Bob abelson proposed that in these cases we follow

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Bob Abelson proposed that in these cases we follow scripts that can guide the sequence of behavior. The sociologist Erving Goffman calls the social constraints on acceptable behavior frames, and he shows how they govern behavior even when a person is in a novel situation or novel culture. Danger awaits those who deliberately violate the frames of a culture. The next time you are in an elevator, try violating cultural norms and see how uncomfortable that makes you and the other people in the elevator. It doesn t take much: Stand facing the rear. Or look directly at some of the passengers. In a bus or streetcar, give your seat to the next athletic-looking person you see (the act is especially effective if you are elderly, pregnant, or disabled). In the case of the Lego motorcycle of Figure 4.1, cultural constraints determine the locations of the three lights of the motorcycle, which are otherwise physically interchangeable. Red is the culturally defined standard for a brake light, which is placed in the rear. And a police vehicle often has a blue flashing light on top. As for the yellow piece, this is an interesting example of cultural change: few people today remember that yellow used to be a standard headlight color in Europe and a few other locations (Lego comes from Denmark). Today, European and North American standards require white headlights. As a result, figuring out that the yellow piece represents a headlight on the front of the motorcycle is no longer as easy as it used to be. Cultural constraints are likely to change with time. SEMANTIC CONSTRAINTS Semantics is the study of meaning. Semantic constraints are those that rely upon the meaning of the situation to control the set of possible actions. In the case of the motorcycle, there is only one meaningful location for the rider, who must sit facing forward. The purpose of the windshield is to protect the rider s face, so it must be in front of the rider. Semantic constraints rely upon our knowledge of the situation and of the world. Such knowledge can be a powerful and important clue. But just as cultural constraints can change with time, so, too, can semantic ones. Extreme sports push 130 The Design of Everyday Things the boundaries of what we think of as meaningful and sensible. New technologies change the meanings of things. And creative people continually change how we interact with our technologies and one another. When cars become fully automated, communicating among themselves with wireless networks, what will be the meaning of the red lights on the rear of the auto? That the car is braking? But for whom would the signal be intended? The other cars would already know. The red light would become meaningless, so it could either be removed or it could be redefined to indicate some other condition. The meanings of today may not be the meanings of the future.
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LOGICAL CONSTRAINTS The blue light of the Lego motorcycle presents a special problem.
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