How Artifacts Afford: The Power and Politics of Everyday Things

Resource type
How Artifacts Afford: The Power and Politics of Everyday Things
Technologies are intrinsically social. They reflect human values and affect human behavior. The social dynamics of technology materialize through design features that shape how a technology functions and to what effect. The shaping effects of technology are represented in scholarly fields by the concept of “affordances.” Affordances are the ways design features enable and constrain user engagement and social action. This has been a central construct for designers and technology theorists since foundational statements on the topic from JJ Gibson and Don Norman in the 1970s and 80s. With the rise of digitization and widespread automation, “affordance” has entered common parlance and resurged within academic discourse and debate. Davis provides a conceptual update on affordance theory along with a cogent scaffold that shifts the orienting question from what technologies afford, to how technologies afford, for whom, and under what circumstances? “How Artifacts Afford” introduces the mechanisms and conditions framework of affordances in which technologies request, demand, encourage, discourage, refuse, and allow social action, varying across subjects and circumstances. Underlying this mechanisms and conditions framework is a sharp focus on the politics and power encoded in sociotechnical systems. In this timely theoretical reboot, Davis brings clarity to the affordance concept, situates the concept within a broader history of technology studies, and demonstrates how the mechanisms and conditions framework can serve as a transferrable tool of inquiry, critique, and (re)design.
Cambridge, MA
MIT Press
# of Pages
Short Title
How Artifacts Afford
Library Catalogue
Davis, J. L. (2020). How Artifacts Afford: The Power and Politics of Everyday Things. MIT Press.