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An activity theory approach to affordance

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Alan Blackwell.

This meeting of the group will discuss:

Brentsen, K.B. & Trettvik, J. (2002) An activity theory approach to affordance. In Proc. 2nd Nordic Conf. on HCI (NordiCHI), pp. 51-60).

link to paper on ACM portal (subscription required): http://tinyurl.com/9tk4m

The concept of affordance was introduced to the field of HCI as a means to enhance the understandability and usability of artifacts and especially their user interface. The results have however not been entirely convincing. This paper presents a theoretical analysis of the concept of affordance coined by James J. Gibson. The concept of affordance was meant to cut through the subjective-objective dichotomy of traditional psychology and philosophy, but its interpretation in HCI has often retained this dichotomy. We argue, that at least some of the misunderstanding of the concept is caused by the fact that Gibson focused mainly on the perceptual side of the concept, leaving the activity of the organism as a largely implicit precondition. We suggest that this shortcoming have significant consequences, but that they can be overcome by employing the concepts for activity and consciousness found in the Russian activity theory as a frame of reference for the concept of affordance.

Everyone attending is expected to read the paper in advance. Please bring a copy with you, preferably annotated with interesting reflections. The format of discussion will be a brief invited introduction/critique by two members of the group, followed by general discussion and informal mixing.

This talk is part of the Crucible/Microsoft HCI Reading Group series.

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