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The contested ontology of affordances: implications for researching technological affordances for collaborative knowledge production

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date08/2014
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Volume37
Number of pages9
Pages360-368
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Ontological debates on the nature of affordances muddy the waters for interpreting, comparing, and critiquing research on technological affordances. The widespread use of affordances has naturalised the term, often masking the import of its evolving social science definitions. Diversity in applications of affordances across disciplines has led to calls to abandon the term altogether. Following an abridged survey of ontological debates about their general and more specific technological nature, I examine a selection of thematically linked and often-cited papers on technological affordances. I compare those with evolving social science theories of affordances and with various conceptualizations of technical affordances. Implications are discussed of ontological debates around subject-object and directions of agency for research on technological affordances for collaborative learning and co-creation of new knowledge. A rationale is posited for including actor network theory-informed research practices as a route toward richer understanding of technological affordances among the mesh of meaning making, knowledge sharing, and creation practices in networked teams’ activities. Such rationales may shed further light on the extent to which technological affordances interact as in-situ enablers, restrictors, and regulators in the knowledge production activities of distributed collaborative teams.