meaning vs. intention

While reading through Barnard, I couldn’t help continuously going back to the idea of ‘understanding’ and how it relates to the idea of ‘material without qualities’. The Neoplatonic conception of signification, according to Gombrich

Understanding, from my interpretation of the assigned Barnard’s chapters, seems to contain both aspects of meaning and intention. What I interpreted the chapter to be saying is that to understand an object, a person must be able to: deduce the meaning of the object through categorization -and- to develop ideas about the intention of the object and the object’s creator. This goes a long way toward my understanding of the idea of ‘material without qualities’.

As interaction designers, we seemingly work with material we don’t understand or can’t specifically define. It was clear from Erik’s lecture, that we all had different opinions about what constituted our material, what defined our tool set and what was our deliverable. At one level, it seems to me that we were using a structuralist approach by trying to find a path between our materials, tools and deliverable. We were trying to define categories of use, ways in which we experience the process of interaction design.

At another level, I think we talked about intension. We discussed the carpenter and the wood. Erik talked about his artist friend… the intention of the artist and how he/she created works of art/furniture vs. the carpenter who only wanted to create basic furniture…

I also had a thought about the establishment of a language for interaction design based on the visual culture history given by Barnard. The language of interaction design could be an example of the social sciences of the 17th century. Wanting so badly to fit in with the rest of the gang, that it tries to apply aspects of other scientific language into itself. I’m not sure, I haven’t read the entire book. But it is what crossed my mind during the reading.

1 Comment

  1. jeffreybardzell

    Excellent thoughts, and I think your understanding of Barnard is right-on. Your post does a nice job of showing how structuralist and phenomenological approaches really complement one another. I love your concluding paragraph about HCI and the 17th century. Of course, the reason we tend to glom onto the wrong bandwagon is not because we don’t know that it isn’t the right one, but because the right one hasn’t been constructed yet, and we can only construct out of parts we recognize.


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