Kath Bicknell

Blog

My partner, an analytical chemist, always laughs at academic work in the humanities¬† due to the large number of, what she calls, made up words. Something that always makes me smile about affordances, then, is that Ecological Psychologist James Gibson quite freely admits that he invented the term. Quoting from Wayne Christensen and I in a book chapter that’s just been published on affordances and anticipation in sport, Gibson described affordances as:

“what the environment ‘offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill’ (1979, 127, italics in original). For example, the ground affords walking, stairs afford climbing, a nearby cup affords grasping, a Facebook button affords liking (or, by 2017, other reactions such as surprise, sadness, or love)’ (Christensen and Bicknell 2018, 602).

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This chapter is one of several compelling contributions to the (impressively heavy) Handbook of Embodied Cognition and Sport Psychology. The book is a testament to editor Massimiliano Cappuccio’s work ethic and passion for the topics that fill its 770 pages, cleverly bringing together 26 chapters from thinkers around the world with a shared interest in minds and movement. Most chapters are collaboratively authored, drawing on the complementary expertise of researchers in disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, sociology, exercise and sport science, performance studies, coaching, anthropology, neuroscience, education and cognitive science. You can read more about it here.

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The contribution from Wayne and myself has cemented a joyful, joint writing process and shared interest in using practical case studies to challenge and expand theories of skill from philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science. While affordances is a concept that started with Gibson, it’s since been used widely in a whole number of other academic disciplines, far more than Gibson may have imagined, and certainly not in ways he would have fully endorsed.

Rather than stick with Gibson’s original, strict approach to the concept, we wanted to paint a bigger picture of how the concept has been used and adapted in other fields. We took this chapter as an opportunity to canvas approaches to thinking about affordances in ecological and cognitive psychology, as well as anthropology, theatre and performance studies, and the real life experience of racing mountain bikes in the mud. This encourages science minds to engage with challenges to theoretical claims provided by the humanities, and vice versa.

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The handbook has an impressive contributor list.

If the topics of the book interest you, please seek it out and order it for your libraries if you work at an academic institution. We hope you enjoy the read.

Photos: Kath Bicknell (book) and Gaye Camm (action shot).

 

 

 

 

The Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise and Training (CEPET) brings together the collective wisdom, research and interdisciplinary enthusiasm of outstanding researchers at Macquarie University.

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Or perhaps the better question: what are the most important considerations when it comes to person-specific bike fit, regardless of gender?

And the question I wish more people were asking: what has an increased focus on fitting bikes for women taught us about bike set up for, well, everyone?

Having worked in cycling media for over ten years, and often tasked with reviewing bikes aimed at a female market, I’ve heard the ‘women’s-specific’ debate from many angles. Where it gets most confusing for consumers is that a large number of early designs for women were (in hindsight) a load of bollocks. More recently, most of the companies that invested heavily in well-researched designs for female riders such as Trek, Specialized and Scott, seem to have back-flipped and have returned to gender-neutral designs, particularly at the racier end of the spectrum. Reducing the marketing for these changes to single, snappy sentences seems to confuse consumers even further. Read More

How do the skills you’re exploring now relate to the things you might do in the future? Or to answer a question I also get a lot: ‘What is it that you actually do again?’

Mark Parry shot a series of videos answering these questions for the Department of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University in Sydney. It was initially developed as part of a third year undergraduate course called ‘Cognitive Science in the Real World’. The series interviews all kinds of interesting people about the professional work they do, shares advice for current students and cleverly reveals the smaller moments and interests that brought them to where they are today. Like any good content, it’s enjoyable and relevant to people with much broader interests as well. Read More

But most of all, thank you to Ride Guide for considering the writers. No one ever thinks of the writers!

Without words and the perspectives of the writers and journalists, mountain biking may well have been another gear based sport, but there is something more to this than riding and racing. It can be the struggle, the exhilaration, the adventure and mis-adventure, the highs, lows and tragedies. A writer has a gift to transport you to another place and take you on a journey, drawing you in with their with their words, and for a short period, you become transfixed to the page (or screen). The writers below have the ability to do just that, so still do it, while others have moved on. Either way their legacy and future work will continue to shape this sport for years to come.

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