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Affordances in Technology Modeling

[+] Author Affiliations
Benjamin T. Ciavola, John K. Gershenson

Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI

Paper No. DETC2012-71432, pp. 365-372; 8 pages
  • ASME 2012 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 9th International Conference on Design Education; 24th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA, August 12–15, 2012
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4506-6
  • Copyright © 2012 by ASME


Understanding the mechanisms of technology change is essential for planning multi-generational products, especially for complex systems where subsystem interaction plays a central role. Recently, affordance theory has been proposed as an alternative modeling perspective to the current function-based approach. Using the affordance formulation of Gibson and the technology model of Heidegger, we demonstrate an affordance-based approach providing novel analytical insight into the nature of technical artifacts. This model accounts for the core of function-based methods and provides insight into static and dynamic accounts of performance level, principle of operation, and technology architecture. Implications of this affordance approach are discussed and future research is proposed. Implications include the possibility of reconciling and integrating function and affordance theory, accounting for the fundamental nature of technology change, and augmenting technology theory with a number of affordance-derived analytical principles. Opportunities for future research include development of practical tools for analyzing over-time dynamics and exploration of affordance theory’s implications for modular and product family design.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME
Topics: Modeling



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