Fashioning Affordances: A Critical Approach to Clothing as an Affordance Transforming Technology

Abstract

Affordances are standardly understood as perceived possibilities for interaction. What is afforded is in turn regarded as dependent on the properties of a body and its environment. Human bodies are nearly ubiquitously clothed, and clothing can change the capabilities of bodies. We argue that when clothing does this, it should be regarded as an affordance transforming technology. Clothing receives passing attention in remarks by Gibson, and some empirical work in ecological psychology uses worn items as experimental manipulations. We argue that the effects of clothing should be a central topic of investigation. We further show how the notion of clothing as an affordance transforming technology allows ecological psychology to accommodate feminist insights about the restrictive or oppressive nature of some gendered clothing norms. We aim to show that if ecological psychology is to be a general framework for thinking about human perception and activity, then it should consider clothing, because of the differences it can make to what is afforded. It should do so critically because the ways that clothing transforms affordances are sometimes discriminating in that what people are expected to wear and what differences that makes aren’t independent of how they’re classified in systems of power and oppression.

Author Profiles

David Spurrett
University of KwaZulu-Natal

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2023-01-10

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