The troublesome concept of “technological affordances”
April 27, 2017 § Leave a comment
The word “affordance” is frequently used in writings about new technology. For example, danah boyd has stated that the “affordances” of “networked publics” include things like the persistence of information within them, and the ease by which information can be reproduced and transmitted far beyond its initial context of production.
The simple (but not quite accurate) understanding of the term is that it describes the possible uses that humans can make use of specific technologies. As such, it can sometimes be construed as an example of that great Bugbear of the social studies of technology: technological determinism. Technological determinism is the naive belief that technology is some sort of abstract force which influences society to some degree, but is not itself the product of social forces of any form. Technological determinism comes in several forms – the most common distinction is between “hard” and “soft” determinism, with “softer” versions viewing…
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