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Choose one of the objects you selected and describe how your initial understanding of its affordances changed over the course of the exercise?

I choose the key to interact with. When viewed phyisically and when interacting, there are no differences in affordance. Even when viewed from different angles, the key and the ring didn’t seem to convey any affordances at all in it design, shape and weight (which is light). It is not even sharp to be used as a defence tool, so if I’d never seen how a key works, I would never find any practical affordances for this small metal object, to be honest.

In its original environment and original intended use, a key has to be inserted to a matching key-hole which are specifically or uniquely designed to only open with a specific key that’screated for it. In a different environment, the key could beused to unhinge the cap of a tin can I suppose. This key has no obvious practical affordances, that any different person including an elderly, a child, a disable or left-handed person will not use it any differently than to open a key-hole.

Given that affordances is a relational property between a person and an object, how did the manipulation of the object and the person’s abilities inform your understanding of the concept? Did it give you inspiration or insight for how to work with affordances as a designer? Discuss this through the specific objects you explored in the exercise.

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A quick glance at the above contraption might bring forth some of our wildest imagination, what does it do, how to hold it and if it is functional at all or merely a useless accessory. After all, ‘affordance’ refers to ” the relationship between the abilities of a living creature, and features in the environment that afford action for those abilities” (Gibson, 1979). Initially, based on quick looks and quick feel of the ‘tool’, I understood that it useful to aid in eating food. It has a sharp blade on one end, a fork like on the other end, and two elongated sticks poking out, bound and pivoted from the mid-section.

So my interaction with the contraption was further tested when I has both my eyes closed. So I tried to approach the object as if I was actually handicapped visually, however, I still managed to use the contraption quite easily to pick up an object from the table:


In my opinion, being able to still pick up an object despite being handicapped, means that a good design should be able to convey its function and affordances, to any kind of users, ie: a universal and intuitive interface that requires almost zero adaptation to use properly, such as this surprisingly weird contraption, that still functions well even when the user is unable to see.


Norman, D.A. (1999). Affordance, conventions, and design. interactions 6(3): 38-43.

Overhill, H. (2012), J.J. Gibson and Marshall McLuhan: A survey of terminology and a proposed extension of the theory of affordances. Proc. Am. Soc. Info. Sci. Tech., 49: 1–4. doi:10.1002/meet.14504901340