Artefact ecologies

January 17, 2008

Today i found a paper, which partially comes close to some ideas about tools, affordances and embodiment as some ecological system. Some ideas or formulations i don’t support 100 % (eg. artifacts have affordances perceived by the user who acts with them) and these seem to be not in accordance with the way they explain the dynamic and mutually influencing and emergent nature of affordances. Maybe it is the question of formulation rather than the step back. There notion of embodiment is not based on new ideas from neural findings.

Artefact Ecologies: Supporting Embodied Meeting Practices with Distance Access

Dhaval Vyas
Alan Dix

Material artifacts related with practices play a critical role in the activity formation.

Authors introduce the notion of artifact ecologies, which refer to a system of consisting digital and physical artifacts, people, their work practices and values, and lays emphasis on the role artifacts play in embodiment, work coordination and supporting remote awareness.

From the biological ecologies they take the following characteristics:
Ecology is made up of heterogeneous objects (environment) and organisms (species)
Organisms interact mutually
Interactions emerge between counterparts of the ecology
Organisms and objects are mutually adaptive
Organisms are co-adaptive with other organisms

artifact ecology Vyas & Dix, 2007

Artifacts have affordances perceived by the user(s) who then act on them.
However, performing action changes the situation culturally, cognitively, physically (eg. user’s awareness of affordances increases when using an artifact).
This leads to reflection on the potential uses of artifacts and people’s roles (constraints on action).
Once the users are aware, their perceived affordances change.

They distinguish 3 levels of affordances: personal, organization/community and culture level, which differ also on the level of how rapidly they can change.
Affordances of different levels influence each other.
For example affordances one person can perceive may depend on the affordances the community perceives or culture uses as norms.

They refer to Ilyenkov (1977), who sees the creation of artifacts and tools as embodying practices of the community, claiming that artifacts embody cultural norms and values.

The notion of artifact ecology offers a set of analytical properties of artifacts that emerge from the interaction between participants and artefacts in different situations.

Embodiment: Artifacts allow participants to use their bodily skills and their familiarity of the real world objects.

embodiment of meetings, vyas & Dix 2007


One comment

  1. […] was a reference to Ilyenkov and significances as Soviet version of affordances in one paper of artifact ecologies that i wanted to check out for a while ago. But then i came to this paper […]

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