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Leaving the Balancing Act Behind: Extending the Material-social Dimensions of Affordance Theory

Mon, August 13, 8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 5, Salon H


Research on the material dimensions of social behaviour has received increasing attention in the literature. Though the aim of addressing the material-social divide has taken new forms in sociology, it reflects a continued attempt to address long-held philosophical divides within the social sciences. These dualities of object and subject, structure and agency, determinism and volunteerism are chief areas of concern for the social sciences. Some of the literature presents this challenge as though the researcher is set on a high wire, balancing the contributions of either side of the divide, in attempts to avoid pitching over and falling into conceptual failure. Amidst this long-held challenge of attending to the material-social divide, many scholars have turned to affordance theory, aiming to integrate these dynamics rather than contribute to the continued ‘swing of the pendulum’ that oscillates between the two. This paper aims to demonstrate how this imagery of a balancing act can be discarded by actively recognizing the explanatory potential revealed in theoretical advancements. Through the use of a qualitative database created by the Cybernorms research group, this paper examines copyright infringement in exploring how social and material qualities can be mutually accounted for in affordance theory. Expanding the cognitive model of perception to include both the identification and judgment of affordances, this paper demonstrates how explanatory development of agentic elements offers potential to clarify the role of materiality in shaping behaviour. Attending to the perceptual judgment of affordances by copyright infringers will clarify the role of cognition, and aid in mapping out how physical and digital goods are differentially perceived and treated, thereby outlining possible impacts of material qualities in shaping consumption behaviour.


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