Communication Media:
Spheres of Invention

Davis Foulger
Visiting Associate Professor
Oswego State University

Poster Presentation at DIAC-02
Shaping the Network Society
May 18, 2002

Extended Abstract


Communication Media are Inventions


An Invention Quintet

  • A Medium is a continuously evolving system
  • Invention proceeds in 5 spheres of invention
    • Linear relationships
    • Operate in Parallel
  • The spheres
    • components/system
    • attributes
    • applications
    • emergent outcomes
    • rules and behavior
  • The Cycles
    • generic
    • systemic

An extension of Simon's "The Sciences of the Artificial"

  • Herbert Simon
    • describes artifacts in several ways



    • the inner artifact is:
      • what its made of
      • how organized
      • what attributes



    • the outer environment
      • what we use it for
      • its interaction with the larger world

The Cycle of Media (the inner artifact)

  • Mediators
    • A variety of Standard Types
      • modalities
        • (the interfaces of the organism)
      • interfaces
        • (reception, production, and controls)
      • filters
        • (concentrators, resistors, modifiers, and translators)
      • amplifiers
        • (volume control, manufacturing, and signal maintenence)
      • routers
        • (direction and selection)
      • envelopes
        • (addressing and labeling)

    • carriers
      • natural (air, light, touch, organism memory)
      • artificial (clay, paper, electricity, modulated light)
    • memory
      • natural (tooled natural materials, organism memory)
      • artificial (clay, paper, electronic recording media)
  • Characteristics
    • See my other poster (Networked Media and the Middle Ground)

  • Genre
    • What we use a medium for is the real interface with the environment


The Cycle of Genre (the outer environment)

  • We Invent Media in the ways in which we use them
  • Uses
    • A medium doesn't exist until it is used
    • Use is itself an invention
    • A medium is the sum of its uses
  • Effects
    • No medium is ever used without having effects
    • We decide what they are
      • Often through processes of negotiation

    • Effects may be intended or emergent
    • Emergent effects may be desirable or not
    • Which effect is which depends on who you are
      • Stakeholder interests diverge
  • Practices
    • We control and optimize effects through behavioral systems
    • Constraints on behavior: Laws, rules, enforcement, and processes
    • Generic behavior: Emergent/recurring patterns of behavior that works

Two Primary Cycles


Two Cycles of Development

  • A Cycle of Prototyping (Use Cases)
    • We develop a use
    • We identify target user populations
    • We collect a set of requirements
    • At least in part by exploring a use case
      • Supports conventional UI and Regression Testing
      • Improvement from "If you built it they will come"
    • A commonly used development methodology
    • But disconnected from the realities of use

  • A Cycle of Beta Testing
    • Brings use into the development process
    • By giving users ability to try out early versions
    • Allows users to identify failures and bugs
      • Early identification of major UI problems
      • Identification of tertiary and greater interaction bugs that regression testing can't find
    • May even allow new uses to emerge
      • if you actually look for them
    • But does not identify/optimize practice

References