RE: affordances and knowing as situated in activity RE: [xmca]effectivity?

From: Helena Worthen (
Date: Tue Jan 24 2006 - 09:29:38 PST

Just a note from someone who has been lurking but not participating for a

When I use the term "affordances" in speaking with people who are not in the
xmca world, or when I am writing, the term itself makes my listeners or
readers draw away. It sounds like jargon, they say. So I don't use it. It's
a nice term but it is hard to use.

Helena Worthen
University of Illinois
Chicago Labor Education Program

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Tony Whitson
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2006 9:06 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: affordances and knowing as situated in activity RE:

Don, What would you say about the idea of "affordances" as used in
situated cognition by folks like Greeno? This clearly is not meant to be
just an instance of affordances as featured in Gibsonian perception
theory. It does seem to be pretty important for Greeno et al.'s way of
accounting for knowledge as an aspect of situated activity. Do you
disagree with such accounts, or do you think they would be better
articulated in terms of mediation? If the latter, could you say a little
bit more about what you see as the mediating terms and relations?

On Mon, 23 Jan 2006, Cunningham, Donald James wrote:

> Well, Ok, a hammer might afford learning in the right hands! ;-)
> Perhaps you meant "does a hammer afford pounding"? I would prefer to say
> it can mediate driving a nail. For me, to _afford_ has a more limited
> domain. Gibson talks about "information pick-up". Affordances are
> invariants available in the ambient optic array and perception of
> affordances results from monitoring those aspects of this array which
> persist and those which change. This conception places the affordance in
> the light, not in the needs or motives of the observer. By _analogy_ we
> can talk about perceiving features and relationships in the environment
> that persist and change and "picking up" the associated affordances. But
> Gibson is talking specifically about "direct" perception, not perception
> as mediated by prior knowledge and world view. It is as that point that
> I think it makes more sense to talk about mediation. What persists and
> what stays the same about a hammer? How come my wife, an innovative
> first grade teacher, relies on her shoe to accomplish most pounding
> tasks in her classroom? Would you say shoes 'afford' pounding? I would
> not.
> But then I spend a lot of time in the bushes......djc
> Don Cunningham
> Indiana University
> -----Original Message-----

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