Monday, December 04, 2006

Affordances, Identities, and Communities of Inquiry

#1 Learning
Learning is the smile that arises from ...
interesting conversations
interesting experiments
and good practise

#2 Learning
Learning is the smile that arises from ...
& mastering

new affordances.

I don't usually go for definitions, they just get in the way of thinking, mostly.

However, these 'takes' on learning, deliberately quite different, do give me a way in to discussing what I mean by a 'constructivist' or a 'complexity theory' approach to learning.

Learning #1 is constructivist, and 'interactionist' (if there is such a word) and it links into my re-purposed term 'Interactive and communicative technologies', or 'I@CT') which I use to describe anything from sophisticated web-based learning spaces to the good old water-cooler.

Learning #2 is based in complexity theory, and in Gibson's interestingly radical concept of 'affordances'. According to this view, affordances are not just a fancy term for 'strengths' or 'opportunities'. Affordances are the product of the interaction between the individual and what they perceive in their environment.

Gibson goes so far as to say that the affordances are what the individual perceives, making perception an active and interactive activity. [This is way outside the mechanical Shannon-Weaver model that unfortunately found its way across from telecoms to social science some years ago, and has been used by the epistemologically naive and confused ever since].

What follows is even more interesting: The affordances that you explore, benchmark and master are integral to the way in which you perceive the world, i.e. they are integral to who you are, and your identity.

So ...

Learning new affordances changes your identity - personal, social and professional identities. Communicating within the process of learning, and communicating what you have learnt, happens within a community - a semiotic community, various social communities, and variants of professional communities.

Which takes us back to Learning #1: i.e., learning is about becoming part of various conversations, experiments and practices, through interacting with(in) various communities. And so learning also consolidates, or challenges, the identities of these communities, pariticularly those communities which are communities of inquiry.


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