Situating Action II: Affordances for Interaction - The Social is Material for Design

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In this article, I explore an ecological approach to social interaction, using the concept of affordances to describe material properties of the environment that affect how people interact. My examples come mainly from the design of technologies that support collaboration. The physical properties of paper and electronic media - for instance electronic mail or video communication system - affects how they can be used and how people can use them to interact. Many of these effects are due to differences in the degree to which the media afford prediction and exploration. Because they are based on material properties, these affordances run deep, and trying to design against their grain is not easy. Difficulties of design, however, can shed light on subtleties o f interaction that might otherwise be overlooked. Thus design is both guided by, and can guide, an ecological approach to social interaction. Nonetheless, design is only one example of the wide range of issues an ecological approach to social behaviour might address. Such an approach may provide as fundamental a challenge to existing perspectives on social interaction as it has to traditional theories of perception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-129
JournalEcological Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1996

Research Group keywords

  • Interaction Research Studio

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