The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

Chapter 7 Affordances (May 2011)

Cloud created by:

Gráinne Conole
5 May 2011

This chapter defines the term affordances, starting from its original use in an Ecological context, through to its use in Human Computer Interactions (HCI). It will then consider how the term can be used to describe the characteristics of technologies, along with illustrative examples. Although the term is contested, I will argue that it is valuable in that it accurately describes the ways in which the inherent characteristics of different technologies can be instantiated in different context, and through the different preferences of individuals and how they interact with technologies. The chapter will describe how the term affordances can be used to help develop a better understanding of the characteristics of different technologies. 

Extra content

Embedded Content

added by Gráinne Conole


Antonella Esposito
4:02pm 12 May 2011

Hi Grainne,

I really enjoyed this chapter, because for the first time I did not struggle reading about this contested but key notion of “affordances” :-) Fluency goes along with complexity of discourse.

Your chapter recalls previous readings on the topic and prompts some questions:

-       as you know, Martin Oliver (2005) assumes a critical take on the history of the term “affordance”, and somewhat rejects the term because is incoherent as discussed by researchers, even if he states that anyway it is considered useful by designers, because it prompts reflection (although role of user of cultural conventions could be underplayed). Moreover, he defines Conole and Dyke’s (2004) taxonomy of ICT affordances as claims-based, since it is founded on “accounts of technology”. What do you think of such takes?

- Tony Bates (2010, pp.4-6) claims that ‘time affordances’ of ICTs is still underesearched. Do you think that ‘time affordances’ could be thought not only as constraints (i.e. time consuming) in ICTs, in a learning design perspective? Beyond async/sync different kind of ICTs time affordances, could a study of different time uses enabled by different tools make sense in e-learning design? Or could it be more useful to refer to time affordances of ICT-enhanced enviroments, instead of individual tools?

Thanks for sharing all that: when I tell researchers such open experiment, often they don't believe it...;-)


Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.