What is a Book? An Ecological Account

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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