Socializing affordances: A dialogue between ecological psychology, cultural-historical activity theory, and phenomenology

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Gibson’s notion of affordances primarily regards the person as a biological, bodily being that is seen as experiencing and (re)acting in relation to objects in the environment. This theoretical grip on reciprocity is useful for grasping the meaning of things for action and as means to analytically comprehend the inseparability of person and environment; Gibson proposes, “that to perceive the world is to coperceive oneself” (Gibson 1986:141). However, from a cultural-historical perspective it can be argued that Gibson’s theory falls short in accounting for how other persons come to serve as affordances, or how societal aspects as embedded in institutional settings play a factor in the affordance quality of the world. This, to some extent, black boxes significant aspects of human experience, as we are indeed moved, inspired, and invited for acting or perceiving ourselves in certain ways, in relation to other people, as well as to more implicit societal aspects, such as standards or norms for behaviour as they are embedded in institutional settings. Hence it can be argued that the notion of affordances needs to be expanded to further grasp the significance of not only social others, but also the societal aspects of our shared lifeworld, in relation to my sense of self.Connecting to the practice of social psychiatry, this paper intends to explore the possibility for a further development of the notion of affordances that may allow us to grasp the meaning of social others in institutional practices, in relation to an experience of self. For this endeavour, Gibson’s notion of affordances will serve as turning point, as it holds promising potential as explanatory principle of how my self-understanding is intertwined with social others.The paper unfolds as a dialogue between ecological psychology, cultural-historical activity theory and phenomenology, and it builds on elaborations proposed by Bang (2009), Kono (2009), Schmidt (2007), and Pedersen & Bang (2016).
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventDiverse Lineages of Existentialism II: Critical Race, Feminist, & Continental Philosophy - Marvin Center, George Washington University, Washington, DC, United States
Duration: 3 Jun 20195 Jun 2019


ConferenceDiverse Lineages of Existentialism II
LocationMarvin Center, George Washington University
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWashington, DC
Internet address

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