Lecture Liveblog: 9-13-07

Relation of phenomenology to hermeneutics. For the purposes of this class, you can confuse them.

Hermeneutics originally started as a exercise in biblical exegesis (very accurate reading, getting it right). Philology emerged as a practice of linguistic study, history of linguistics, etc. Hermeneutics came about as a strategy to “closely read” the Bible in order to “get it right.”

Phenomenology (via Husserl) is closer to psychology and epistemology. What is our capacity to know things about the outside world?


  • 18th Century – Kant
  • Late 19th – Philology
  • Early 20th – Hermeneutics (Arendt, Ricoeur), Phenomenology
  • Early 20th – Logical Positivism (Carnap, Russell), Structuralism (Saussure)

As HCI moves into leisure technologies, its cultural significance has become far more important. HCI is in a position to produce culture. YouTube is a collection of incredibly usable technologies to share videos. Millions of people now exchange videos all possible because of HCI breakthroughs.

Second Life’s average is in the mid to late 30s. Commonly, stay at home mom’s are building interactive 3D environments and making a profit without any formal training. HCI creates productive culture.

Christian Briggs Super Simplification: Hermeneutics is about getting it right and phenomenology is about interpreting it through the individual.

Both hermeneutics and phenomenology are focused on the intention of the reader. Structuralism analysis how the artifact itself through it’s relationships comes to bear meaning.

Any philosophical traditional can be broken down into parts for analysis.

  • Epistemology – knowledge
  • Ontology – being/reality -ex. Does “human” exist?
  • Ethics -practice of living – happy life, morality, what I should do, ….
  • Aesthetics -judgment, art

Epistemology of Phenomenology

[Coke Can] -> | Wall | –> Radiates Sense Data -> “various mental capacities” -> Idea about the [Coke Can]

“various mental capacities” – intuition, imagination, memory, reason, etc..

There’s a boundary between the [Coke Can] and the sense data that we cannot cross.

Solipsism – I am the only thing in the entire universe that exists and everything else is a delusion of my senses.

Phenomenology seeks to understand reality as it is presented to us. (To hell with solipsism!)

How is reality presented to us? How do we get to it? -> Lifeworlds, horizons, prejudices, etc.

Intersubjectivity – subjectivity is an individual, personal experience. Intersubjectivity is a shared consensus built upon shared horizons, lifeworlds, prejudices, etc. Intersubjectivity is not an objective, scientific truth. We can evaluate patterns of lifeworlds, horizons and prejudices, etc. from a group of people because they share those things. Because they share these things they tend to interpret the experiences of life in similar ways.

How can we operationalize phenomenology and construct useful methodological approaches?

  • Study of people
  • Identify intersubjectivity, i.e., “target groups”, “user groups”
  • Construct mental models

How do we know that what we understand about a user is right? Obviously they’re more complicated than a coke can. You never know if you’re right (that’s a question of hermeneutics), but you can construct a shared set of lifeworlds, horizons, prejudices, etc. Objectivity is not critical in all circumstances. Different things you need to know require different ways of knowing.

“Technology Centered Design” – counter to phenomenological approach of “human centered design”

Technological Nihilism/Determinism (Jacques Ellul) – everything is driven by technological progress and we lose site of human progression, the technology controls us

Epistemology of Structuralism

[Book] -> | Wall | -> Radiates sense data -> “various mental capacities” -> Idea about the [Book]

Structuralism is derived from the work of linguistics. What is linguistics and what does it do? Tries to take something incredibly complex (language) and distill it into a set of rules.

  • The cat eats the mouse.
  • The mouse eats the cat.
  • The the cat mouse eats.

What do those sentences mean? It’s a question of syntax (rules and relationships). Meaning is derived through the relationships of the words. Those relationships establish meaning. Through those relationships we can understand the meaning of the whole.

*For structuralists, the meaning of something exists in the text itself. Meaning does not exist in the intersubjective interpretation of horizons and lifeworlds.

How are “structural networks” different from lifeworlds? We can fuse them together. Think of the picture activity on 9-11-07. We agreed that if you did not have the language to discuss the picture, then the picture would be different to us. The picture only exists when it can be actualized. Bringing structuralism and phenomenology together provides us with a more powerful tool for analysis, but brings with it a new set of challenges. For example, the rules of structuralism only exist because of shared, intersubjective lifeworlds.

We never have access to raw data, it is always already interpreted through our senses and various mental capacities.

Ideology – a lot of the people who develop these constructions, vocabulary, etc and claim that they are helpful are from the dominant class and are spreading and continuing their dominance.

Phenomenology: Author-> Text -> Reader [Professional Design]

Structuralism: Text -> Author and Reader [New Grounds, YouTube]

Where do Stolterman and Manovich fit into all of this?  Why and how do you know this?

1 Comment

  1. Jungyoun Yim

    This live blog is really helpful for me. Thank you, Tyler:)


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