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On the Disciplinary Affordances of Semiotic Resources
Uppsala University. (Physics Education Research)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3244-2586
Uppsala University.
Uppsala University.
Uppsala University.
2014 (English)In: Book of Abstracts: The First Conference of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics (IACS-2014), September 25-27, 2014, 2014, 54-55 p.Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In the late 70’s Gibson (1979) introduced the concept of affordance. Initially framed around the needs of an organism in its environment, over the years the term has been appropriated and debated at length by a number of researchers in various fields. Most famous, perhaps is the disagreement between Gibson and Norman (1988) about whether affordances are inherent properties of objects or are only present when they are 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) have claimed that different modes have different specialized affordances. Then, building on this idea, Airey and Linder (2009) suggested that there is a critical constellation of modes that students need to achieve fluency in before they can experience a concept in an appropriate disciplinary manner. Later, Airey (2009) nuanced this claim, shifting the focus from the modes themselves to a critical constellation of semiotic resources, thus acknowledging that different semiotic resources within a mode often have different affordances (e.g. two or more diagrams may form the critical constellation).

In this theoretical paper the concept of disciplinary affordance (Fredlund et al., 2012) is suggested as a useful analytical tool for use in education. The concept makes a radical break with the views of both Gibson and Norman in that rather than focusing on the discernment of one individual, it refers to the disciplinary community as a whole. Put simply, the disciplinary affordances of a given semiotic resource are determined by those functions that the resource is expected to fulfil by the disciplinary community. Disciplinary affordances have thus been negotiated and developed within the discipline over time. As such, the question of whether these affordances are inherent or discerned becomes moot. Rather, from an educational perspective the issue is whether the meaning that a semiotic resource affords to an individual matches the disciplinary affordance assigned by the community. The power of the term for educational work is that learning can now be framed as coming to discern 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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. 54-55 p.
Keyword [en]
Affordances, Disciplinary affordance, Undergraduate Physics, Semiotics
National Category
Didactics General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-44400OAI: diva2:821720
The first Conference of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund, Sweden, 25-27 Sept 2014
Available from: 2015-06-15 Created: 2015-06-15 Last updated: 2016-05-30Bibliographically approved

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Airey, John
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