The Body in Society- Affordance, Conventions and Design

We were taught about the terms ‘affordance’ and ‘perceived accordance’ in our week 6 lecture. I had heard of these terms before but could not recall what their meanings were so was curious to find out their definitions. To explain simply, affordance is the relationship between a person and an object which results in the way the person naturally interacts with it. This idea  discussed in the article we read ‘Affordances, Conventions and Design’ (Donald A. Norman) ‘When you first see something you have never seen before, how do you know what to do? The answer, I decided, was that the required information was in the world: the appearance of the device could provide the critical clues required for its proper operation.’

Norman then followed with discussing perceived affordance, he claimed ‘I will make a global change, replacing all instances of the word “affordance” with the phrase “perceived affordance”.’ he then continues to define the term- it is more about what actions the user perceives to be possible than what is true.

He later refers both of these terms directly to my disciplinary of product design, showing how relevant both terms are to my chosen subject  ‘In product design, where one deals with real, physical objects, there can be both real and perceived affordances, and the two sets need not be the same.’

Norman then followed to discuss the different kinds of constraints):

  • Physical- When you are limited to what you can do physically with the object.
  • Logical- This is often your natural reaction to things and most people will find that the answers are obvious.
  • Cultural- Cultures have conventions that they follow, and if two cultures follow different conventions, it could lead to confusion.
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