Accepted paper:

All the world's a stage: acting in the affordance space


Shaun Gallagher (University of Memphis)

Paper short abstract:

I use the theatrical concept of blocking to investigate the role of affordances in everyday life. This allows us to think of architectural and institutional design as in some way directing our actions, and provides a perspective on the normative constraints that guide our actions.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of blocking in theater concerns the design of the performance space, the placing and movement of objects or props and especially the positioning of actors for a particular scene. Its major function is to ensure that things and actors are positioned properly from the audience's perspective so they can see what's going on. In addition blocking can affect the specific meaning of a scene. From the actor's perspective, however, blocking has an additional function not usually discussed in the textbooks. It not only puts the actor in the right place at the right time, it facilitates the acting process. It scaffolds the actor's cognitive and pragmatic performance - specifically her memory for her lines and her actions. I use the concept of blocking to discuss everyday worldly action. I relate it to the Gibsonian notion of affordance, and to recent research on the notion of 'affordance space', in a way that allows us to think of architectural and institutional design as in some way directing our actions or imposing normative constraints. From the agent's perspective it's easy to see blocking as an example of distributed cognition, with strong normative overtones. Pursuing this line of thought raises an interesting question. Is there anything like an audience perspective in regard to everyday action?

panel Cog02
Creative environments, social minds