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Invalid command: Affordances, ICTs and user control

Best, K. (2009) Invalid command: Affordances, ICTs and user control. Information, Communication & Society, 12 (7). pp. 1015-1040.

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Recent studies of information and communication technologies as diverse as mobile phones, video games and computers have revealed the centrality of control issues to users. But although researchers have highlighted the centrality of control as a concept in understanding user experiences of digital technology, studies have not sufficiently prioritized the experience. Findings about control have been mostly tangential. We contend that a salient and central feature of our use of digital technologies is our experience of control, and a more robust understanding of this experience – and whether it is misplaced – is urgently necessary in our contemporary, highly networked society. In answer to this need, we have undertaken a qualitative study into user experiences of control. Our starting conjecture is that the more competent a technology's functional and perceived affordances, the greater the experience of user control. We draw on Rex Hartson's schema of technological affordances, which refer to the way in which technologies allow us to accomplish things in the world. Our findings indicate that Hartson's schema is useful as a starting point for categorizing different experiences of control, but needs to be modified and expanded. In addition to these two types of affordance, findings also indicate that users experience control issues in relation to what we term maintenance affordances, or the need to keep the technology going, and contextual affordances, or the abilities granted by the context of use.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright: 2009 Taylor & Francis
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