Your SlideShare is downloading. ×
Designing for Dasein: What Philosophy Class Taught You About Design
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.

×

Introducing the official SlideShare app

Stunning, full-screen experience for iPhone and Android

Text the download link to your phone

Standard text messaging rates apply

Designing for Dasein: What Philosophy Class Taught You About Design

5,608
views

Published on

This talk explores the connections between design and phenomenological philosophy. The goal is to give the audience a better sense of how philosophical movements have affected everyday design, from UX …

This talk explores the connections between design and phenomenological philosophy. The goal is to give the audience a better sense of how philosophical movements have affected everyday design, from UX to interaction design to design thinking.

Help support a book on the topic: designfordasein.com

Published in: Design, Spiritual, Technology

0 Comments
16 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total Views
5,608
On Slideshare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
14
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
57
Comments
0
Likes
16
Embeds 0
No embeds

Report content
Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
No notes for slide

Transcript

  • 1. Design for Dasein What Philosophy Class Taught You About Design Thomas Wendt Surrounding Signifiers @thomas_wendt thomas@srsg.co srsg.co
  • 2. Thomas Wendt UX Strategist and Researcher ! Teacher, Speaker, and Writer ! Founder of Surrounding Signifiers, a strategy and design consultancy ! Background in continental philosophy, psychology, and literary theory ! ! ! - focus on phenomenology -academic style -still a work in progress, this can go a lot deeper -some design theorists have already looked at this connection, my goal is to focus it on design practice -some slides are text-heavy, but the quotes are important
  • 3. Introducing Phenomenology For the sake of time, I’m going to do phenomenology a massive disservice by summarizing some key points.
  • 4. Phenomenology is the study of human experience
  • 5. Use of technology shapes our conception of ourselves and the world http://josephstashko.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/foursquare2.jpg
  • 6. http://patsylove.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/dsc050103.jpg http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5202/5339017351_00185bd19d_o.jpg All experiences occur within a use context
  • 7. Heidegger’s Influence ! Dasein in praxis
  • 8. http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/BVw5BzzUqoI/maxresdefault.jpg One of the main applications of phenomenological theory is technology studies. Martin Heidegger was one of the first western philosophers to seriously examine the role of technology in everyday existence. His concern is how people interact with technological objects and what this interaction says about our conception of reality. Interaction design and experience design take a similar approach: as design practices, they analyze interactions between users and technology in order to design better systems. ! Heidegger broke from earlier phenomenological philosophers such as Edmund Husserl with a single word: Dasein. !
  • 9. “Dasein exists as a being for which, in its being, that being is itself an issue.” Martin Heidegger http://www.thecasualheroes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/american-psycho-high-res-still.jpg Dasein refers primarily to Heidegger’s reconceptualization of the subject or the individual. Instead of subjectivity, he classifies Dasein, translated literally as “being-there,” as the individual’s mode of being in the world. Heidegger says that “Dasein exists as a being for which, in its being, that being is itself an issue.” (Heidegger, 2008) Heidegger sought to base his work in the mundane experience, not of human and world, but of human and world combined in Dasein.
  • 10. “Heidegger characterizes everyday life as being an engaged, absorbed involvement in an undifferentiated world.” Phil Turner, Susan Turner, and Fiona Carroll http://i.imgur.com/uNiGszC.jpg Dasein implies a sense of knowledge and concern over being-there. Dasein, then, is a sentient mode of being, involved in the world, its choices, and outcomes. Dasein is concerned with itself as Dasein. Turner, Turner, and Carrol state: “Heidegger holds that human beings […] and world are not two distinct entities but only one which results from Dasein’s involvement in the world. Thus the ‘in’ of being-in-the-world is unrelated to ideas of Aristotlean containment, instead “in” is better understood in terms of involvement. Heidegger characterises everyday life as being an engaged, absorbed involvement in an undifferentiated world.” (Turner, Turner, and Carroll, 2005) !
  • 11. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c3/Raphael_School_of_Athens.jpg Heidegger took a giant step when he called for a complete rejection of Cartesianism, or the belief that mind and body are separate, and that mental phenomena dominate physical action. His philosophy can be classified as a “praxis philosophy.” Praxis, in its simplest form, is theory-driven practice. We only develop theoretical models through active engagement with the world, and practice is, at least in part, informed by theoretical/cultural/ common-sense models of how the world works. The emphasis is on everyday interaction as a means of gaining knowledge and understanding.
  • 12. “To understand a hammer, for example, does not mean to know that hammers have such and such properties and that they are used for certain purposes—or that in order to hammer one follows a certain procedure, i.e., understanding a hammer at its most primordial means knowing how to hammer.” Hubert Dreyfus Emphasizing praxis over theoretical formulations results in a significant epistemological shift in our understanding of objects. Reliance on “mental models” or representations is no longer relevant. Knowing-how is more useful than knowing-that, as Hubert Dreyfus explains: ! “To understand a hammer, for example, does not mean to know that hammers have such and such properties and that they are used for certain purposes—or that in order to hammer one follows a certain procedure, i.e., understanding a hammer at its most primordial means knowing how to hammer.” (Dreyfus, 1991) ! Dreyfus’s interpretation seems to suggest that knowledge of use completely replaces theoretical knowledge. I disagree with such a binary distinction. While Heidegger certainly prioritized knowing-how, or knowledge through use, he did not completely discount the role of theoretical knowledge, which is merely a different mode of understanding: less useful than knowing-how but not completely without value.
  • 13. “The things of technology (instruments) and the activities (of subjects) which engage them, appear as they do only against the background and founding stratum of some kind of framework. Technology in its ontological sense is not just the collection of things and activities, but a mode of truth or a field in which things and activities may appear as they do.” Don Ihde The ultimate goal, then, is to accurately determine both theoretical and practical interpretations and use patterns for a particular product. Don Ihde explains: ! “The things of technology (instruments) and the activities (of subjects) which engage them, appear as they do only against the background and founding stratum of some kind of framework. Technology in its ontological sense is not just the collection of things and activities, but a mode of truth or a field in which things and activities may appear as they do.” (Ihde, 1979) ! From a Heidggerian perspective, the end goal of user testing, for example, might be to gather knowledge about the background and the mode of truth that the background discloses when a user interacts with an artifact. To put it another way, the object is a means to access truths residing in the larger background system; and from the other side, background knowledge only becomes evident when manifested through an object.
  • 14. Things, Technology, Context ! Becoming conspicuous How is it that a mode of truth is disclosed by technology? Heidegger’s position holds that humans can only come to know themselves by knowing the tools they use.
  • 15. http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/gadgetlab/2012/12/121205_googleplus_023.jpg Something-in-order-to In this sense, Heidegger’s analysis of tools is very pragmatic one; he starts from the assumption that all tool use is ‘in order to’ accomplish something else. As a result, he concludes that the nature of time (hence, his main text, “Being and Time”) is based on humans existing ahead of themselves. We exist to accomplish goals, and technological objects are the means by which we do so.
  • 16. “The context phenomenon is a basic characteristic of our cognitive or mental lives which consists in the fact that we are never (at least in natural circumstances) confronted with any task at all outside a context: there is no such thing as understanding a word, translating a sentence, solving a problem (however simple), deciding on the appropriate response to a demand, independently of some context in which the word, sentence, etc. has in fact appeared: for human beings, signs, demands, tasks never show up in isolation.” Daniel Andler http://www.thestyleblogger.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/ Mike-China-1.jpg The conditions that serve as the background for technology use are what we think of as ‘world.’ Humans learn and interact against the backdrop—and with the backdrop—of worldy conditions, or context. Daniel Andler says of context: ! “The context phenomenon is a basic characteristic of our cognitive or mental lives which consists in the fact that we are never (at least in natural circumstances) confronted with any task at all outside a context: there is no such thing as understanding a word, translating a sentence, solving a problem (however simple), deciding on the appropriate response to a demand, independently of some context in which the word, sentence, etc. has in fact appeared: for human beings, signs, demands, tasks never show up in isolation.” (Andler, 2000)
  • 17. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/ Crayon_de_charpentier_2.jpg Simple material: “knowing-that” Language is the structural and contextual support for our dealings with the world. As such, it shapes our experience of discrete objects and the interaction between humans and objects. In this way, context is not simply the sum of all things and associated meanings but rather the interrelation between things and meanings. We cannot refer to things in isolation; even something as simple as a pencil is wrapped up in a multitude of cultural references and, most importantly for phenomenology, its conditions of use in the world.
  • 18. http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/vvL4l4U4JaM/maxresdefault.jpg Use Context: “knowing-how” That is, we might know that a pencil is made of certain materials and has a certain shape, but more importantly, we know how to use a pencil in order to write. Even further, we know that the use value of a pencil is particularly suited for when the writer seeks a lack of permanence.
  • 19. http://mtthwbsh.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/wireframe.png Present-at-hand representations In his core text, Being and Time, Heidegger introduces a model for how we might understand our interaction with objects. The terms he uses, Vorhandenheit and Zuhandenheit, have no English equivalent, but are commonly translated as presence-at-hand and readiness-to-hand. Presence-at-hand is the relationship to an object based on theoretical knowledge and scientific observation. The object exists against the observer as wholly other, factual, and analyzable. It is a relationship to an object not in use—a state that can be broken down to discrete facts, decontextualized as an object of examination, and analyzed according to its existence outside the relationship to a user. This is the domain of “knowing-that.”
  • 20. http://uxmag.com/sites/default/files/uploads/pulidopaperinscreen/Step6.jpg Ready-to-hand embodied engagement Readiness-to-hand is a relationship between object and user based on active engagement. The relationship, and subsequent meaning that emerges from it, is predicated on the object in use in order to accomplish an end goal. This is the domain of “knowing-how,” in which the user achieves a sense of fluidity, acting through the object as opposed to with or upon the object. The object itself fades into the background of relations that enable the user to accomplish a task, hence Heidegger’s observation that Dasein always exists ahead of itself: we are constantly focused on a future event, merely using the present to accomplish the future.
  • 21. In this sense, an object with which one is not currently engaged simply exists as a present-at-hand piece of material. When it is picked up and used, however, it becomes an embodied instrument.
  • 22. http://d1hw6n3yxknhky.cloudfront.net/022825751_prevstill.jpeg Smooth and broken interactions Take the example of typing and email. If you are fluent with a standard keyboard, your focus is likely not on the keys but rather on the message on the screen, how the reader might interpret your message, and what words to choose. Your relationship to the keyboard is one of readiness-to-hand: you are acting through the keyboard in order to accomplish the goal of sending the email. Now imagine if, while typing, you misspell a word, which results in it being underlined in red on the screen, signifying ‘this word is not spelled correctly.’ At that moment, since your focus was on the screen and not the keyboard, the red line breaks the ready-to-hand relationship with the keyboard and makes you conscious of the keys. You now have to go back and deliberately, consciously re- type the word. The keyboard has become present-at-hand.
  • 23. http://cache.20minutes.fr/photos/2013/01/14/people-watch-participants-in-2d65-diaporama.jpg Heidegger might refer to this interaction as ‘making the object conspicuous.’
  • 24. http://cache.20minutes.fr/photos/2013/01/14/people-watch-participants-in-2d65-diaporama.jpg Conspicuous While in the ready-to-hand mode, the object blends into the background of worldly relations. When that mode is interrupted, it becomes conspicuous as an object of analysis. Returning to the pencil example, it is easy to see how during the act of writing the pencil becomes inconspicuous; the writer acts through the pencil to write a message. But as soon as the tip of the pencil breaks, it becomes conspicuous again as an object in need of repair. Or when the writer makes an incorrect marking and needs to erase. We can think of writing as a mode of ready- to-hand relations, and erasing as present-at-hand. Heidegger calls dealing with this switching of modes “coping.”
  • 25. http://cache.20minutes.fr/photos/2013/01/14/people-watch-participants-in-2d65-diaporama.jpg Conspicuous Coping We cope with things that break, poor design, and unexpected surprises by creating our own solutions to fit our needs.
  • 26. The rate at which our dealings with objects move back and forth between ready-to-hand and present-at-hand is too fast to measure. Technology designers see this all the time in user testing. It is tempting to think the end goal of designing a technological object is to create something with which users can ‘intuitively’ interact, hence user testing as a means for identifying the ‘unintuitive’ features of the object and eliminating them. However, there are problems with this approach. While intuition is important within object relations, to design an intuitive object would mean to understand all the background relations and networks of knowledge, understanding, and experience that affect how we approach technology. It would also mean to create an object so embodied with our ‘natural’ interactions that its existence is unnoticeable.
  • 27. A better way of approaching user testing and usability is through the lens of coping.
  • 28. Try to ignore the situation Laugh awkwardly and feign disinterest Laugh openly with others Coping Strategies What we are testing is not whether the product itself can be labeled usable or unusable. We are observing the various coping strategies users employ.
  • 29. Intention Breakage Coping The area of focus during usability testing, then, is not the product itself; it is the space of interaction between user and object, the space where coping happens. The object in this situation—whatever we are testing—tends to beg our attention, but the real focus should be the complex system of engagement that opens up between object and user. This space opens new possibilities for designers.
  • 30. Broken Things ! Truth and coping Heidegger’s notion of the truth-revealing quality of technology comes dangerously close to inverting his argument involving the context-dependent and praxis-based nature of Dasein. Heidegger wanted to show that the essence of technology is not necessarily technological—it lies in the ability for things to reveal a sense of truth about the world. But Heidegger has been criticized for thinking about technology as an overarching category instead of sets of everyday things. If our being in the world is context-specific, how can technology reveal a sense of unified truth?
  • 31. “When the hammer I am using fails to work and I cannot immediately get another, I have to deal with it as too heavy, unbalanced, broken, etc. These characteristics belong to the hammer only as used by me in a specific situation. Being too heavy is certainly not a property of the hammer.” Hubert Dreyfus http://propertycareserviceslondon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/property_care_hammer.jpg Designers deal with this question more often than they might realize. User testing and usability are a constant dance between the truth about a product and its use, how different groups of users create their own truths, and whether each truth holds equal weight against the future success of the product. Hubert Dreyfus explains the situational nature of object use: ! “When the hammer I am using fails to work and I cannot immediately get another, I have to deal with it as too heavy, unbalanced, broken, etc. These characteristics belong to the hammer only as used by me in a specific situation. Being too heavy is certainly not a property of the hammer.” (Dreyfus, 1991)
  • 32. “When equipment malfunctions, Heidegger says, we discover its unsuitability by the ‘circumspection of the dealings in which we use it,’ and the equipment thereby becomes ‘conspicuous.’ […] But for most normal ways of coping, so that after a moment of being startled, and seeing a meaningless object, we shift to a new way of coping and go on.” Hubert Dreyfus And this non-property of ‘being too heavy’ likely will not cause a complete abandonment of the object but rather a new, revised way of interacting with it. Dreyfus goes on to say: ! “When equipment malfunctions, Heidegger says, we discover its unsuitability by the ‘circumspection of the dealings in which we use it,’ and the equipment thereby becomes ‘conspicuous.’ […] But for most normal ways of coping, so that after a moment of being startled, and seeing a meaningless object, we shift to a new way of coping and go on.” (Dreyfus, 1991) ! The testing process often revolves around the highly ambiguous and often unanswerable question, “Does the product work as intended?” This question is evaluated in terms of whether users’ behavioral patterns match the designer’s intentions, often coupled with external factors such as business motivations, project budgets and timelines, fragile egos, etc. It is easy to fall into dualist notions of a product ‘working as expected’ or ‘not working as expected.’ I want to argue that user testing and usability studies, when done well, extend beyond short term implications and into coping strategies and creative misuse. !
  • 33. Designer’s Paradox ! Dualism and multistabilities But before we do that, we should recognize a paradox that phenomenology presents for designers.
  • 34. http://joeyaquino.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/hex_design-1.jpeg Design Thinking (Brown) has been largely successful in formalizing a design process that, instead of starting with business goals, concentrates on a human-centered process by which designers empathize with others, frame a problem, ideate solutions, and test assumptions. It emphasizes understanding a problem before designing solutions for it.
  • 35. http://www.emerce.nl/content/uploads/2013/09/build_measure_learn.jpg A somewhat related movement, the Lean User Experience, also highlights the need for proper problem framing and awareness of assumptions before designing solutions. The entire product development team works to formulate hypotheses to test and validate or invalidate before investing too much time into the design process. The end goal is to systematically create a product that solves a problem for a well-defined group of people.
  • 36. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-uxgeJKcPSM0/ULmwlTa6VcI/AAAAAAAAD9w/GldLD3OLJcc/s1600/How+I+study+for+my+exam+messy+table+finals.jpg Each approach relies on prototypes to test possible solutions. As prototypes are tested with users, designers return to the designs and make changes based on user feedback. Often, feedback is not taken at face value but rather filtered through an interpretive screen. For example, users have a difficult time articulating product features, but they naturally talk about the problems they encounter. Designers take that data and decode the implicit meaning.
  • 37. http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8215/8341276031_a3607899b4_o.jpg Design Thinking and Lean UX have been successful in getting designers to think about feedback loops and end user sentiment driving design decisions. However, there is still a sense of tension in terms of linearity when thinking about problems and solutions. Lean UX would claim to be a nonlinear process, as it relies on early prototyping over upfront strategy; and Design Thinking prides itself on fully understanding problem spaces before designing solutions. If phenomenology has taught us anything, it is the importance of praxis: the real world situations in which users interact with an object will tell designers more about a product than an infinite amount of time speculating from afar. But there is a paradox here.
  • 38. We cannot think about solutions until we understand problems ! AND ! We cannot understand a problem until we think about solutions The designer’s paradox The designer’s paradox states that we cannot think about solutions until we understand the problem, AND we cannot understand a problem until we think about solutions. ! The first part of the statement is easy enough. Designing solutions for a poorly defined problem space is wasteful and is exactly what a good design process tries to avoid. The second part, however, is more complicated. Saying that we cannot understand a problem until we think about solutions breaks up the linearity of the first statement. Moving from problem understanding to solutions assumes that there is a final answer at the end of the “understanding” phase, and once we find it, we will be able to design solutions without anything changing in the problem space. It assumes we can understand a problem space before exploring all the conditions of possibility it affords. The second part allows for exploring these potentialities in terms of solution hypotheses, but it largely ignores the need to for upfront exploration.
  • 39. http://filmmakeriq.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Fibonacci-Spiral2.png How do we solve for such a paradox? It’s somewhat obvious that we should blend both methods and figure out how to take both a theoretical and practical approach to design. Perhaps it is best to start with thinking about technological objects and how they are used in ways that construct meaning, as these interactions are often the focus of analysis for both understanding a problem and its potential solutions.
  • 40. https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/7969887488/hECD9817A/ http://img.izismile.com/img/img2/20090803/fixed_it_05.jpg “Technologies do not determine directions in any hard sense … [W]hile humans using technologies enter into interactive situations whenever they use even the simplest technology—and thus humans use and are used by that technology, and all such relations are interactive—the possible uses are always ambiguous and multistable.” Don Ihde Don Ihde explains our interactions with technology as multistable. Use cases for technological objects cannot be determined in any static sense, as the relationship between humans and technology is truly interactive. Ihde says: ! “Technologies do not determine directions in any hard sense … [W]hile humans using technologies enter into interactive situations whenever they use even the simplest technology—and thus humans use and are used by that technology, and all such relations are interactive—the possible uses are always ambiguous and multistable.” (Ihde, 2002)
  • 41. “A hammer is designed to do certain things—to drive nails into the shoemaker’s shoe or into shingles on my shed, or to nail down a floor—but the design cannot prevent a hammer from becoming an objet d’art, a murder weapon, a paperweight, etc.” Don Ihde Interaction with a technological object goes both ways; we use the object and the object uses us. In this way, to understand a problem space, we need to see the effects of different types of objects and how those new additions affect the entire system. Ihde goes on to say: ! “A hammer is designed to do certain things—to drive nails into the shoemaker’s shoe or into shingles on my shed, or to nail down a floor—but the design cannot prevent a hammer from becoming an objet d’art, a murder weapon, a paperweight, etc. Heidegger’s insight was to have seen that an instrument is what it does, and this in a context of assignments. But he did not elaborate upon the multistable uses any technology can fall into with associated shifts in the complexities of ‘assignments’ as well. No technology is one thing, nor is it incapable of belonging to multiple contexts.” (Ihde, 2002) ! A designer has a certain intention when designing an object and creates affordances to help make potential uses apparent. But the dictation of use is impossible. Technological objects are multistable: their use is context- dependent, and goal attainment trumps design intention every time. When one needs to prevent a stack of papers from blowing away, a hammer has completely different possibilities of action versus when that person needs to drive a nail. Or if one needs to prop up a broken chair, a block of wood or a sponge might do the job.
  • 42. Interactions and Relations ! Embodiment, Hermeneutics, and Affordance There is a praxical element to problems that only reveals itself when users are able to manipulate objects in the world and designers are able to explore multistabilites. This is one of the biggest insights phenomenology can offer design—the idea that our relationship with designed objects is context-dependent, embodied, and multistable, and therefore this relationship is mediated by both real solutions that exist in the world and possibilities for new solutions that only exist as potentialities.
  • 43. Glasses: Public Domain, Source” Noun Project! Google Glass: Creative Commons - Attribution (CC by 3.0) Google Glass design by Damionfrom the Noun Project Embodied Hermeneutic At this point in our analysis, we are encountering a break with Heidegger’s thoughts to the extent that we are concerned with specific objects of technology rather than technology in the broad sense. Don Ihde was largely responsible for rethinking and reframing phenomenology into what he calls post-phenomenology, which accounted for this specificity, among other aspects beyond the scope of this essay. Ihde described how the patterns of behavior associated with technology fall into categories: embodied, hermeneutic, alterity, and background.
  • 44. http://brettselby.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/1327605_243007371.jpg Embodied relations are those in which the object of use becomes incorporated into the user’s body and enables a true ready-to-hand experience, in Heidegger’s terminology. A common example is a pair of eyeglasses. The user wears glasses in such a way that they become embodied and remove themselves as objects of analysis. The wearer looks through them to see the world, and given that the glasses are not smudged or broken, s/he forgets about them completely. In this relationship, the glasses are more an augmentation to the eyes than they are a physical object.
  • 45. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Honeywell_round_thermostat.jpg Hermeneutic relations, on the other hand, are classified by object-ness. In this state, the object must be read and interpreted as a completely other entity. Peter-Paul Verbeek (2005) gives the example of a thermometer as a hermeneutic object. The thermometer provides a representation based on cultural symbols, language, and measuring systems the user must interpret in order to make sense of it.
  • 46. http://stateoftech.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/google-glass-ray-ban-glasses.jpg The two types of relations just mentioned, embodied and hermeneutic, can often be viewed as two separate and distinct categories, but there is a massive, detailed space in between. This is the space of interactions, where poles like embodiment/hermeneutics, technology/humans, and subjects/objects start merging together. A useful way to understand this in-between space is through James J. Gibson’s theory of affordances.
  • 47. “When in use, a tool is a sort of extension of the hand, almost an attachment to it or part of the user’s own body, and thus no longer a part of the environment of the user. But when not in use the tool is simply a detached object of the environment, graspable and portable, to be sure, but nevertheless external to the observer. This capacity to attach something to the body suggests that the boundary between the animal and the environment is not fixed at the surface of the skin but can shift. More generally it suggests that the absolute duality of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ is false. When we consider the affordances of things, we escape this philosophical dichotomy.” James J. Gibson Simply put, an affordance can be thought of as an aspect of the environment that enables action. A common example is a doorknob; its shape affords grasping and turning in order to open a door. Water affords drinking, chairs afford sitting, pens afford writing, etc. Gibson saw affordances as much more than objects in the environment. He viewed an affordance as the connective tissue between self and world. Gibson says: ! “When in use, a tool is a sort of extension of the hand, almost an attachment to it or part of the user’s own body, and thus no longer a part of the environment of the user. But when not in use the tool is simply a detached object of the environment, graspable and portable, to be sure, but nevertheless external to the observer. This capacity to attach something to the body suggests that the boundary between the animal and the environment is not fixed at the surface of the skin but can shift. More generally it suggests that the absolute duality of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ is false. When we consider the affordances of things, we escape this philosophical dichotomy.” (Gibson, 1986)
  • 48. “An affordance cuts across the dichotomy of subjective- objective and helps us to understand its inadequacy. It is equally a fact of the environment and a fact of behavior. It is both physical and psychical, yet neither. An affordance points both ways, to the environment and to the observer.” James J. Gibson http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61QwKFw8OML.jpg The theory of affordances is a way to resist the urge to categorize human experience in unnecessarily restrictive buckets. Instead of thinking only about self and world, we can think about the space in between: Gibson says ! “An affordance cuts across the dichotomy of subjective-objective and helps us to understand its inadequacy. It is equally a fact of the environment and a fact of behavior. It is both physical and psychical, yet neither. An affordance points both ways, to the environment and to the observer.” (Gibson, 1986) ! When we think of entities and objects, there is an entire space of interaction in between. This is where interaction designers work.
  • 49. Semiotics and Mediation ! Acting upon and being acted upon Technology mediates the relationship between humans and their world. It is not that technology shapes behavior, nor is it that behavior shapes technology: they co-construct one another. ! Peter-Paul Verbeek has been influential in this conversation over the last decade, focusing on rethinking linear frameworks of human-technology relations. Vebeek states: ! “Technologies coshape the human world and thus also human relations with technology itself. Human beings are not sovereign with respect to technology, but are, rather, inextricably interwoven with it.” (Verbeek, AA 2005)
  • 50. A favorite example over the past couple decades has been the gun. (ibid) The National Rifle Association’s slogan, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” has been influential in the discourse around rights to bear arms in the United States. The slogan, meant to shift responsibility off of the technology and onto the active agent that wields it, can be thought of as particularly misleading. While we might think of the person with a gun as ultimately responsible, it ignores how the simple act of holding a gun changes someone. A person with a gun is very different from a person without a gun, as evidenced by the way we refer to that person: a “gunman.” This linguistic classification points to a particular way of combining man and gun. Separate, they are agent and object; but together, a new form of being emerges in which the agent is mediated by the technology that incorporates itself into the body of the user. ! We can see some divergence from traditional phenomenology at this point. While someone like Heidegger would conceive technology as something humans act through in order to accomplish something else, this new form of phenomenology—or post-phenomenology—stresses that the object itself also has a mediating role. It is not simply that the human agent acts upon the object, but the object also acts back upon the agent. Together they become something else.
  • 51. https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/7983262208/hC438C75A/ Post-phenomenology has much to offer design thinking. It is easy for designers to think of their work as the intentional process of creating a set of conditions, including objects that support those conditions, that increases the potentiality for a certain outcome. We would be hard-pressed to find a designer who believes his or her designs are able to dictate behavior. Much of this sentiment, I believe, stems from the same sentiments voiced by post-phenomenology—namely, that technology mediates the relationship between self and world. If this is the case, then designers are not only creating objects and affordances that allow users to perform an action in order to accomplish a goal. Instead, designers are creating conditions of possibility for certain outcomes, but should always be aware of the multistable, mediating forces of technology.
  • 52. “People can only develop a durable relationship with artifacts if what matters is not just a matter of style or function. After all, other artifacts could embody the same meaningfulness or functionality, but no other artifact can be this specific material thing, here and now.” Peter-Paul Verbeek http://www.kamleang.com/images/nonobject/nonobject02.jpg Another way to think about this relationship is in terms of sense-making, or the creation of emergent meaning. Designers are creating conditions in which objects, users, and contexts are combined to create something emergent that did not exist when these entities stood alone. Verbeek goes on: ! “People can only develop a durable relationship with artifacts if what matters is not just a matter of style or function. After all, other artifacts could embody the same meaningfulness or functionality, but no other artifact can be this specific material thing, here and now.” (Verbeek, AA 2005) ! Verbeek’s mention of situation or context serves to stress the idea that Heidegger’s phenomenology does not sufficiently address the hermeneutics of technology—that is, by taking a broad view of the essence of technology, Heidegger is not able to properly consider specific technological objects and our relationship to them. Post- phenomenology attempts to make up for this lack by examining how humans use technology not only to accomplish goals but also to create meaning. Designers are not simply creating an object or an interface, they are creating all of the peripheral context that surrounds it. There is this sense that design of an object or an interface inherently includes a concern for the emergent affects of that object. But this concern is not always apparent in the design process.
  • 53. “The mediating role of technologies comes about in a complex interplay between technologies and their users. At the very moment human beings use them, artifacts change from mere ‘objects lying around’ into artifacts-for-doing-something. And this ‘for doing something’ is determined not entirely by the properties of the technology itself but also by the ways users handle them. Technologies have no fixed identity; they are defined in their context of use and are always “interpreted” and “appropriated” by their users.” Peter-Paul Verbeek In a certain sense, many designers are already practicing this deep concern for end users and multistable relationships through activities like research as an empathy-building method and user testing as a means of observing technology in use. The inherent, but perhaps not articulated or intentional, goals of research and testing all revolve around interpreting systems of meaning and understanding use contexts. Verbeek says: ! “The mediating role of technologies comes about in a complex interplay between technologies and their users. At the very moment human beings use them, artifacts change from mere ‘objects lying around’ into artifacts-for- doing-something. And this ‘for doing something’ is determined not entirely by the properties of the technology itself but also by the ways users handle them. Technologies have no fixed identity; they are defined in their context of use and are always “interpreted” and “appropriated” by their users.” (Verbeek, 2011) ! Connecting this to the design process, research maps the system of meaning, design introduces new meaning, and user testing measures the effects of new meaning in context of the entire system. The idea is that we can never know the real effects until they are implemented and experienced. The designer’s tacit goal is to see how the state of his or her designed object changes from when it is an ‘artifact laying around’ to an ‘artifact-for- doing-something.’
  • 54. 1. Interaction is contexual. ! 2. Technology is multistable. ! 3. Usability is about successful coping. ! 4. IxD operates within Dasein and affordances. ! 5. Designers are caught in a paradox. 1. We all know this. But what phenomenology adds is the idea that context of use shapes the interaction and allows for truth emergence. 2. Multistability of use allows designers to discover contexts of use beyond their original intention. 3. Testing a product is not about eliminating the “unintuitive.” It’s about gauging the ability to cope. 4. The designer is not creating objects with which a conscious, authoritative subject can interact. He or she is creating potentialities that exist as both physical and psychical. 5. We are constantly dancing around problems and solutions. Phenomenology helps us understand that we should explore both at the same time.
  • 55. Thanks! Thomas Wendt ! Surrounding Signifiers ! @thomas_wendt ! thomas@srsg.co ! srsg.co Help me write a book! ! designfordasein.com