiment: Artifacts allow participants to use their bodily skills and their familiarity of the real world objects.

embodiment of meetings, vyas & Dix 2007


ecology of hybrid social web

November 1, 2007

Rising social web and its rapid becoming into the hybrid environment that integrates virtual and real spaces has given birth to the new activities:

self-management of personal mediation spaces constructed by orchestrating distributed sets of web-based and mobile tools;
self-propagation of one’s presence and self-positioning into the multi-perspective hybrid places evoked by merging virtual and real spaces through creating personal external meaning-spaces and geo-tagging personal meanings as action potentialities to hybrid locations;
self-localization in the hybrid space by tagging, feeds, and mashup technologies for obtaining awareness of people, their meaning perspectives and activities;
self-identification and alignment into virtual communities and their spacial perspectives through detection, participation and playful variation of their activity patterns, and connective uptake and translation of meanings;

These activities all together enable to establish the dynamic ecology of hybrid social web as an activity system. This consists of external spaces with objects, what people need to activate as embodied concepts in neural circuits of sensory-motor area of brain. Embodiment happens by intentionally evoking anticipated affordances related to previously experienced or culturally defined action potentialities and their emotional correlates.

Embodying objects in space as embodied concepts turns them for persons into places with embedded meanings, which serve as mediating tools for activities. People propagate their activity patterns in spaces as meanings attached to artifacts, what they externalise through mediating tools. Each artifact, when interpreted in space, constrains the dimensions of the space for the person, it contains action potentialities (affordances) that will be created and embodied by new person, and which start constraining the space, actions in space, emotions related to this space. We can see these artifact-action triggered affordances as sort of ecological activation or even instruction for the user how it is possible to use the environment.

In order to perceive certain activity potentials of other people in space people need to be intentionally at same wavelenght and embody similar/or potentially competing action potentialities and their emotional correlates (affordances). Self-identification of spaces into places enables the person to locate himself, propagate one’s identity, and distinguish from the other identities creating therefore an ecological niche where to inhabit. Continuous self-localization in respect to other space perspectives and their inhabitants, and potential adjustment to their places serves for community formation that is ecologically important to defend the communal places.

Ecological social web is in dynamic changes because the embodiment of action potentials of individuals is never totally similar and brings in variations. Within the communities this variation is low, resulting in similar perception of places and uptake of meanings and participation of the common activity patterns. As certain communities embody different perspectives of spaces, this creates the potential borders of understanding meanings, and noticing afforded activity patterns. Thus, the social web as an ecosystem obtains structural complexity – certain communities may simultaneously inhabit the same space while defining it as a different place. The uptake of meanings of another community in the jointly inhabited space may also happen. Such meanings will be embodied in the different intentional frames causing novel activity patterns to emerge.


We may walk in town seeing the previous location of Bronze soldier monument. Depending of our alignment to certain cultural-ideological group we may embody certain emotions (fear/anguish/pride) and maybe some motor actions like (not)going there. If we are the inhabitant of hybrid social spaces, we may be tempted to take a picture of this place and upload it to Flickr, geotagging it at Tallinn map. We may also comment our experiences with the location in the post of our weblog and drag the feed of the Flickr image to the weblog. Let’s suppose many people do the same thing. They can also see the other images tagged to the place, maybe some from the times when the soldier was still there, or some from the hot days in Tallinn. They reflect their different meanings and related action potentials in narratives of their weblogs. Someone else studying the event, will find different weblogs and images and needs to detect what were the action potential of people, if he is able of detecting some communalities in meanings he may also embody some action potentials. These depend of the cultural and activity background of this person (eg. whether this is a citizen of Moscow or New York). They will comment the posts and take other actions, presumably sending some liberty fighters to Tallinn or decide not to take the trip to Tallinn as tourists. We can also imagine there is a certain software that enables people to directly geotag their images or meanings to the Bronze soldier location and view the meanings at spot. This will create a potential for embodying different action potentials for the different communities, and also the possibility to develop novel activity patterns – for example the narratives of the place, grounding of what happened and finding the compromises between cultures etc. We can say then that the previous Bronze soldier location becomes into the space with meanings that serves as a mediating device for understanding and participating in activities.