In many cases through conventions A doorknob has the perceived affordance of

In many cases through conventions a doorknob has the

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In many cases, through conventions. A doorknob has the perceived affordance of graspability. But knowing that it is the doorknob that is used to open and close doors is learned: it is a cultural aspect of the design that knobs, handles, and bars, when placed on doors, are intended to enable the opening and shutting of those doors. The same devices on fixed walls would have a different interpretation: they might offer support, for example, but certainly not the possibility of opening the wall. The interpretation of a perceived affordance is a cultural convention. 146 The Design of Everyday Things CONVENTIONS ARE CULTURAL CONSTRAINTS Conventions are a special kind of cultural constraint. For example, the means by which people eat is subject to strong cultural constraints and conventions. Different cultures use different eating utensils. Some eat primarily with the fingers and bread. Some use elaborate serving devices. The same is true of almost every aspect of behavior imaginable, from the clothes that are worn; to the way one addresses elders, equals, and inferiors; and even to the order in which people enter or exit a room. What is considered correct and proper in one culture may be considered impolite in another. Although conventions provide valuable guidance for novel situations, their existence can make it difficult to enact change: consider the story of destination-control elevators. WHEN CONVENTIONS CHANGE: THE CASE OF DESTINATION-CONTROL ELEVATORS Operating the common elevator seems like a no-brainer. Press the button, get in the box, go up or down, get out. But we ve been encountering and documenting an array of curious design variations on this simple interaction, raising the question: Why? (From Portigal & Norvaisas, 2011.) This quotation comes from two design professionals who were so offended by a change in the controls for an elevator system that they wrote an entire article of complaint. What could possibly cause such an offense? Was it really bad design or, as the authors suggest, a completely unnecessary change to an otherwise satisfactory system? Here is what happened: the authors had encountered a new convention for elevators called Elevator Destination Control. Many people (including me) consider it superior to the one we are all used to. Its major disadvantage is that it is different. It violates customary convention. Violations of convention can be very disturbing. Here is the history. When modern elevators were first installed in buildings in the late 1800s, they always had a human operator who controlled
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the speed and direction of the elevator, stopped at the appropri- four: Knowing What to Do: Constraints, Discoverability, and Feedback 147 ate floors, and opened and shut the doors. People would enter the elevator, greet the operator, and state which floor they wished to travel to. When the elevators became automated, a similar convention was followed. People entered the elevator and told the elevator what floor they were traveling to by pushing the appropriately marked button inside the elevator.
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