Affordances, Worldmaking & the Ethics of Creativity

Affordances are the relation between aspects of the environment & embodied skills. Creativity involves processes that change what is afforded to us. As such it works ecologically – to change environments & embodied practices such that a meaningful difference can emerge.

On the environment side of the relation, affordances can involve everything from sidewalks, traffic circles, hammers, chairs, to concepts, words, & aspects of our bodies, etc.

On the side of embodied skills, affordances can involve everything from young infants synchronizing facial expressions with their mothers, to the specific logics of discussions, walking, reading, & texting, etc.

At all levels, we are what we can do with the environments we have. This forms how we sense, see, understand ourselves, & act. Changing these changes how we sense, see, & act.

But neither aspects of the environment nor embodied skills exist in a vacuum. We need to add more nuance to the definition of an affordance to get at how active we are in the shaping of all aspects of the environment & our selves. We also need to actively recognize how powerfully & uniquely the things we make have an agency in our actions in ways that far exceeds our intentions.

An extended definition of affordances might then be something like this: Affordances are relations between aspects of the constructed environment & the constructed embodied abilities emerging from/in/of a historically constructed way of being (a world), as part of a constructed practice. Not the most elegant sentence, & one that owes a lot to Reitveld. But, hopefully it gets us to see how who we are, what we sense, see, & think is an outcome of the relational dynamics between actively made environments and bodies. We are of a world in the making -- that is never “the world”.

Creativity, as a process engaged with the production of differences – both in degree and kind, needs to acknowledge the ontological, ethical, and political dimensions of difference. Are we subsuming difference to one world – to one logic of affordances (a colonizing logic)? Are we allowing differing ontological worlds with different affordance logics to flourish (decolonizing)? Are we working towards novel worlds worth making?

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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