Affordances and the new political ecology

Roy Williams

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The theory of affordances has been around for many years, and is the foundation of the growing field of ecological psychology. What makes it more relevant, and more widely relevant today is that the way we perceive, act and interact in the internet society has changed, opened up and become dynamic on a global scale. This paper situates ‘affordances’ within an ecological framework based on complexity theory, and outlines the way in which Gibson sought to put perception ‘back into the world’, rather than seeing it as a purely cognitive matter, by formulating the concept of affordances as the product of interactions between the actor and the environment. Affordances are based on self-organisation, and are associated with change, adaptation and innovation. This chapter outlines in some detail how we can distinguish between affordances and uses, and how affordances relate to metaphors, science and, importantly, identity, communities and networks. Several scenarios are explored from political violence and terrorism, to test the idea affordances in practice. There is also the question of whether the modes of production of the internet society provide the basis not only for a range of affordances in particular contexts, but also in the much wider range of emerging, global, activities. Knorr-Cetina’s theory of ‘microglobal structures’ provides examples of just such emerging, flexible, global structures, in finance and terrorism, and these are explored at some length, to draw out the implications for political violence and terrorism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTerrorism and affordance
EditorsM. Taylor, P. Currie
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherContinuum International Publishing
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9781441133816
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

Publication series

NameNew directions in terrorism studies


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