Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Toward a Phenomenological Understanding of Visual Communication… Contingency

BARBATSIS, G. (2002) Toward a Phenomenological Understanding of Visual Communication. Journal of Visual Literacy, 22(1), pp1-18 

“Phenomenology characterizes the communication process as a dyadic relationship of interaction that arises from and is constituted by contingency. The idea of contingency means that this relationship is one of two partners involved in a process going on between them. The ‘field of experience’ for each of the partners in an interaction includes one's direct view of oneself and one's direct view of the other as well as one's meta perspective of the other's view of oneself. (…) The contingency out of which interaction arises is created by behavioral plans that do not coincide and the inability of people to experience how others experience them. This means, as Iser (1978) explains, that the process of interaction is made up of the 'tactical and strategic interpretations' of each partner about the other, and in the testing of the interpretations, the production of 'adjustments.'” (pp4-5)

The dyadic relationship that happens within visual communication in print varies in interface design. The contingency in the relationship is based on the lack of true knowledge of what will happen next in an interface interaction, beyond an expectation. If the visual communication is thought through then the expected outcome should be achieved. The main relationship in this form of interaction is a human-computer interaction. Whereas the computer has a finite amount of programmed responses depending on the context of the next interaction, the human is a sentient emotional being. So any "tactical and strategic interpretations" (p5) will be restricted. The expectations of the computer system will be programmed but the human will not be. So how would visual communication help a designer and developer understand the user’s perspective to the context of any interaction they need to design a contingency for? Phenomenology offers a way to do that. 

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