METAFFORDANCE - visualising the future since 2009


Distracted driving NZ


Metaffordance was developed by Dr PJ Treffner in 2009 to offer analysis, tools and techniques from psychology and complex systems science to help people optimise their perception, action, and interaction with the world.

Background (or skip down to What We Can Do For You)
"Metaffordances" are things or devices that allow creative interaction (from: "meta" = self-referential, and "affordances" = things that allow or afford actions).
An AFFORDANCE is a scientific term for the perceivable properties of something in the environment such that the thing is seen in terms of what actions are offered - definition by the renowned American experimental psychologist James Gibson.

We can see that a chair affords stepping up on...or sitting on...or picking up; it depends. If one wants to sit, we see that the chair offers an affordance of "sit-on-ability". Perception is possible because there is information - structured, reflected light all around us. It is composed of mathematical structures - "higher-order invariants", ratios, constants...patterns. We can perceive things (affordances) because this information is detected by our senses-brain-body system depending on what we want or intend to do (sit or step up or lift it, etc). In general, we do not "think" about what meaningful actions the world affords us...we simply and directly SEE the meaningful properties...we perceive what actions are possible. Most behaviour is based on perception, not thoughts. Perceptual information is all about ACTION. Because such "ecological information" exists and is about action, it is a new category of information (discovered by James Gibson, acknowledged as the 20th century's greatest perceptual psychologist). All organisms perceive their environments in terms of what actions are possible; they detect information to do this. Animals perceive meaningful affordances, not just meaningless things. This is because of the
"fit" between the organism and the environment - the ecological fit. Perception is an ecological phenomenon.
A metaffordance is a special kind of affordance - it is not just a is an information tool - a "second-order" affordance, a self-referential affordance, and it generates information. It affords not just actions like pressing a button (e.g., to turn on a laptop screen) but new information - about actions and interactions ("informactions"??). When you press a button on the computer game or website "inside" the computer screen, your action in that "virtual" world has real consequences for you - in both the virtual and the real world - the new information allows you to do new things..
Metaffordances provide opportunities beyond basic actions because metaffordances generate information about possible interactions
Affordances invite us to act; metaffordances invite us to interact...they act back - they respond.

The responsiveness of metaffordances, due to information generation, allows them to enhance and amplify human abilities beyond being mere "tools".

1. Pencil: It affords grasping (a basic action affordance) but it allows much more. It is a metaffordance for communication - it amplifies communication via the action of writing in a language. This allows interaction with those who can read because it can generate information.

2. Mobile phone: It affords picking up and holding (basic action affordances). But it is a metaffordance for verbal interaction and discussion between two interacting people. It generates (and transmits) information.

3. Video conference computer screen: It is a metaffordance for group interaction and debate. 

4. Augmented reality device (e.g., a smartphone with camera and superimposed graphics and text): It is graspable (the basic affordance) but it is a metaffordance for amplified interaction with the thing it is directed at (e.g., a restaurant app that superimposes menus or customer reviews when the screen is pointed at a particular pizza shop). Or Pokémon Go game - it allows virtual actions with real consequences - you go outside and walk around and look at stuff (to "capture" virtual animals). The walking is a real activity and a real consequence of the augmented reality game.

5. Surgical assistive robotics for bone cutting surface preparation during knee joint replacement: While being primarily moved by the surgeon's hand, the cutting tool may also be implicitly controlled by a camera-based position detection algorithm so that the assistive robot knows exactly where the tool is in relation to the limb and with sub-millimetre precision can restrict movement of the scalpel by creating virtual haptic barriers that provide force feedback resistance to the hand to avoid scalpel over-shoot. The scalpel is thus precisely constrained and confined to an area it is allowed to cut and grind. This allows the surgeon to apply the tool more precisely (and without worry of slippage error). This has created an immense advancement in joint replacement accuracy and post-operative outcome success. The assistive robot (robot arm + end-tool + 3D imaging screen + feedback system) is a metaffordance for surgeon's performing 21st century arthroplasty - it does not replace the surgeon but rather enhances and amplifies the information and thus the surgeon's ability and skill for replacing arthritic joints (e.g., the Mako robot).

What We Can Do For You
We provide tools and techniques to help you understand the opportunities for action in a changing world of increasing complexity and mental challenge.

With a background in cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and ecological psychology, we understand the key role of attention in human performance, and especially in safety. Having conducted the world's first study in real cars of how talking on a mobile phone degrades the control of driving, we have effective knowledge to pass on to you on how to dramatically improve your chances of good outcomes in complex information-intensive situations.

With extensive international experience in scientific research, we can provide expertise in data analysis, visualisation, data interpretation, and all stages of project management.

Together with associated experts and colleagues in the field, we offer techniques that provide solutions to complex, real world problems. Simple principles can generate complex patterns (even chaotic signals) and understanding the underlying dynamical principles is the key to progress. We have numerous scientific papers from our projects as proof-of-concept.

Let us help you not only see the simplicity in the complex, but act on it too.

- ANALYSIS: research and experimental design, statistical techniques, modelling, machine learning, neural networks;
- PSYCHOLOGY: perception and coordination, ecological approach, affordances, attentive driving, neuroscience, sports science; attention and perception, HCI and UX, ergonomics, motion capture, virtual reality;

- COMPLEX SYSTEMS: nonlinear dynamical systems (stability theory, attractors, chaos theory), mathematical analysis.








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Metaffordance - Realising the metaphor dance

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