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June 20, 2016 - Materialities

I learned a new word this week: affordances.
It is one of the favorite words used by Duncan on the Materialties program.

“An affordance is a relationship between the properties of an object and the capabilities of the agent that determine just how the object could possibly be used.”
Don Norman (2013). The Design of Everyday Things

My simple brain has thought of a way to remember this. It is like an “(b)affor-dance”. The thing/object makes a dance with someone/thing. Each thing/object and someone/thing have their own dances. The (b)affor-dance is before the dance has happened.

Our friends from wikepedia give the examples of (1) a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while (2) a cord affords pulling. In these examples it is the possibility of function that a thing has.

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It’s also a good word to start to understand, in the context of a knot, which rather than being the string, it is the affordance of that string in action. (hmmmm. When the thing is doing the anticipated or possible affordance, the word affordance is no longer relevant, there is perhaps some kind of tautology happening with a phrase like affordance in action). Or maybe I am just complicating things…better go and make some knots and stop thinking.