Affordance networks

April 26, 2008

Yesterday Pirkko Hyvonen mentioned an interesting paper of the affordance networks. In this paper the ecological theory of knowing is elaborated that is in line with what i have been dealing with in my research.

It seems they eventually have same idea like i developed of an activity system as the place where affordances emerge as constraints (in their case affordance network).

They assume that when connecting learners to ecological networks where they can learn through engaged participation, the affordance networks must become activated.

What is different from my understanding is that in this paper they try to use the Gibson’s effectivity term “effectivity set, he or she is more likely to perceive and interact with the world in certain ways”, but i think behind this term effectivity we should look embodied knowledge and embodied simulation processes, which have been discussed in relation to mirror neuron studies.

Effectivity coupling with affordance networks is seen by them as intentionally bound system initiated by person or by the environment (external lifeworld), but i think that according to the embodied simulation theory such system or process is activated in the mutual interaction of goals and envoronment:

Hommel (2003), assumes that action control to all behavioral acts is ecologically delegated to the environment – when planning actions in terms of anticipated goals, the sensory-motor assemblies needed to reach the goal are simultaneously selectively activated in the environment, and bind together into a coherent whole that serves as an action-plan, facilitating the execution of the goal-directed actions through the interaction between the environment and its embodied sensory-motor activations.

Curriculum-Based Ecosystems: Supporting Knowing From an Ecological Perspective
Sasha A. Barab, & Wolff-Michael Roth

Educational Researcher, Vol. 35, No. 5, 3-13 (2006)

Knowledge acquisition may be overrated and that a more important role of education is to stimulate meaningful participation (Sfard, 1998), or what we describe as effectivity/affordance

Central to the situative perspective is the belief that one should abandon the treatment of concepts as self-contained entities and instead conceive of them as tools—tools that can be fully understood only through use.

The central tenets of this perspective with respect to knowing are that:
(a) knowing is an activity—not a thing;
(b) knowing is always contextualized—not abstract;
(c) knowing is reciprocally constructed in the individual–environment interaction—not objectively defined or subjectively created;
(d) knowing is a functional stance on the interaction—not a “truth” (Barab & Duffy, 2000).

Consistent with the situativity perspective, we argue for an ecological theory of what it means to know. Such a theory acknowledges the world as being structured to support goal-directed behaviors, while at the same time placing the realization of these meanings as part of the individual–environment relation.

Situating knowing and meaning as part of individual–environment relations, rather than solely
in the world or in the individual.

From ecological perspective, learning is a process of becoming prepared to effectively engage dynamic networks in the world in a goal-directed manner (Hoffmann & Roth, 2005).

Affordance networks, in contrast to the perceptual affordances described by Gibson, are extended in both time and space and can include sets of perceptual and cognitive affordances that collectively come to form the network for particular goal sets.

Affordance networks are not entirely delimited by their material, social, or cultural structure, although one may have elements of all of these; instead, they are functionally bound in terms of the facts, concepts, tools, methods, practices, commitments, and even people that can be enlisted toward the satisfaction of a particular goal.

In this way, affordance networks are dynamic sociocultural configurations that take on particular shape as a result of material, social, political, economic, cultural, historical, and even personal factors but always in relation to particular functions.

Affordance networks are not read onto the world, but instead continually “transact” (are coupled) with the world as part of a perception–action cycle in which each new action potentially expands or contracts one’s affordance network. Rather than separate the thinking individual from the physical environment, the ecological paradigm that underlies our thinking transcends the mind-body dualism, instead situating meaning in the dynamic transaction between mind and body.

The particular shape of a network changes with the dynamic interplay of these factors.

For a key bounding on the shape of any network for a particular individual is the effectivity set through which she comes to form relations with the network.

Connecting learners into ecological systems means coupling effectivity sets and affordance networks.

Each individual has a life-world.
The environment, from the vantage of any one individual, includes material, social, and even cultural resources, all of which share the act of successful participation.

Life-worlds are always structured in patterned ways that are functionally meaningful for an individual within some societally defined activity and are therefore inherently intelligible to others (Leont’ev, 1981; Mikhailov, 1980).

Life-world is an emergent phenomenon, with its particular shape being a result of the affordance network/effectivity set coupling, and persons’ goals being an essential factor contributing to whether a particular network becomes enlisted in supporting the emergence of one’s life-world.

Like activity systems (e.g., Engeström, 1987), affordance networks are functionally bounded, which implies that the boundaries are dependent on the intended outcome or function that they serve (i.e., they are situated with respect to the task at hand). Boundaries of a particular network lie in those aspects of a performance necessary to functionally address a particular goal to which the network has value.

For a particular individual, constraints exist in social, cultural, economic, and political factors such that they mediate whether a tool, resource, or even a particular stance can be found in her network.

An effectivity set constitutes those behaviors that an individual can in fact produce so as to realize and even generate affordance networks. When an individual has a particular effectivity set, he or she is more likely to perceive and interact with the world in certain ways—even noticing certain shapes of networks that are unavailable to others.

Effectivity sets are properties of individual–environment transactions out of which a new epistemic frame might emerge.

The dynamic coupling of an effectivity set to an affordance network forms what we refer to as an intentionally bound system. An intentionally bound system is not simply defined by the environment or the individual but emerges through the dynamic transaction that couples effectivity sets with affordance networks.

This coupling begins with an intention; whether the intention begins with the learner or the environment is inconsequential from an ecological perspective, in that the two are simply aspects of the same phenomenon.


One comment

  1. cool. I know from a

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