Affordances for practice

Anne Laure Fayard, John Weeks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper argues that Gibson's concept of affordance inserts a powerful conceptual lens for the study of sociomateriality as enacted in contemporary organizational practices. Our objective in this paper is to develop a comprehensive view of affordances that builds upon the existing conceptualizations in the psychology, human-computer interaction, sociology and information systems literatures and extend them in three important ways. First, we show that taking an integrative interpretation of affordance as dispositional and relational, rather than the standard unidimensional interpretation, provides a theoretical articulation of how the material and the social influence each other. Second, we propose to broaden the focus from the affordances of technology to the affordances for practice provided jointly by technology and organizing. This means considering social affordances alongside technological affordances. Finally, we argue that the best way to integrate the study of social and technological affordances is not to stretch Gibson's original concept to include the social but rather to complement it with a sociological concept that fits it neatly: Bourdieu's idea of habitus. Our claim is that the concepts of affordance and habitus complement and complete each other. Affordance offers a useful way of thinking about how practice is patterned by the social and physical construction of technology and the material environment and habitus offers a useful way of thinking about how practice is patterned by social and symbolic structures. We describe how affordances and habitus may be used together to provide a theoretical apparatus to study practice as a sociomaterial entanglement, thus adding to the methodological toolkit of scholars embracing a sociomaterial perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-249
Number of pages14
JournalInformation and Organization
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Affordance
  • Habitus
  • Integrative interpretation
  • Practice
  • Sociomateriality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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