Janet Vertesi

Download Full EssayFrom Affordances to Accomplishments

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This paper examines the use of mundane software suites– Microsoft’s Powerpoint and Excel – on two NASA exploration missions. The programs are almost never used for their bullet-text presentations or numerical tabulation, however. Instead, members of each team use different and often overlooked aspects of the programs to serve local organizational goals and reproduce local interactional logics. While this might appear to be a simple case of using the “affordances” of each software suite to local advantage, this paper argues for a reformulation of the term and an analytical vocabulary developed along STS lines to address the gap between a technology’s designed possibilities for use, and local practices of deployment.