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A conceptual update of affordance theory that introduces the mechanisms and conditions framework, providing a vocabulary and critical perspective. Technological affordances mediate between the features of a technology and the outcomes of engagement with that technology. The concept of affordances, which migrated from psychology to design with Donald Norman's influential 198 A conceptual update of affordance theory that introduces the mechanisms and conditions framework, providing a vocabulary and critical perspective. Technological affordances mediate between the features of a technology and the outcomes of engagement with that technology. The concept of affordances, which migrated from psychology to design with Donald Norman's influential 1988 book, The Design of Everyday Things, offers a useful analytical tool in technology studies—but, Jenny Davis argues in How Artifacts Afford, it is in need of a conceptual update. Davis provides just such an update, introducing the mechanisms and conditions framework, which offers both a vocabulary and necessary critical perspective for affordance analyses. The mechanisms and conditions framework shifts the question from what objects afford to how objects afford, for whom, and under what circumstances. Davis shows that through this framework, analyses can account for the power and politics of technological artifacts. She situates the framework within a critical approach that views technology as materialized action. She explains how request, demand, encourage, discourage, refuse, and allow are mechanisms of affordance, and shows how these mechanisms take shape through variable conditions—perception, dexterity, and cultural and institutional legitimacy. Putting the framework into action, Davis identifies existing methodological approaches that complement it, including critical technocultural discourse analysis (CTDA), app feature analysis, and adversarial design. In today's rapidly changing sociotechnical landscape, the stakes of affordance analyses are high. Davis's mechanisms and conditions framework offers a timely theoretical reboot, providing tools for the crucial tasks of both analysis and design.


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A conceptual update of affordance theory that introduces the mechanisms and conditions framework, providing a vocabulary and critical perspective. Technological affordances mediate between the features of a technology and the outcomes of engagement with that technology. The concept of affordances, which migrated from psychology to design with Donald Norman's influential 198 A conceptual update of affordance theory that introduces the mechanisms and conditions framework, providing a vocabulary and critical perspective. Technological affordances mediate between the features of a technology and the outcomes of engagement with that technology. The concept of affordances, which migrated from psychology to design with Donald Norman's influential 1988 book, The Design of Everyday Things, offers a useful analytical tool in technology studies—but, Jenny Davis argues in How Artifacts Afford, it is in need of a conceptual update. Davis provides just such an update, introducing the mechanisms and conditions framework, which offers both a vocabulary and necessary critical perspective for affordance analyses. The mechanisms and conditions framework shifts the question from what objects afford to how objects afford, for whom, and under what circumstances. Davis shows that through this framework, analyses can account for the power and politics of technological artifacts. She situates the framework within a critical approach that views technology as materialized action. She explains how request, demand, encourage, discourage, refuse, and allow are mechanisms of affordance, and shows how these mechanisms take shape through variable conditions—perception, dexterity, and cultural and institutional legitimacy. Putting the framework into action, Davis identifies existing methodological approaches that complement it, including critical technocultural discourse analysis (CTDA), app feature analysis, and adversarial design. In today's rapidly changing sociotechnical landscape, the stakes of affordance analyses are high. Davis's mechanisms and conditions framework offers a timely theoretical reboot, providing tools for the crucial tasks of both analysis and design.

38 review for How Artifacts Afford: The Power and Politics of Everyday Things

  1. 5 out of 5

    EmelineB

    This is a great book for designers, researchers, and people interested in technologies. In 6 short chapters, Davis proposes: - an overview of the concept of affordance, why it's useful, and how to address concerns leveraged against it to use it fully - an overview of the history of the concept and how it spanned from psychology to fields as diverse as anthropology, media and communication studies, engineering, STS, education etc, as well as the two main critiques leveraged against it: that it is b This is a great book for designers, researchers, and people interested in technologies. In 6 short chapters, Davis proposes: - an overview of the concept of affordance, why it's useful, and how to address concerns leveraged against it to use it fully - an overview of the history of the concept and how it spanned from psychology to fields as diverse as anthropology, media and communication studies, engineering, STS, education etc, as well as the two main critiques leveraged against it: that it is binary and universal. - to address these critiques, she builds on the work of McLuhan, Actor Network Theory and Ernst Schraub to show that artifacts and people are co-constitutive (contrary to what McLuhan thought, technologies don't determine everything) and account for power effects (which was lacking in ANT) - a framework to discuss affordances, with two components: mechanisms and affordances - methods to understand and describe affordances (critical technocultural discourse analysis, walkthrough and feature analysis, values reflection and adversarial design) The book is full of empirical examples for easy understanding. It's a great support for teaching.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mary Heath

    This is a fantastic book. It acknowledges all of my previous concerns with the ambiguous and contradictory definitions of affordances, and does a fantastic job of introducing the mechanisms and conditions framework in a comprehensive and easy to read way. Strong examples throughout bolster the theoretical discussion further.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nelly Geerts

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ibrahim Cesar Bevilacqua

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hayley Evans

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    Andy

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    Frankie

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    Devon

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    Amy

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    Michael

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    Tiarnan

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    Steve Farrugia

  13. 4 out of 5

    Donna

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    Noah

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    Johan Wahyudi

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    Chris Lovin

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    Rachel

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    Nick

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    Taracuda

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    Rebecca

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    Mary Anne

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    Eric Jackson

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    Evan

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    Esteban

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    Silvio Lorusso

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    Lura

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    Paul Sparks

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    Nitin Rughoonauth

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    Jared

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    Dave Christensen

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    Mrunali

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    Jess

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    Manzoor Elahi

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    Bomani

  35. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

  36. 5 out of 5

    Jules

  37. 4 out of 5

    Faith

  38. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina Weschler

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