Embodiment as First Affordance: Tinkering, Tuning, Tracking



embodiment, skilled practice, new materialism, critical realism, ontology, affordance


This article begins from a discussion of philosophical realism and the turn towards close analysis of skilled material practices that characterizes many recent critical interventions. I examine the roots of this turn and suggest that skilled practice is a privileged site for the enactment and testing of realist ontologies. However, I question the extent to which realist thinkers have emphasized practices in which materials outside the human body are central over those in which embodiment itself is the primary medium of practice. Thinkers of realist ontology, I argue, have neglected embodiment as the primary site of an engagement with the fine-grained detail of the world. In contrast, I propose that realist ontologies developed through reference to technological engagements not only apply equally well to embodied practices but actually find their original and primary manifestation there. The body itself is the ‘first affordance’ and the site at which questions of realism and objectivity are first encountered and resolved in practice. I illustrate this point by considering how three modes of material engagement — tinkering, tuning, and tracking — manifest in embodied practices ranging from dance and sport to those of everyday life. I conclude by emphasizing the continuing political importance of embodiment as first affordance and its crucial place as a ‘fragile junction’ between ecology and technology.

Author Biography

Ben Spatz, University of Huddersfield

Ben Spatz is Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at University of Huddersfield; UK Arts & Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow (2016-2018); author of What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research (Routledge 2015); convener of the Embodied Research Working Group within the International Federation for Theatre Research; and editor of the Journal of Embodied Research, a peer-reviewed, video-based journal launching in 2017 from Open Library of Humanities. They have been invited to speak at the British Library, the Centre for Performance Research, University of Kent, University of Cardiff, Maynooth University, and University of the Arts Helsinki. Ben’s current research extends the interdisciplinary methodology of embodied research into postcolonial jewish studies and will be presented in 2017 at multiple venues in the UK, US, and Poland.


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How to Cite

“Embodiment As First Affordance: Tinkering, Tuning, Tracking”. 2017. Performance Philosophy 2 (2): 257-71. https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2017.2261.




How to Cite

“Embodiment As First Affordance: Tinkering, Tuning, Tracking”. 2017. Performance Philosophy 2 (2): 257-71. https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2017.2261.