[NetBehaviour] 'Rethinking Affordance' journal special issue and symposium

Martin Zeilinger martin.j.zeilinger at gmail.com
Thu Jan 18 18:52:57 CET 2018

I thought this might be an interesting opportunity for some list members; symposium participation will likely be fully funded. (With apologies for cross-posting)
Find more info at https://rethinkingaffordance.com/ <https://rethinkingaffordance.com/>

All best,


Call for Papers: Rethinking Affordance
Special Issue (Media Theory) & Symposium (Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, June 8 - 9 2018)
Co-editors and co-organisers: Ashley Scarlett and Martin Zeilinger

Abstracts and expressions of interest due by: January 29th, 2018

Responding to the continued and accelerating rise of algorithmic culture, this journal special issue and corresponding symposium will explore critical intersections between artistic practice and efforts to re-imagine the concept of ‘affordance’ for the digital.

Theoretical considerations of ‘affordance’ originate at the intersection of perceptual and cognitive psychology, specifically within the context of J.J. Gibson’s work from the mid-60s onwards. According to Gibson, ‘affordance’ sought to account for the actionable properties of a physical object or environment. An object’s affordances, in other words, describe its phenomenological qualities, projecting potential uses, delimiting possible actions, and signaling perceived functions. While discontinuities between established discourses on ‘affordance’ and its contemporary deployment have been widely identified and problematized, the theoretical parameters of digital affordances remain under-examined. As a result, despite its frequent application within the domains of, for example, HCI, media studies and contemporary design, ‘affordance’ continues to operate within a conceptual framework that largely ignores the specific grounds of contemporary computation, resting instead on the physicality, phenomenological accessibility, and perceived liveliness of objects. Importantly, each of these defining characteristics are fundamentally incompatible with what are increasingly referred to as the processual, ‘deep,’ and unperceivable realities of algorithmic systems. Deploying the concept of affordance without a reexamination of its digital specificity (for example when it comes to interaction design, user experience design, or software development) ultimately means to foreclose opportunities for generative critique, limiting the potential for creative, alternative, subversive, and radically different uses of digital artefacts and processes. 

In an effort to delineate and address gaps in contemporary criticism, our aim is to re-examine and correspondingly re-theorize the concept of ‘affordance.’ Because ‘affordance’ is often positioned at intersections of design and implementation, we are particularly interested in approaches that bridge or combine theoretical and practice-based concerns. As the history of art reveals, artists’ and designers’ access to emerging digital technologies has always informed their scientific, industrial, commercial and rhetorical development. We therefore invite both media theorists and media practitioners (artists, designers, curators, etc.) to join us in exploring the critical historical and contemporary valences of ‘affordance,’ by proposing and submitting essays, artist position statements, and symposium presentations that engage with the following intersecting areas of inquiry:

- Explorations of the historical and contemporary roles artists have played in shaping and delimiting the affordances of emerging digital technologies;
- Theorization of the contemporary realization of 'affordance' across and within digital and algorithmic contexts; and
- Analyses of how creative practice can inform a critical rethinking of existing philosophies of affordance. 

Interested parties are encouraged to send a 300-word abstract to rethinking.affordance at gmail.com <mailto:rethinking.affordance at gmail.com> by January 29th, 2018. Authors will be notified of acceptance in early February.

The Rethinking Affordance symposium is scheduled to take place at Akademie Schloss Solitude from June 8th – 9th (http://www.akademie-solitude.de <http://www.akademie-solitude.de/>). The symposium will serve both as a presentation and workshopping platform. It is scheduled to take place in conjunction with a thematically aligned exhibition and web-residency. Participants will be provided with accommodations for the duration of the symposium. Small travel bursaries intended to partially subsidize participation may also be available.

Symposium presenters will be invited to submit their longer research essays (6,000-8,000 words inclusive of notes and references) and/or shorter critical position statements for peer-reviewed inclusion in a corresponding special issue of the journal Media Theory (http://mediatheoryjournal.org/ <http://mediatheoryjournal.org/>). Full papers for peer-review will be due July 15, 2018 with a projected publication date of early 2019. The submission guidelines can be found here: http://mediatheoryjournal.org/editorial-policies/journal-submission-guidelines/ <http://mediatheoryjournal.org/editorial-policies/journal-submission-guidelines/>
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