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Bodies, technologies and action possibilities: when is an affordance?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date06/2010
JournalSociology
Journal number3
Volume44
Number of pages19
Pages415-433
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Borrowed from ecological psychology, the concept of affordances is often said to offer the social study of technology a means of re-framing the question of what is, and what is not, ‘social’ about technological artefacts. The concept, many argue, enables us to chart a safe course between the perils of technological determinism and social constructivism. This article questions the sociological adequacy of the concept as conventionally deployed. Drawing on ethnographic work on the ways technological artefacts engage, and are engaged by, disabled bodies, we propose that the ‘affordances’ of technological objects are not reducible to their material constitution but are inextricably bound up with specific, historically situated modes of engagement and ways of life.