Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning

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Actant affordances: a brief history of affordance theory and a Latourian extension for education technology research

Craig Blewett, Wayne Hugo


Affordance theory provides a useful lens to explore the action opportunities that arise
between users and technology, especially in education. However developments in the theory
have resulted both in confusion and misapplication, due partly to issues related to affordance
theory’s ontology. This paper outlines two competing perspectives on affordances by Gibson
and Norman, before arguing that Latour’s theory of ‘actants’ provides a useful middle way
between these competing positions. This ‘actant affordance’ provides new opportunities for
undertaking educational technology research that focuses on the network of negotiations
taking place between actants (student, teacher, technology, pedagogy, etc.) rather than
studying causality or simple binaries.

Keywords: actants, affordances, Actor Network Theory, educational technology

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