The concept of disciplinary affordance

John Airey, Urban Eriksson, Tobias Fredlund, Cedric Linder

Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragMuntlig presentation


Since its introduction by Gibson (1979) the concept of affordance has been discussed at length by a number of researchers. Most famous, perhaps is the disagreement between Gibson and Norman (1988) about whether affordances are inherent properties of objects or are only present when perceived by an organism. More recently, affordance has been drawn on in the educational arena, particularly with respect to multimodality (see Linder (2013) for a recent example). Here, Kress et al (2001) claim that different modes have different specialized affordances.


In this theoretical paper the concept of disciplinary affordance (Fredlund et al., 2012) is suggested as a useful analytical educational tool. The concept makes a radical break with the views of both Gibson and Norman in that rather than focusing on the perception of an individual, it refers to the disciplinary community as a whole. Put simply, the disciplinary affordances of a given semiotic resource are determined by the functions that it is expected to fulfil for the discipline. As such, the question of whether these affordances are inherent or perceived becomes moot. Rather, the issue is whether what a semiotic resource affords to an individual matches the disciplinary affordance. The power of the term is that learning can now be framed as coming to perceive the disciplinary affordances of semiotic resources.


In this paper we will briefly discuss the history of the term affordance, define the term disciplinary affordance and illustrate its usefulness in a number of educational settings

StatusPublicerad - 2014
EvenemangThe 5th international 360° conference: Encompassing the Multimodality of Knowledge, May 8-10 2014, Aarhus -
Varaktighet: 1980-jan.-01 → …


KonferensThe 5th international 360° conference: Encompassing the Multimodality of Knowledge, May 8-10 2014, Aarhus
Period80-01-01 → …

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