Friday, 17 August 2012

The Semiotics of Embodied Interaction… Showing Possibilities To

O’Neill, S. (2008) Interactive Media: The Semiotics of Embodied Interaction. London: Springer-Verlag.

“The embodied phenomenological approach does much better at describing the way in which we inhabit our media-saturated environments. (…) Its weakness is that it does little to explain how we make the transition from acting and doing in the world to thinking, reflecting and imagining about things that may or may not yet exist in the world. The movement from doing to thinking and thinking back to doing is not entirely clear. The one piece missing here is a theory that concentrates on the role of the stuff in the world itself in terms of how it can signify what we mean when we manipulate it.” (pp43-44)

O’Neill identifies that phenomenology’s weakness is in explanation. This reminded me of a 2011 tweet from Nico MacDonald (a commentator on design communication, facilitation, and research) where he quoted ex-BMW designer Chris Bangle’s provocative comment from a Creatives Morning lecture that “Designers are good at visualising possibilities but we are not showing possibilities to people” (MacDonald, 2011). This statement struck a chord as my current research is focused on how Visual Communication can and does help to reveal things “from concealment” (Palmer, 1969, p129) and this process falls within hermeneutic phenomenology. A fusion of Visual Communication and techniques of interpretative phenomenology can be adapted to reveal the structure of an experience, which can then be visually captured and interpreted as themes of an experience - in turn “showing possibilities to” interaction designers of how people experience interactions to aid the design of better interactions. This may go some way to reassure Bangle that design, especially Visual Communication, can contribute more than what is usually expected of a designer.

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