In Week 2 of social media bootcamp, aka. LIBR 559M, affordance is a key theme in examining the use of social media. Affordance is an interesting concept in social media and Web 2.0. According to Wikipedia's entry, affordance is a "quality of an object, or an environment, that allows an individual to perform an action." Different technologies can be viewed under this light -- just how much affordance does each have, and how can we use these same principles in examining social media? With new tools emerging so rapidly, it's a challenge to keep up, let alone using them effectively in our every day work as information professionals.
Let's take a look at telephones: Telephones allow the placing and receiving of calls, which in isolation are not affordances, but which substantively enable the affordances of communication and information exchange. First coined by perceptual psychologist, J. J. Gibson who used it as a core component of his ecological theory of human perception, affordance is now used in a range of fields, including but not limited to cognitive psychology, industrial design, human-computer interaction (HCI) and interface design, and artificial intelligence. The Learning Affordances Wiki discusses six key points about affordances, and each has the potential in helping explore the affordances of any social media technology.
1. Positive and Negative - Affordances can be useful or a hindrance
2. Fit for Context - Affordances have to be fit for purpose - be aware that it may not work everywhere.
3. Changing Contexts - Because affordances do not transfer to each context, the learner must create and develop new affordances, to develop the ability to match a particular affordance to the context.
4. Ontologies - Affordance is relational, an adaptation – its part of a complex adaptive ecology.
5. Perception - Affordances are inseparable from perception. We perceive affordances rather than objects.
6. Ethics and Power - Because affordances also a way of taking up a position, they also endorse, challenge, undermine, confirm particular discourses - it means taking up a position within (or against) a social ecology.
7. Mastery - As a professional, there must be an ability to discriminate between contexts, which means being embedded in one's micro-culture and community as well as one's individual identity.