In The Affordances of Social Media Platforms The authors go through the history of the concept of affordance. They start from its roots in the field of ecological psychology with Gibson who first coined the term to describe how natural features of an environment afford different things to different species. For one species a tree branch affords climbing, to another it affords material for building a dam, while for humans it affords fuel for fire. Then they go on to Norman who appropriated the term to describe how objects are designed. Norman used affordance to describe how designers use formal properties of an object to communicate how it should be used. From their they investigate a variety of different affordances to show the wide range of ways affordance is conceptualized. This gives the reader a firm understanding of affordances which allows the authors to then expand the concept for use in specifically describing socio-technological environments. The context they provide earlier allows the reader to become familiar with the concept of affordance, then they draw on that familiarity to argue that using affordances effectively in the socio-technological context requires a platform-sensitive framework, where platform-sensitivity acknowledges that the unique ways a platform connects its various stakeholders further complicates how it can be described with affordances.
Response and Impact on My Thesis
I found language, terminologies, and concepts that make it easier for me to talk about the area I am studying and using them will make it easier for me to locate more material in this area. From this reading I discovered social media studies, imagined and vernacular affordances, low level affordances, and a methodology for analyzing websites called discursive interface analysis. A concept which I found useful was understanding a social media’s features as communicative actors, which rely on mutual understanding of the symbols and metaphor being used.
I am considering employing the discursive interface analysis methodology “which takes a site’s affordances as a starting point in order to analyse how they produce and make visible particular norms of use,” (Bucher, Taina, and Anne Helmond 18). I am interested in using the methodology to analyze websites that have features I want to incorporate into my concepts.
I was excited to discover imagined and vernacular affordances as I have been trying to describe such a concept but lacked the language. Imagined affordances describes how users may not be constrained to a particular way of using a platform but conform their behaviour to fit the culture that has already been established on it. So although Linkedin and Facebook have very similar affordances users imagine that Facebook affords connecting with friends and that Linkedin affords connecting with colleagues.
There were also arguments in the reading that I disagree with or felt were not fully defined. The authors proposed that algorithms are non-human agents which I disagree with. I believe algorithms are human agents in that they are designed by humans with a specific purpose. There was an area of the paper which flip things around to argue that platforms rely on their users as an affordance, not just affording actions to its users. While I understood the idea I felt it was poorly defined and left a lot of room for misinterpretation.
They do not give a definition of socio-technological environments, however in their paper they use the term to refer to websites, and social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.
Bucher, Taina, and Anne Helmond. 2017. “The Affordances of Social Media Platforms.” In The SAGE Handbook of Social Media, edited by Jean Burgess, Thomas Poell, and Alice Marwick. London and New York: SAGE Publications Ltd