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Signifiers as a First-class Abstraction in Hypermedia Multi-Agent Systems

2023-05-30 , Danai Vachtsevanou , Andrei Ciortea , Simon Mayer , Jérémy Lemee

Hypermedia APIs enable the design of reusable hypermedia clients that discover and exploit affordances on the Web. However, the reusability of such clients remains limited since they cannot plan and reason about their interactions. This paper provides a conceptual bridge between hypermedia-driven affordance exploitation on the Web and methods for representing and reasoning about actions that have been extensively explored in Multi-Agent Systems (MAS) and, more broadly, Artificial Intelligence. We build on concepts and methods from Affordance Theory and Human-Computer Interaction to introduce signifiers as a first-class abstraction in Web-based MAS: Signifiers are designed with respect to the agent-environment context of their usage and enable agents with heterogeneous abilities to act and to reason about action. We define a formal model for the contextual exposure of signifiers in hypermedia environments that aims to drive affordance exploitation. We demonstrate our approach with a prototypical Web-based MAS where two agents with different reasoning abilities proactively discover how to interact with their environment by perceiving only the signifiers that fit their abilities. We show that signifier exposure based on the dynamic agent-environment context helps to facilitate effective and efficient interactions on the Web.