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Rethinking the Notion of Affordance in its Semiotic Dynamics

Morgagni Simone
Language of the article : French
DOI: 10.3406/intel.2011.1170
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LAs far as semiotic and cognitive theories are concerned, new digital texts and objects emphasize the need to refocus on the intimate connection between user and his environment, considered as a space where cognition emerges, is deployed and manipulated through repeated interactions between subject's body and the technological and cultural world which surrounds him. In this case, the concept of "affordance" assumes a more central importance. Originally developed in the framework of the Gestalt theory, the notion of Aufforderungscharackter was subsequently reworked and made famous through the notion of affordance integrated in the ecological approach to visual perception conceived by James Gibson. However, the concept has successively been integrated into a more binary conception of cognition, which seems to be responsible for the loss of much of its heuristic power. I intend to go back here to the genesis of the notion and propose a semiotic and dynamic reinterpretation of this concept, where affordances can be seen as dispositions to act and patterns of expectation that are, from the beginning, intrinsically linked to the social and cultural dimensions of the human world. I will show how semiotic activity cannot take place in an infinitely brief present-time, but needs to be comprehended into a more systemic approach to cognition, where the environment and the subject cannot be considered on the basis of a binary distinction, and where an intrinsically cultural microgenetic activity of perception and cognition is seen as necessary for the emergence of possibilities of action in material and digital objects. In this context, affordances may be explained as responses to a conceivable practical action made possible by habits that subjects consider on the basis of their inclusion into a system of practices and knowledge which foreshadows a specific and situated horizon of action.

Pour citer cet article :

Morgagni Simone (2011/1). Rethinking the Notion of Affordance in its Semiotic Dynamics. In Rosenthal Victor (Eds), Synesthesia and Intermodality, Intellectica, 55, (pp.241-270), DOI: 10.3406/intel.2011.1170.