There are a range of theories that thrown light on affordances....

Connectivist Learning Theory 2009-03-10 (rw)
I am still sceptical as to whether this animal exists, so here are some thoughts, from a research project, on the Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC (CCK08):

'Connectivism' is a useful in principle to engage with the MOOC definitions of learning. But I think we need to be very careful not to fall into the hole that connectivism seems to have dug itself, namely the idea that a learning theory can be described in normative terms. (The why rather than the how questions).

The 5 principles of connectivist learning in CCK08 look to me to be a theory of humanist culture: a culture in which people can express themselves, socialise, dialogue, find patterns, and extend their humanity. Wonderful stuff, but it is not a learning theory. And I am afraid that ‘sense-making’ is just another word for learning. It adds little in the way it is used here. And even the slide 19 material could be a specification for a theory of ideology, not learning. :(

I use a shorthand formulation for learning, which is framed in terms of affordances (affordances are the ‘capacity for effective action within a dynamic context’):

.....Learning is the process of exploring, mastering and benchmarking new affordances.

.....Affordances in turn include skills, information and strategy: i.e. the capacity to carry out complex
tasks, informed by data about the task, the materials, the context, (the universe, if you like) in
a way that makes strategic sense in the particular context at a particular time.

or ... "learning is the smile ..." (see here )

To do all of this we require:
1. Exploration
A safe environment in which we can explore i.e in which we can make mistakes, and receive feedback, and reflect and meta-reflect on the process. Therefore we also require:

2. Communication
A communication system, to exchange ideas, and build concepts, models, etc: intellectual tools, to go with the physical tools.

3. Community [Benchmark]
A community in which exchange and tool-building (physical and intellectual) can take place.This needs some agreement on reciprocal exchange of goods, tools, opportunities to interact and so on.It is desirable that this should be equitable, but that is by no means a necessary condition (Habermas famously based his ‘ideal speech situation’ on this faulty premise).

4. Exchange and Capitalisation [Master]
Basic protocols for exchange of goods, credit, and ideas, so that we accumulate capital in all three, and don’t accumulate them too asymmetrically, as that generally leads to violence and war, and destroys the capital.(Aesthetic goods and ideas can be included if you can afford them).

The difference between the pre-internet and the ‘connectivist’ /networked society is that we now have a number of unique and unprecedented ways of doing all of these things.
So ...

1. Exploration
We have a virtual environment, as well as an off-line digital environment in which, in principle, we can explore and make mistakes, and give each other feedback.(Child pornography and abuse reminds us that we still have a lot to learn here).

2. Communication [Its more than connecting, no?]
The integrated and globally networked digital ecologies (tools, artefacts/actors, media, social software, MOOCs) we now have allow faster, more efficient and effective communication.

3. Community
The same digital ecology broadens the community and allows more access and more imaginative uses (including Al-Quaida networks, and junk-security financing, so lots of work still to do there too).

4. Exchange / Sharing / Capitalisation
The same digital ecology (pipes and bytes) improves our ability to produce and accumulate capital in all three areas (good, credit, and ideas) by radically increasing our ability to share, contest, and create protocols for capital formation, including capital formation in the network that allows this to happen (recursive capital formation, if you get my drift). (And ... new dilemmas such as whether the genome for Anthrax should be published in scientific journals reminds us of the work we have to do here, too).

5a. Distributed Cognition #2
What’s new (we must give connectivism its due, no?) is that knowledge / cognition is distributed in unprecedented ways, and resides more then ever in the network [not “in the pipes”, but in the relationships and the bytes between the nodes, many of whom are, crucially, human].Language has always been distributed cognition by definition (#1), but up to now its never been possible to hear what someone else is thinking on the other side of the planet (or in a moon capsule, if you must).

5b.What’s also new is that ‘distributed’ media no longer just means ‘consumed’ media, or ‘read only’ media, it also means ‘writeable media’ / ‘punk production’ / mashups, and even further [5c?] it means executable social software that you can download, apply, and customise.

This in turn provides new opportunities for exploring and making virtual (?) mistakes, and entering the digital ecology as a full member, i.e. a fully two-way ecological relationship, not just a mass media / mass market consumer relationship.

Ecological Psychology
There is a wealth of research on ecological psychology, much of it building on the work of Gibson (1979/86 in particular).
Here are some ideas on Perception, Action and Culture

Complexity Theory

There is a lot more on complexity in the K-M-etaphors wiki.

Actor-network theory
Reassembling the social, Latour's latest, and most useful book outlines some of the key aspects of
Actor-network Theory. This contains the first 25% of most chapters.


Semiotics is based on relations rather than ontologies or, it is relational rather than representational. Which means it has a 'family resemblance' to 'networks' and perhaps even to 'connectivism' !