Can we affordance more new words like this?

One of the features of any gathering of professionals is the way they talk in their own language – jargon, in other words. I see that the ATL Conference featured a moan about ‘Edu-babble’ yesterday. At last weekend’s NATE Conference there was some grumbling about ‘affordance’. It doesn’t even feature in the free online dictionaries I use most, such as Chambers and Mirriam-Webster. The ever-useful Wikipedia tells me that ‘an Affordance is an action that an individual can potentially perform in their environment’ and that it dates from 1977.

Do we real need this word? What’s wrong with ‘potential’?

3 thoughts on “Can we affordance more new words like this?”

  1. What’s wrong with opportunities? I suppose this is an abbreviation of ‘possibilities afforded by….’ Education, sociology and media/cultural studies are full of this kind of thing. It would be interesting to see what examples readers could come up with – especially if they could offer translations. This kind of exchange would of course be one of the affordances of this blog. (No objection to ‘blog’ – it describes something which is new – and in a single syllable too!)

  2. I do wonder about the use of ‘blogroll’ on this site (see the links on the right) – not my choice, the blogging program naughtily suggested it and I succumbed to the temptation to leave it!

  3. My son’s just shown me a copy of the book in which I think the term first appeared: ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ by Donald A Norman (originally published in 1988 as ‘The Psychology of Everyday Things’ – hmm, the title was apparently not designed carefully enough). “‘Affordance’ refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used’ (page 9). I suppose that, since the word has now entered at least some academic discourse, it must serve some purpose.

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