Evoking a new way of thinking.
Key Vocabulary: Affordance
When self and context meet the opportunities which are presented to that self and which is that self recognizes are what we call affordances. J. J. Gibson (1977, 1979) first used the term "affordance" to refer to actionable properties between world and actor (a person or animal). To Gibson, affordances are relationships. They exist naturally; they do not have to be visible, known, or desirable. "Affordances provided by the environment are what it offers, what it provides, what it furnishes and what it invites"(Gibson, 1979). A chair can also afford holding things and therefore affords being used as a 'table', or it can afford being used as a step stool, or as decoration as an art object (among many other possibilities). Affordances extend across users and vary with them.
"An affordance is an action possibility available in the environment to an individual, independent of the individual's ability to perceive this possibility" (McGrenere & Ho, 2000).
Affordances occur when self and other,
perceiver and perceived, objects and persons meet in
actionable combinations. Affordances invite participation,
action and response. When circumstance invites reaction,
context demands a response, or the situation offers
opportunity, something is afforded. In affordance,
perception, information, and activity are related in a
manner that seems to beg for action. Affordances are about
opportunities, dangers, and possibilities that call
organism, consciousness and environment, to activity and
sense-making. Affordances are what points to the adjacent
possible. Getting the balance right of the 'something out
there' and the 'consciousness of the actant' may be a
philosophical nightmare, but we do it every day.
Opportunities for action only exist if there is an actant to
whom they appear.
Affordances are not just labels --- i.e. the product of a subject's naming something. Nor are affordances retrospective --- i.e. a quality of reality identified after-the-fact. Affordances are prospective --- context invites action, environment points to activity. In affordances, world, situation and location, point to action, shout for response and offer opportunities for attainment. Just as self interacts with context so too can other interact with context. Affordances are the possibilities and structures, opportunities and demands that physical and social environments present to existence. Affordances only exist in the relationship amongst situated environments and the observer. That observer need not be self: it could be other. Others will find their own affordances in context.
Affordances can (but only can) bring us from a possibility space to an activity. One will be drawn out by affordances, feel compelled to do things by affordances, and confronted by possibilities by affordances. The logic of affordances is a logic of relationship and possibility. Affordances are about the could be and not the IS.
Affordances in their application typically are cued and not coded. They are situation and context dependent. Affordances suggest that meaning is contained from inside one's self. Their perception and being attended to is a function of the mental state of the observer and not a direct quality of the item or situation offering the affordance. To the extent that affordances limit the actionable range of adjacent possibles, some portion of that limitation is thus a result of the mental state of the observer and is a direct function of the homologies available to that observer and which he/she accepts.
The absence of stasis means that one cannot
predict and control affordances. Possibilities, dangers, and
spiritual beliefs all resonate with circumstances, others,
and innovative actions. The effort to reduce all affordances
to a few causal combinations, amounts to reduction ad