Curriculum and Bodies of Knowledge as Instructional Affordances
An affordance is created by design eg. a chair affords ‘sitting’ by design, a cup affords ‘drinking’ by design, a ball afford ‘kicking’ by design and water is designed for drinking and swimming. Understanding affordance is foundational to safety in design, usability and ethics. If one was talking about document usability and didn’t investigate affordances, I wouldn’t waste my time in its study.
It is quite odd that Safety expects people to ‘speak up’ about un-safety when the culture of blaming common in safety suppresses it. Blaming and shame create psychological affordances. Slogans create affordances like; ‘safety is a choice you make’, ‘all accidents are preventable’ create a belief state that confirms and affirms safety myths about determinism and power. Such slogans hide beliefs that shape thoughts and actions.
If you want to understand the nature of affordance, the following are helpful:
· Letiche, H., and Lissack, M, with Schultz, R., (2011) Coherence in the Midst of Complexity, Advances in Social Complexity Theory. Palgrave. London .
Understanding affordances is foundational to usability. Often things go pear-shaped in safety because what is often espoused is contradicted by design (physically, psychologically and culturally). For example, the ideology of zero espouses the prioritization of reducing injury but results in the psychological brutalism of persons. The excesses of paperwork due to anxiety about proof and measurement, create new more dangerous risks such as: ‘tick and flick’, myths about evidence and, delusions about usability mapping.
The notion of affordance applies to the design of anything; even such things as curriculum, bodies of knowledge, IT systems, biosemiotics (design in nature) and codes of ethics. There is no such thing as neutral design. All design hides an ethic, bias and a politic. This is why the AIHS Code of Ethics (https://www.aihs.org.au/sites/default/files/20200517%20AIHS%20Code%20of%20Ethics_editable.pdf) using language such as ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’ is laughable. There is no bigger reality check against the nonsense of objectivity and impartiality in safety than a visit to the court system. The naivety of safety regarding Due Diligence is also laughable (https://cllr.com.au/product/due-diligence-workshop-unit-13-elearning/). So much of the mythology of safety gets demolished very quickly within the first few minutes of discussion with Greg Smith (https://www.waylandlegal.com.au/profile/greg-smith/blog-posts ).
So, when one reads such documents as the AIHS Body of Knowledge (BoK) or the curriculum for WHS, one is reading a map of instructional affordances. The naïve belief that such documents and even the WHS Act and Regulation are objective is absurd. We know a road sign that says 80 doesn’t mean 80. In the end the court becomes the final arbiter of interpretation of the Act and Regulation. You can countenance any opinion you want in safety but if you want to test you interpretation, consult the court.
Any critical examination of either the AIHS BoK or WHS curriculum reveals a map of what one group thinks is valid knowledge and similarly all that is omitted makes clear what knowledge is privileged and what is rejected. In the case of the AIHS BoK 85% of all its content is focused on objects, similarly there is no focus on: personhood, ethics, the politics of risk, helping, care or power. What does such a document afford?
The WHS curriculum is no different. The structure/design of WHS curriculum, demonstrate no cognizance of Transdisciplinarity (https://safetyrisk.net/transdisciplinarity-and-worldviews-in-risk/) or any questioning of safety curriculum insularity. Both AIHS BoK and WHS curriculum afford a certain approach to meaning making (semiosis) that is closed to questioning, debate and critical thinking. This is what Tochon calls an ‘ontological affordance’ or ‘heuristical schemata’ (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0742051X90900354 ).
What we end up with in such documents as the AIHS BoK and WHS curriculum is an unquestioned sense of authoritative objectivity, written only by those in the club. The mapping of both documents creates their instructional affordance. That is, it invites only one response. For example, the deeply flawed Chapter on Ethics in the BoK is not to be questioned nor its pathetic deontological ethic of: duty, ‘check your gut’ and ‘do the right thing’. This is its structural designed affordance. Such an affordance that only invites duty not critical existentialist ethics, is a hotbed for abuse and compliance to power. An ethic of duty in a deontological ethic is what has kept women subjugated for many years.
Once a document is give authority by a club (that hides both power, politic and ethic), one then only need follow with political endorsement with courses of indoctrination to establish compliance. Such political machinations are empowered by silence and remind me of how the church established dogma to be unquestioned on pain of excommunication. This is how zero works.
Similarly, an approach to open education and learning are missing from the BoK and WHS curriculum. Neither documents ‘afford’ in design any countenance of questioning, learning or open debate, indeed debate must be demonized in the face of zero, duty and compliance. This is not the case in a profession. Some of the key characteristics of professionalization are: open education, transdisciplinary learning, broad curriculum, welcomed dissent, facilitated debate and an acknowledgement of epistemic power. None of this exists in the safety industry and yet all are critical if safety ever wants to become a profession.