Knowledge Ecology

James Gibson’s theory of affordances suggests that what animals perceive in their environmentisnot so much the properties of individual objects but rather thepossibilities for action they enable. There’s a sense here that what things are and what thingsmean show up for the animal at the same time. On Gibson’s view, an ecological niche is thus best understood as a set of affordances made available byan animal’s capacities. For example, a nichemay afford climbing, sheltering, swimming, running, standing, eating, and so on.

Gibson notes that there’s a tight link between animal andniche, where the abilities of the animal and the properties of the niche mutually act to constrain the set of available affordances. In the case of humans, Gibson observes, the situation is a bit different in that weactively engage in the planned construction of our own affordance landscapes. (Had Gibson been alive today he no doubt would have paid greater…

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Watching the river, each handful of it closing over the next,
brown and swollen. Oaklimbs,
gnawed at by waterfilm, lifted, relifted, lapped-at all day in
this dance of non-discovery. All things are
possible. Last year’s leaves, coming unstuck from shore,
rippling suddenly again with the illusion,
and carried, twirling, shiny again and fat,
towards the quick throes of another tentative
conclusion, bobbing, circling in little suctions their stiff
on the surface compels. Nothing is virtual.
The long brown throat of it sucking up from some faraway melt.
Expression pouring forth, all content no meaning.
The force of it and the thingness of it identical.
Spit forth, licked up, snapped where the force
exceeds the weight, clickings, pockets.
A long sigh through the land, an exhalation.
I let the dog loose in this stretch. Crocus
appear in the gassy dank leaves. Many
earth gasses, rot gasses.
I take them in, breath at a time. I put my
breath back out
onto the scented immaterial. How the invisible
roils. I see from here and then
I see it from here.
see it from here and then
I see it from here.
Is there a new way of looking—
valences and little hooks —inevitabilities, proba-
bilities? It flaps and slaps. Is this body the one
I know as me? How private these words? And these? Can you
smell it, bronw with little froths at the rot’s lips,
meanwhiles and meanwhiles thawing then growing soggy then the
filaments where the leaf-matter accrued round a
pattern, a law, slipping off, precariously, bit by bit
and flicks, and swiftnesses suddenly more water than not.
The nature of goodness the mind exhales.
I see myself. I am a widening angle of
and nevertheless and this performance has rapidly—
nailing each point and then the next right point, inter-
locking, correct, correct again, each rightness snapping loose,
floating, hooking in the air, swirling, seed-down,
quick—the evidence of the visual henceforth—and henceforth, loosening-

-jorie graham