"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 such
that the thing is seen in terms of what actions are allowed (definition by the famous experimental psychologist
James Gibson). We can see that a chair affords stepping up on...or sitting on...or picking up; it depends. This
is because there is body-scaled information (structured, reflected light composed of higher-order invariants). We
can perceive (affordances) because information is detected by our senses+brain+body system). We do not need
to "think" about what meaningful actions the world affords us...we simply SEE these meaningful properties. Because
"ecological information" exists and is all about action, it is a new type of information (discovered by Gibson and who
is often acknowledged as the 20th century's greatest scientific psychologist). All organisms
perceive their environments in terms of what actions are possible.
A metaffordance is a special kind of affordance - it 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 to turn on a laptop screen but new information actions and interactions
("informactions" we might say) when you press a button on the game or website "inside" the screen. Your action in
the "virtual" world has real consequences for you in both the real and the virtual world just as a real action in the real
world has real consequences for you.
Metaffordances provide opportunities beyond basic actions because metaffordances generate
information about possible interactions.
Affordances invite us to act; metaffordances invite us to interact.
A pencil 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.
A mobile phone 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
A video conference computer screen is a metaffordance for group interaction and debate.
An augmented reality device (e.g., a smartphone or tablet screen with camera and superimposed graphics
and text) 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 which (although useless) allows virtual actions with real consequences - you go outside and walk
and look at stuff.
What we can do for you (but read the Background too!)
provide ideas, tools, and techniques - metaffordances - to help you understand the opportunities for action in an ever-changing
world of increasing complexity and mental and physical 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
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 that are
not only proof-of-concept...they SAVE LIVES.
Let us help you not only see the simplicity in the complex, but act on it too.