Do depictions afford us anything?

First and foremost to be able to argue for the framework below, restructuring of the language use surrounding depictions may be needed. It is argued here that the overarching term should be alternative objects and alternative environments including the two (or four) subcategories depicted objects/environments and virtual objects/environments.

The main division bears on the ongoing discussion if depictions afford us anything (Wilson, 2013). This is an attempt to further this discussion.

Virtual objects (such as those used in screen-based research) are able to be interacted with –however, only in the virtual environment. Virtual objects, then, relies on a virtual environment. They do not afford the agent anything, unless the virtual objects are connected to the environment (for example controlling movement of an object in the environment by virtue of a Human Computer Interface). They do afford the virtual agent whatever the virtual environment and virtual objects are programmed to afford. Depicted objects then, do not afford an agent anything, but can provide (accurate or inaccurate) information about what the depicted object represents. They can inform us of possible affordances in the environment just like objects afforded to others, perceived by us, inform us that this affordance may be possible. The point of divergence then is that depicted objects do not afford us anything because we cannot become part of the depicted environment as depicted agents. Also, we cannot become agents in a depicted environment, we can only ever be agents in the environment. If we can become part of the depicted environment, it is not a depicted environment but a virtual environment -and we only become part of it as a virtual agent. Virtual objects do not afford agents anything if we strictly speak of the environment, however, as a virtual agent in the virtual environment the depictions afford the virtual agent, while it still only informs the agent because hie [ie:] is only ever in the environment. This is also to say that although an agent interacts with a virtual environment it necessarily has to be done through some form of apparatus/machinery, without it, the virtual environment would merely be a depiction.

An agent is thus not afforded anything, by neither depicted nor virtual objects/environments. Depicted objects can provide information that may or may not be useful in the environment, just like perceiving objects in the environment can provide such information. Virtual objects can afford virtual agents, just like objects can afford agents. They can also provide information, just like depicted objects. They can only afford agents by virtue of being connected back to the environment. This is however an oxymoron, because agents are still only in the environment, and only afforded something in the environment.