Assignment 1 – Annotated Bibliography
Name: Mathew Austin s3839815
I declare that in submitting all work for this assessment I have read, understood and agree to the content and expectations of the assessment declaration – https://www.rmit.edu.au/students/support-and-facilities/student-support/equitable-learning-services
Selected text 1 – Affordances (word count 500)
Khoo E, Hight C, Torrens R, Cowie B 2017, Software Literacy: Education and Beyond, Springer, Singapore. (pp. 1-12)
The introduction provides an overview of key topics related to the consideration of software not as a static tool, but instead as a cultural product that is both influenced by and has influence on contemporary society. The excerpt suggests that affordances built into software, those being the abilities a user has within an application, and the hierarchy in which these affordances are presented to a user have massive implications on the degree to which humans have agency in their usage of digital systems, with software and graphical user interface (GUI) design choices having the ability to enable and restrain creative practices.
The introduction to this work is comprehensive in its explanation of key concepts, providing examples and references to other practitioners in the field to better introduce the subject of software literacy. Use of examples like “cut, copy and paste” as a way of representing the ways in which software design can create expectations that have far reaching effects (in this case removing the temporal boundaries of traditional media with anything being able to be put anywhere else immediately, regardless of location of media format) creates good foundation for the information to come, especially relating to “cultural software”, software that allows for and affects the production of creative works. The introduction also focuses heavily on the consideration of modern networked media as digital performances rather than static texts due to their real-time reproduction using computations, a key distinction that affects how all media products created in a networked space are regarded in the context of the paper.
However, as an introduction to the body of work rather than being the main content of the paper, the excerpt inherently lacks the amount of fine detail that would be required for a complete understanding of the field that the paper intends to represent. In addition to this, as an emerging field, many aspects of software studies have a lacking amount of research done into them, as clearly shown in the introduction’s references section’s short length and even shorter list of names of researchers in the field. The novelty of this field of study also has the effect of the majority of the research being incredibly contemporary, potentially affecting the depth of understanding one might need by excluding historic contexts, as least in the same amount of depth as the more recent studies have delved into.
The key concepts and considerations presented in the introduction to this text are instrumental in the understanding of the topic of software studies, providing a solid foundation in the method of thinking required to see software as both an integral layer of our modern society and as a product made by humans for humans, and what implications that has. In researching social media such as Instagram, the introduction of concepts like affordances and digital performances and how they relate to and are involved with networked media will be integral in understanding the complexity of these systems and their impacts on users and global societies as a whole.
Selected text 2 – Networks (word count 524)
Norman, D 1998, The design of everyday things, Basic Book, New York. (pp. 177-186)
This book examines and provides detailed descriptions of and solutions to issues to do with design, considering how the way things look affecting their usability. The selections focus heavily on the concept of affordance, the relation that the design of an object or system has to what users will assume its functionality and method of usage is, and how by failing to take affordance into account, user experience can be compromised to annoying or dangerous degrees. Complementing this, the author also recommends solutions to these issues by designing with regard to physical, semantic, cultural and logical constraints to make both simple and complex devices simple and intuitive to operate.
The text lays out and provides the reader with information in a very logical and easy to consume manner, with photographic examples of concepts and case studies it addresses being provided alongside annotated explanations of corresponding experiences and commentary. The introduction of key terms such as ‘mapping’, ‘affordance’, and ‘constraint’ are also accompanied by detailed explanations of their meanings, implications and applications in regard to both theoretical and practical situations provided in the text. Despite this clarity in the writing, it also poses the biggest detriment to the usability of the information provided by the text, as the extremely anecdotal nature of the writing style makes a lot of the text feel less like a credible source and more like an open letter or an article. Citations are also infrequent, with the author monologuing in the first person more often than not. A lot of the information also suffers from a degree of outdatedness, which despite being addressed in the text – the author claims the concepts are timeless and applicable to anything, anywhere, any time – fails to properly address the description of computer systems in terms of command lines and of projectors in addition to film slides. Another issue with the findings and conclusions drawn to in this text is the equalizing of all objects and systems, that is to say, the holding of door handles and command line computer systems in the same regard. While the sentiment that intuitive design makes all systems and objects better is absolutely valid, the variety in the degree of complexity between examples like a door handle and a computer system begin to redefine ‘simplicity’ and ‘intuitiveness’, as with some study and practice a command line is as intuitive as the spreadsheet program the author of the text lauded, while not facing any limitations in the strive for simplicity.
This text is a very good introduction to the concepts required to properly analyse good and bad design choices, providing a foundation for further research – applicable to social media studies as well – into the implications and manipulation of these design choices to do with hierarchy and dark paths. However, this text is a very human introduction, written in a manner that is not particularly academic, and suffers in credibility in some places. The age of the text may also create a disconnect between the concepts being explained and the contemporary usage and implications of those concepts, despite the information provided being widely applicable to many different systems, objects and circumstances.
Selected text 3- Social Media (word count 501)
Hinton, S & Hjorth L 2013, Understanding Social Media. Sage Publications, London 2013. (pp. 1-31)
This text is an introduction to Web 2.0 and social media in the broadest sense, giving a brief overview of the history of the internet and explaining the state of and implications put forward by the operation of the World Wide Web and social networking sites (SNSs) in a contemporary context. The text poses many useful questions and considerations to do with the social, cultural and commercial aspects of the web, focussing often on the idea of control and agency between the sites and technologies related to the web and the users of said constructs.
The reading has an emphasis on analysis and criticism of the relationship, both perceived and in reality, between the user and Web 2.0. The concept of “freedom through control” is analysed throughout, with the dichotomy of users being both empowered by their perceived ability to produce and critique whatever they want as well as being disenfranchised and commodified by commercial social networking sites that monitor and subtly guide every movement being pervasive. The clear explanation of the separation between Web 1.0 and 2.0 being the difference between a system where one only consumes to another where one is free and often encouraged to create also colours the opinions, analyses and information that is provided. The description of the history of the web is also concise yet comprehensive, providing foundation information useful to both those who know nothing of the subject as well as those who are well versed. The information provided in the body of this text is also well sourced and contains many quotes from experts in the field, further legitimizing the text and providing readers with the ability to branch off into the works of other experts in this field of study. However, the entire excerpt is presented in a rather pessimistic light, perhaps appropriate given the subject matter, but nonetheless unhelpful in providing a balanced analysis of the relationship between control and freedom in modern online spaces, as to pick one extreme can result in the invalidation of the other (a topic that is addressed in the conclusion to the text).
The text gives ample information, reasoning and fodder for further analysis and thought in it’s general subject matter of agency and control between SNSs and users, making it an ideal piece of reference material for research on Instagram and the nature of sharing images on the network. By introducing the notion of SNSs having invisible control over users and how they make use of their platform, the topic of affordances (in this case in relation to Instagram) becomes recontextualised, providing an opportunity for deeper analysis into the ramifications of commercialisation in social media spaces. Moreover, the amount of quoting and referencing to other published works that this text has allows for it to be a jumping-off point for further research into both other aspects of this multifaceted field of study, as well as into the comparison of different expert opinions for the sake of providing a more thorough analysis of research questions.