Reconsidering a multivalent concept: An integrated affordance framework to approach technology and social media use
Keywords:affordances, imagined affordances, technology, social media, social media sites, relationality
The affordance concept has been widely used in communication studies to theorize and examine social media use beyond specific features and practices. However, its implementation is characterized by an inconsistent use of terms and a neglect of the concept’s relationality. The present article demonstrates and addresses these shortcomings. First, it briefly reviews the affordance perspective’s origins and its further development in communication literature. Second, it outlines the perspective’s diverse but inconsistent application in social media research. Third, it introduces an integrated framework that contributes to a better understanding of affordances and supports a more precise use of the underlying concepts and terms in social media research. The framework a) emphasizes the relational nature of affordances as opportunities for action that occur in various technological and social contexts and are contingent on designed and cognitive mechanisms, b) it highlights the abstract nature of individual, relational, and collective affordances that are distinct from outcomes such as practices and structures, and c) it encompasses effects and dynamics that impact both technology and actors. Drawing on the framework, the article concludes with conceptional, empirical and terminological implications for future research approaching technology and social media use from an affordance perspective.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Tobias Frey
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