Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Representational Theory… Inauthentic Mediated World

KENNEY, K. (2005) Representational Theory. In: K. SMITH, S. MORIARTY, G. BARBATSIS and K. KENNEY (Eds) Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp99-116.

“Behaviourists attempt to observe and measure the real world directly. Phenomenologists are exclusively interested in a person’s introspective experience. Semioticians and rhetoricians try to understand the linkages between our internal world and the external world, and that linkage is necessary, they believe, because the external world is always mediated by our senses and our mind. Whereas rhetoricians have investigated how humans create and manipulate symbols in order to persuade other humans, semioticians have been more interested in how humans (and other animals) interpret all kinds of signs, including symbols, that were created by other people, as well as natural signs, including symbols, that were created by other people, as well as natural signs that may have resulted from plants, animals, or inorganic matter. Both rhetoricians and semioticians, therefore, are concerned with how ‘signs’ mediate’ between the external world and our internal ‘world,’ or how a sign ‘stands for’ or ‘takes the place of’ something from the real world in the mind of a person.” (p99)


We exist in a mediated world that in the digital age is sometimes a re-mediated world. This existence can be framed as inauthentic (a Heideggerian concept). How someone navigates and orientates their way through this mediation, making sense of and interacting in their world is important to understand for interaction design. There are a variety of qualitative methods to observe and reveal this processing. Kenney discusses what aspects Behaviourists, Phenomenologists, Semioticians, and Rhetoricians are interested in studying, and where they overlap or conflict with each other.

The main grouping between semiotics and rhetoric focus on the relationship within the internal and external world of the processing of semiotic signs, how the message is (re)mediated, perceived and understood. Behaviourists obviously are interested in the exhibited behaviour within the world, of the manifestation of how this process affects them. Whereas the phenomenologist is interested in the internal processes of how they experience the perception, understanding and reaction to the message that changes their behaviour.

Visual communication in this context is concerned with both the internal and external processing of the semiotic-facilitated meaning. It is concerned with the shaping of the semiotics externally in the design, but can also be used to reveal and visualise the phenomenological internal processes of the experience, to “convert the sheer impact of the world into pictures of simulacra” (Harman, 2007, p#)

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