Resource title

Photocopiers and water-coolers. The affordances of informal interaction (RV of 2005/46/OB)

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There has been increasing recognition of the importance of informal interactions in organizations, but practical attempts to control the level of informal interaction by design have been marked by unintended consequences, and research examining the effects of the physical environment on informal interaction has produced contradictory results. Drawing upon a qualitative study of informal interactions observed in photocopier rooms in three organizations, this paper builds on the work of ecological psychologist, James Gibson, to develop a theory of the affordances of informal interaction. The affordances of an environment are the possibilities for action called forth by it to a perceiving subject. Research on affordances has typically focused on the physical affordances of individual behavior. We introduce the notion of social affordances and identify the social and physical environment to afford informal interactions. The theory of affordances provides a lens through which to reinterpret the conflicting results of previous studies and to re-examine the seemingly simple water-cooler around which the organization gathers.

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en

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application/pdf

Resource resource URL

http://flora.insead.edu/fichiersti_wp/inseadwp2006/2006-05.pdf

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Copyright INSEAD. All rights reserved