‘Affordance’ - what does this mean?

Stephen Harwood, Najmeh Hafezieh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The growing use of the concept of an affordance raises questions about its meaning and has led to much debate. This exploratory evaluation of usage reveals divergent meanings, exposes tensions and explains why there is confusion about the concept. The notion of an affordance focuses attention upon possible action, raising the issue of how affordances give rise to action. The discussion reveals latency in the nature of affordances, that they do not exist in isolation, can be designed into artefacts and have social, temporal and spatial dimensions for their actualization. An affordance is a necessary condition for its enactment, but sufficiency arises with the situatedness of enactment. Moreover, an affordance, which is actualized through its enactment, is thus performative. It is concluded that the term affordance should be used with caution and with more precision and rigour, as its everyday use is fraught with vagueness saying little about the complex dynamics that underpins affordance as a concept.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication22nd UK Academy for Information Systems International Conference
Subtitle of host publicationUbiquitous Information Systems: Surviving & Thriving in a Connected Society
EditorsMarie Griffiths, Rachel McLean, Maria Kutar
Place of PublicationOxford
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2017
Event22nd UKAIS Annual Conference, St Catherine’s College Oxford, UK, 4th-5th April 2017 - St Catherine’s College Oxford, UK, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Apr 20175 Apr 2017


Conference22nd UKAIS Annual Conference, St Catherine’s College Oxford, UK, 4th-5th April 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • affordances
  • conceptualisation
  • theory
  • socio-materiality
  • performativity


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