Great Expectations V, Affect II

by sandra695

I will here try to combine the notion of affect with an investigation done on Brunnshög in February 2013. I held a workshop with students on the theme of parallel planning and submitted myself to the same task that I gave the students. I tried to explore the area with the Theory of Affordance in the back of my head. I have in my blog post on Chora written briefly about the first part of this investigation, relating to the Structure Plan of Brunnshög from 2012. I will below see if affect could constitute a reaction in a process seen as:

environment communicates affordance – individual picks it up through perception – individual creates affect as an unconscious intensity depending on its biographical/personal constitution – feeling and emotion is created and broadcast (and communicate the answer/reaction to the affordance) – individual learns from the broadcasting event by the reaction of others and oneself

The process outlined above takes more inspiration from Shouse than Thrift as it focuses on affect being related to perception and cognition rather than being a broadcast feeling used within the urban fabric. Although I do see the ability to create affect as personal as well as dependent on situation, where Shouse would see the same function as non-personal. Gregg and Seigworth outline affect as a sort of unconscious knowing (hence personal) pushing us to action or thought as a response relating to its context: “…the capacity of a body is never defined by a body alone but is always aided and abetted by, and dovetails with, the field or context of its force-relations…”(Gregg and Seigworth, 2010:3). In this accumulation of force-relations affect constitutes a potential “Affect arises in the midst of inbetween-ness: in the capacities to act and be acted upon.” (Gregg and Seigworth, 2010:1). One could see affect as the intensity that sets off an incremental response to a perceived outer stimulus, which for instance could be an affordance of some kind. In the following investigation on Brunnshög I went on a search for affordance. I will now try to high-light one of the situations and try to reconstruct the events prior to the perceived affordances and see if I can identify affect in this erratic expedition.

My aim this cold winter day was to take me to a previously decided spot on a map, and try to find the center of the not yet built European Spallation Source ring. My aim was to record my “answers” to perceived affordance during my trip.

till affect V

In the three pictures above I am on my way to the chosen spot on the map, or so I thought, as it turns out I drove too far and have to turn back.


To get lost, drive carefully on snow and ice, keep speed limit, stay on road, not crash car, arrive at destination on time, take pictures, GPS navigation and many more (e.g. the “opposite” or variations of the here stated affordances).


The quality of the road, car movement, weather, speed etc. is creating immediate bodily adjustments responding to the situation at hand; the impulse causing the adjustments could be affect. While driving I am looking at my GPS and taking pictures with my camera along my route. I let go of the GPS with my right hand and put it on the passenger seat, I grab the camera, left hand on steering wheel, checking review mirrors.
These devices must cause a great amount of affect as every interaction with them feels urgent and is performed in a hurry. Affect is possibly also what, together with my capabilities, make the body adjustments feel pressing, that tells the hands “turn the steering wheel now” (or you will drive off the road). If turning the wheel is initially caused by an emotional intensity – affect, then the turning of the wheel, at least according to Shouse, could in fact be labelled emotion or feeling. If referring to Thrift, it would instead be the displayed emotional response visible and perceivable to others that would be identified as affect: my frowning, the facial expression of anxiety and surprise, together with my clinging over the wheel, leaning forward to get closer to the windshield in an effort to try to answer the questions Where am I? What kind of place is this? How can I manage?

Melissa Gregg and Gregory Seijworth ‘An Inventory of Shimmers’ in Melissa Gregg and Gregory Seijworth eds. The Affect Theory Reader, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010.

Nigel Thrift, ‘Spatialities of Feeling’, in Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect, London: Routledge, 2008.

Eric Shouse, ‘Feeling, Emotion, Affect’, in Melissa Gregg, ed. ‘Affect.’ M/C Journal 8.6 (2005). 25 Nov. 2011.