I want to tell you a story. It’s a story about a person not satisfied with the status quo; one who is hungry for the future. Always looking ahead to the next horizon.

It’s a story about you.

Life in Stacia

#1 Scene Notes:

Sunrise for a typical rural village scene, possibly from the middle ages.
No motorized vehicles seen, some ox carts, etc. A mix of homes and workshops
along a simple (dirt?) road. No people in view.

You’ve lived your entire life in your home - Stacia. It’s a place where people work hard and have time to enjoy life with family and friends.

However, while new things happen in Stacia, the way things are done is always the same. The same tools, the same techniques, the same basic ideas. You think something is missing; you’re not happy with things that stay the same.

You’ve heard of another place. A place where change is actually part of the way things work. It’s called Hyperion. A place where people and machines can talk with each other.

Most people in Stacia believe Hyperion is a myth. Of the few who have gone looking for it, most return empty handed. They tell stories of encounters with strange animals and a confusing, complex forest. A few of them speak in terms few understand about things no one ever seen.

Still, you decide this is something you must do. And that means you’ll need to navigate a place known as The Great Expanse of Time and Space.

Leaving Home

#2 Scene Notes:

At the edge of the village. What lies ahead is a deep, dark forest.
There is a clearing between the village. Here, there are some vendor
stands, evidence of lots of people partying to see off another seeker.

The Great Expanse is actually an odd name for it. It’s a dark, thick forest full of odd things and it changes shape and size constantly. It is said that just when you think you’ve reached the end of the wood, it can grow tenfold.

You gather up all the tools you own, food, and anything else you think you need. When you get the edge of the village, there is a small man who motions to you come over to his stall. He warns you of the dangers ahead and tells you that he has essential supplies for you and he hands you two things. First, a small box with some strange lettering and the picture of a smoking pipe on it. Second, a crumpled pile of yellowed maps.

You offer to pay him, but he just smiles and tells you "No charge, you’ll be back.""

So, weighed down by all your gear, you turn your back on Stacia and step into the Great Expanse.

The Great Expanse

#3 Scene Notes:

A generic dense forest scene.
Trees, underbrush, things hanging down.
Maybe a stream, flowers, etc.
(Will be used several times for "traveling text")

After only a few steps you find yourself in a dark and confusing tangle of trees, underbrush, and stones. It will take perseverance to get through the forest without becoming hopelessly lost.

After a while, it dawns on you to reach over and pull the pile of maps out of your pack and start to rifle through them.

Each one has a single word or phrase at the top. Things like "Find The Big Tree" or "Go to the Stream." However, you notice the contents of these maps are unlike anything else you’ve seen. Each page is a long list of carefully detailed instructions. For example, "Find The Big Tree" reads as follows:

  1. face north

  2. walk 3,000 steps

  3. turn 15 degrees right

  4. walk 5,000 steps

  5. turn 30 degrees left

  6. walk 7,500 steps

and so on, for pages and pages.


maybe render this map (with more|blurred material)

These are not maps; they’re instruction sets. And, it turns out, they are unreliable. As you work through each of them, you discover landmarks are in a new location, inaccurately described, or just plain missing.

For example, after diligently following the instructions on "Find The Big Tree", you eventually arrive at an old fallen rotting log. The maps are helpful, but not very dependable and require lots of adjustment.

Gibby the Gekco

#4 Scene Notes:

A rich forest scene that shows the following:
- a stream/brook with a rock for sunning ones' self
- a shady spot (large leaf leaning over the ground, etc.)
- a cave off to one side
- so fruits and nuts in a collection (for food)

finally, there is a small gecko on the sunning rock

After a long day in the forest, bumping into obstacles not on your "maps", you decide to settle down in a clearing near a stream.

Not longafter you’ve dropped your pack and grabbed a spot under a shade tree, you notice a small gecko scurrying through the underbrush jumping from rock to tree, darting in and out of a small cave, and occasionally dashing over to a pile of dried-up fruit and nuts to snatch a bite to eat.

In the middle of racing about, the gecko stops, turns to you and says "What are you sitting around for? Get going! It will be dark soon," and he continues scurrying around.

Curious, you strike up a conversation w/ Gibby (that’s his name) and learn that he’s busy staking out his territory for the night.

"You need a shelter from the rain, a safe place to hide when a predator comes, a place to keep your food, and rock near the stream for sunning in the morning," he explains.

It turns out he does this every day. And each day the work is slightly different. Sometimes a tree branch has fallen and made it impossible to use the same cave as a hide. Finding and storing food changes throughout the year, etc. And each morning it all begins again.

"You’d better get busy!" he reminds you.

So, you start in the same work. A hide, a soft sleep spot, stash some food, find a sunny spot near the brook for the morning. You notice that your locations are quite different from Gibby’s. He’s a small lizard; he can hide and sleep in lots of small out-of-the-way places. But not you. You need more room, better shelter, more food, etc.

Later that evening after some food, while the two of you enjoy the full moon reflected in the stream, you share these observations wtih Gibby.

"Every seeker says that," he smiles. "Of course, what affords a safe hide for me it too small for you. You need different affordances."

You ask him what that word means and Gibby laughs.

"If I told you that, it would spoil all the fun!" and he turns over to sleep.

Before going to bed you pull out the wooden box with the fancy pipe painted on it and try to open it. No seams, no hinges, no latch. After several minutes with no progress, you toss it back into your pack and lay down for the night.

Summary Slide

James J. Gibson

  1. "The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception" (1986)

  2. coined the term affordance

  3. environments are niches of appropriate affordances

  4. the needs might be common, but the implementation details could be diff.

"An affordance is a quality of an object, or an environment, which allows an individual to perform an action."

In he morning, after a brisk wash in the stream and a relaxing morning in your sunning spot, you decide to move on. In a bit of preparation, pull out the yellowed maps and start to work out your day’s hike.

Gibby notices your maps and, crawling over telling you, "These won’t get you where you want to go!" he calls. "They’re useless! The map is not the territory!"

You agree that the papers are worthless, but tell him they are all you have as you fold them up into your pack.

"Forget trying to use maps in the Great Expanse. Just look around. Find the affordances you need." he says as he starts his daily work of finding shelter, a hide, food, and so forth.

You leave him to his work and head in to the forest.

#3.1 Scene Notes:

Generic dense forest scene (see above)

Deena the Chimp

This time, while traveling through the forest, you spend less time trying to keep track of the strict instructions in the maps and start paying attention to the landmarks around you. As you do this, you find you are better able to keep track of your progress by just aiming yourself to a point ahead and then deciding what to do next.

Eventually, after a day of traveling this way, you find yourself at another clearing. You see a kettle over a large fire, a pile of wood, and all sorts of tools scattered around the clearing.

There is a sturdy building off to one side and a wide doorway with the words "Workshop" over the top. Within the workshop you can hear lots of hammering and cackling. Someone is enjoying themselves very much.

#5 Scene Notes:

A clearing in the forest.
There is a ramshackle workshop in view; the door is wide open.
Lots of tools everywhere and evidence of 'works in progress' laying about.
There is also a big steaming kettle on a fire outside. Not sure if this
is for work or food.

Finally, there is a medium-sized chimp/monkey in view holding a tool,
possibly working on something already.

You stick you head into the workshop and find a nimble chimp (named Deena) flitting from one table to another seemingly working on multiple projects at the same time. And each time the project changes, she grabs one of the many tools scattered about the room and applies it vigorously to the task at hand.

It is during one of those transfers from one table to the next that Deena looks up and notices and calls out, "Well, hello, there! I’m Deena. Come!, comecloser! Grab a tool and get to work!"

You politely decline the invitation, explaining that you have no idea what she’s doing'.

"Doing? I’m using the tools, of course! Join me!" And Deena tosses you an tools that looks like a cross between an adjustable wrench and a hand-saw.

So, you shrug your shoulders and start in rasping, banging, twisting, and tweaking anything that comes within view.

And Deena’s laughter grows all the while.

Pause for effect

After several hours of this, Deena slips out the door to tend to the kettle on the fire outside. Soon a sweet smell of stew drifts into the workshop and you, too, put down whatever tool you’re holding and join Deena at the fire.

"So, you like my workshop, eh?" she asks. "A rich set of tools in there. one for almost every task you can imagine. And if you can’t find what you need you can just make the tool instead."

Deena tells you she is a master tool-maker. The design, refinement, and use of tools is her life’s work.

"Desinging a tool so that it fits comfortably in your hand and accomplishes the task is a fine art," she explains. "Tell me, did you enjoy using my tools today?"

You admit it was a very enjoyable day. Each tool seemed to rest in your hand just right. And, even if you had no idea what it was for when you first picked it up, soon you seemed to just know what it could do and how it should be used.

"See!" Deena smiled. "A rich set of tools affords you all sorts of possibilities."

Deena draws out a large ladle, fills two bowls and you each sit by the fire, enjoying the evening sunset.

Again, you take out the “pipe box” and fiddle with it in an attempt to find out what’s inside. Deena sees what you are doing and tosses you a knowing smile.

After the sun goes down, you find yourself easily dozing off to a restful, warm nights' sleep.

Overnight you have a strange dream. It involves Deena schreeching and scampering about the workshop chasing after Gibby who keeps darting in and out of the scattered tools while Deena brandishes a large wooden plank attempting smack Gibby as if he is a tiny green mole. And the whole time Gibby is yelling something about “chains of causation” while Deena replies with a phrase that includes ”the non-linear now”.

By the time you awake, Deena is already busy in her shop. As you explain your dream to her, she suddenly stops pounding and peers into your eyes.

"Guess that means you’re ready for the challenge," she tells you as she leads you out of the workshop and around the back where there is a long, tall stone wall that stretches out in either direction as far as the eye can see.

"Always been here - long as I can remember," Deena tells you. "And it’s been a long time since anyone could open it, too."

That’s when you notice the wooden door with a large letter "P" marked on it. You also notice a skeleton laying at the base of the door, still clutching the handle. Apparently, the last seeker didn’t make it past this point.

#6 Scene Notes:

A large door with a single "pull handle"
There is a skeleton lying on the ground in front of the door with one hand
still gripping the handle.
A large letter "P" appears on the door. is this a title? insrtuctions?
Deena, the chimp is off to one side (in a tree?), smiling

"Go ahead!" Deena tells you. "What you’re looking for is on the other side of that door." And she leaps up into a tree and waits for you to get to work.

So you go at it. After brushing aside the skeleton, you pull on the handle and nothing happens. You check for nails in the door (none), glue (none), hinges (yep). You can even see a bit of light creeping out from the top and bottom, so you know it’s not a solid block.

After a good deal of sweat and effort pulling on the handle it finally dawns on you. Curious, you simply lean over, grasp the rounded handle and push the door; it glides open with hardly any effort.

And Deena goes wild. She laughs, claps her hands, jumps about and keeps call out "What an affordance! What an affordance!"

The sun is streaming through the doorway and the forest looks like it’s inviting you in. You turn and wave to Deena and step into a bright new day.

Summary Slide

Donald A. Norman

  1. "The Design of Everyday Things" (1988)

  2. established the field of HCI (Human-computer Interaction)

  3. Action Lifecycle

  4. "In the Head" and "In the World"

The value of a well designed object is when it has such a rich set of affordances that the people who use it could do things that the designer never imagined.

Artie the Owl

#3.2 Scene Notes:

Generic dense forest scene.
(optionally: possibly a bit less dense, more sun or something)

Today, as you work your way through the forest, everything seems more enjoyable. You seem to know just where to step and which direction to take at each crossroad. You don’t even bother to look at your maps anymore; the forest feels like home.

After a while you stop for a short rest at the base of a large, old tree. As you lean your head back, your eyes gaze up the trunk to the upper branches and you see a spetacled owl perched at what appears to be a writing desk. He doesn’t notice you; he’s too busy scribbling on some papers. It seems he’s been at this a while as there are stacks of completed pages scattered all through the tree limbs.

#7 Scene Notes:

Another forest view. This time there is a large tree dominating the pic.
High up in the tree is a wise old owl (proly has spectacles<g>) perched
on an elaborate branch; looks like a throne or maybe a professor's desk.
There are stacks of papers piled everywhere. Artie Owl is busy writing
with a large pen at his desk.

You notice a small sign on his writing desk that reads "Professor Artie" and you call out to him to get his attention and after a few more strokes of his pen he looks to you and says "I see you made it past the barrier. Figured out Deena’s little trick, did you? Good show!"

You learn that Artie has been sitting in his perch for as long as he can remember and that each day he writes out long pages of characters all in hopes that someone will understand what they say.

You ask why he keeps writing, even when no one is around and he tells you "It’s the information, small-fry! The information is unusable until I represent it with the proper affordances, of course!" and smiles. "For example, I bet you have some worthless maps of the Great Expanse. Those maps don’t represent the territory properly! They’re just data!"

That reminds you why you’re in the forest and you ask Artie if he can help you find the entrance to Hyperion. He answers in the affirmative and starts shuffling through various stacks of papers until he finds what he’s looking for.

"Aha!" he calls out. "Here’s what you need, " and he tosses you a single page of paper covered in confusing text.

#A Scene Notes:

A single sheet of paper full of complex text. It almost looks like just
hex code from a computer (0123456789ABCDEF in random order and grouping).


Nothing makes sense. But soon you notice a few of the characters seem to stand out. Slowly some of the content comes into relief against the noise of the data. And that’s when you see three clear ‘commands.’

#B Scene Notes:

The same page, but somec characters are now highlighted:


You carefully call out the words you see on the page: "Reach Fence, Enter Code, Toggle Gate."

"Aha! yes, small-fry. See, the information contains the instructions, eh? It’s all there. That’s not just Data, it’s Usable information!"

Like your travels through the woods, you can find the information you need in the surroundings themselves. You don’t need a map to show you where to go next.

"Now go, go! Hyperion is just down that path on the other side of the fence."

You quickly gather your things, toss a word of thanks up to Artie, and head down the path toward your destination.

Summary Slide

Roy T. Fielding

  1. "Architectural Styles and Design of Network-Based Software Architectures"

  2. Inventor of "REST"

  3. Representation and Hypermedia are the two key contributions

  4. State-Transfer not Object Serialization

"[T]he information becomes the affordance through which the user obtains choices and selects actions"

Arriving at Hyperion

#8 Scene Notes:

A typical cityscape. Tall square-sih buildings. Sleek cars on the roads.
It's clearly a mechanized city and well-organized; maybe a bit rigid/sterile.
But it's very bright and cheerful; a nice place to live and work.

When you finally make it to the edge of Hyperion, you’re arrive at a short fence with a keypad and screen that reads “Enter the code”. There are three letter-sized boxes waiting for input and, remembering your dream from two nights ago and the sound of Deena’s voice yelling “the non-linear…” something, you type the letters N O W. With a slight ‘click’ the gate opens and you walk into the city.

Things are quite busy. Cars rush about and lots of people in a hurry. No one seems to notice you so you stop and ask a womon where you can get something to eat. She stares at you and, after a few seconds, yells out "We have a seeker!"

At which point everyone heads straight for you all taking at once and pulling you into a nearby building,

Through all the commotion you learn that they’ve been waiting for you for some time and that you’re needed immediately in the “control center”. Along the way you’re promised a meal and anything else you might need. Clean clothes and a bath are common suggestions by a several you pass.

#9 Scene Notes

An elaborate, windowless control room.
workstations (screens and keyboards) line all the walls, a worker at each one
complex colorful dials and displays reach to the celing
there is a slightly raise platform where a round man stands barking orders
large metal doors mark the only entrance/exit to the room.

Eventually, you’re pushed through a set of shiny metal doors and find youself in a large room lined with computer terminals; each with a worker frantically typing away. A round man sits at a desk on an elevated platform yelling out marching orders.

“Vehicular slow-down in sector G! Release the code! Lighting failures in Sectors R and N! Add two more programmers to lumination services!” and so forth.

Eventually the Master Chiief of Protocol (it’s written on this hat) motions you up onto the platform. “You’re the new seeker? Glad you made it. It’s been getting worse by the day.” And he leads you to a terminal, pulls the chair out and motions you to sit down.

You try to protest, but the MCP insists. “It’s ok, eveyone’s nervous at first” and he gives the chair a slight shove and you fall into it as it rolls up to the keyword and screen.

“We’re wriiting code as fas as we can,” he epxlains. “But the machines keep asking questions, making mistakes. It’s as if they don’t understand us.”

As he is speaking you notice a list of files with names like “Go to the Big Tree”, “Find Food”, “Drive to the Store” and so forth. You open them and, just as you suspect they are each filled with long lists of detailed instructions.

Without thinking you say out loud, “The map is not the territory” and suddenly the detailed instructiond transform into a new set of symbols and arguments. The room breaks out in hushed "oohhh"s as all the screens start to switch to this new symbol system.

"Sir," calls out a voice from one of the stations. "The machines are asking to do new things now." and the MCP looks to you. You struggle to think back and then it comes to you.

"Create new tools - new affordances - as you need them!"" and instantly several programmers turn back to the their stations and new symbols begin to appear, connecting to existing symbols, and more murmurs fill the room.

Then the lights start to dim and another voice yells, "Too much data! We’re overloading the system!"" and the staff nervously type away as if attempting to avoid a collision.

And the MCP looks to you again.

Quietly, almost as a question, you say to him, "the information becomes the affordance?" and the room erupts into cheers! the lights grow bright and the terminals all seem to program themselves.

The MCP smiles and leads you toward the door as all the programmers clap, slap you on the back, and thank you as pass.

Summary Slide

Alfred H S Korzybski

  1. "Science and Sanity" (1933)

  2. Coined the phrase "The map is not the territory."

  3. We experience the world indirectly; via our language and its abstractions

  4. Humans are "time-binders"

"The only possible link between the objective world and the linguistic world is found in structure and structure alone."

As you and the MCP exit the building onto the now quiet, orderly street, he leads to you a small bench where the two of you sit down.

"Hyperion is an odd place" he tells you. "We occasionally need new seekers to remind us how things work. For some reason, each time they leave we eventually forget that we are not bound by the chains of causation, but are instead liberated by the non-linear now."

As he says this, you hear Gibby and Deena’s voies and smile.

"Sound familiar?" the MCP chuckles. "You know, some seekers stay here a long time but I get the idea you’re not one of them.""

"No," you reply. "I think it’s time for me to go home," and you shake hands, pick up your gear, and head toward the edge of town.

Setting out for Home

#9 Scene Notes:

At the edge of the city, there is a small clearing and then the forest begins.
There is a crowd to see the seeker off on the journey.
A mirror of the previous scene outside Stacia village.
#3.3 Scene Notes:

A generic forest scene again (see above)

A Pipe for Artie

#OPT1 Scene:

Artie in his tree smoking/holding a hard-carved pipe; the pipe-box is
off to one side, left open.

On your way back through the Great Expanse, up find yourself at Artie’s treehouse. You call out to greet him and he interrupts his writing

"Well small-fry, did you reach your destination?" he asks.

You tell him all about your trip and he raises his eyebrows in admiration. "So, I helped you out. Do you have a gift for me?"

Without hesitation, you reach into your pack and pull out the box with the strange letters and the picture of a pipe. "I never figured out how to open this box anyway; it’s yours."

Artie catches it in his arms and reads the outside of the box: "shesh-shee nay pas un peep"

"What?" you ask.

"It’s French. It says 'This is not a pipe."

"I knew it was worthless," you say.

Artie turns the box over and slides a panel on the back, the lid pops open and he pulls out a beautiful hand-craved pipe, fully stuffed with sweet tobacco. He quickly lights it, puffs a few times, and smiles.

"Thanks, kid!" he calls and turns back to his papers.

You just smile back, wave, and head on into the forest.

Tools for Deena

#OPT2 Optional Scene:

Deena clutching arms-ful of tools and other stuff.

Soon, you come to Deena’s noisy workshop. She’s clearly happy to see you. She jumps up and down giving you hugs and clapping and she offers you to supper.

After dinner Deena asks about your trip. During a pause in the conversation, you instinctively reach over into your pack and pull out all the tools you brought with you, but never used.

"Here," you say. "These are for you," and you pass them to Deena who is at a loss for words. Finally, she simply says, "Such as rich set of affordances!"

And you smile and head off to sleep.

In the morning, you give Deena a farewell hug and head back into the forest. There is one more stop you want to make before reaching home.

Maps for Gibby

#OPT3 Optional Scene:

Gibby standing/sitting on a ragged pile of maps.

As expected, you find Gibby racing about establishing the day’s encampment.

“You found your way?” Gibby asks. “You got rid of the maps, then.”

That’s when you reach back into your pack and pull out the only thing you have left; the set of yellowed pages, and hand them over to Gibby.

“Ha!” he cries. “These afford hiding! and writing on! And a dry floor in a damp cave! Excellent!”

You smile, wave goodbye and head for home.

Arriving Home

#1.1 Scene Notes:

Same scene as the first one; Sunrise over the village.
This one looks somehow brighter, cleaner, more inviting.
It's clearly good to be back home.

As you clear the forest and break out in the early morning light, you can see the village ahead of you. It’s good to be home.

Your friends are happy to see you. Surprised really. While you think have only been gone a few days, they tell you it’s been several years. A side-effect of the Great Expanse, no doubt.

They ask you what you’ve seen and want you to show them gifts from Hyperion. You have to tell them that you brought back no gifts; in fact gave away most all you had. Later, when you try to tell them about Gibby, Deena, and Artie and the lessons they taught you, some smile and others just sit silent. Few actually seem to "get it."

That’s when you realize that, from now on, people will treat you differntly. You’re someone who left Stacia, did some odd things, and came back empty-handed. Proof, to them, that your trip was a failure. Some think you are making the whole thing up.

But occasionally, you and a few friends meet at the local pub and talk about what you saw in Hyperion and the kinds of things you learned in the Great Expanse. These few friends, like you, are willing to experiment, explore. They, too, have an eye on the next horizon.

Hopefully, some of them will become seekers; will cross the Great Expanse and help keeep Hyperion going.

You remind them that they are the future. What they do will affect us all.

#OPT4 Optional Scene:

A composite shot that shows the village on the left, Hyperion on the right,
and the Great Expanse in the middle with Gibby, Deena, and Artie.