Thursday, March 30, 2006

A new foundation for design

In his new book "The Semantic Turn -- a new foundation for design" Klaus Krippendorff presents a new understanding of design. I am still reading the book but I am already sure that this is one of the best theoretical books on design today. The author is consistent in his perspective based in language. He convincingly argues for a turn to the meaning of designs. This turn is in his perspective a semantic turn. Design as a meaning making process.

It is fascinating to see the way Krippendorff comes to so many conclusions on the nature of design that are similar to what I together with Harold Nelson present in our book "The Design Way--intentional change in an unpredictable world", even though we come from very different backgrounds and perspectives.

I am quite convinced that we are slowly seeing a new and foundational understanding of design develop and grow into existence. Our own book, the new book by Krippendorff, the books by Donald Schon, and some others, are in a way all converging in a promising way. I think we are entering the time when design will in a serious way develop its own theoretical and philosophical foundation. There are of course many differences and controversies but the overall intention and aim is that design is its own tradition, fully worthy and in need of a theoretical and philosophical treatment that parallels our other major intellectual traditions, such as science and art. It is a promising development!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Daniel Dennett

I have had the opportunity to listen to two lectures by Daniell Dennett this week. He has been invited by Indiana University's most prestigous seminar series. The titles of his lectures were "Freedom evolves" and "Religion as a natural phenomenon".

I will not here address the content of the lectures, but I realized during both talks that this kind of experience is what attracted me and made me choose academia. During both talks I felt like when I was in the beginning of my PhD. My mind was challenged, not by intrinsic, complex, and superficial details (like many we encounter in everyday academic practices), but by mind blowing ideas -- ideas that changes the big picture, alters intrenched thought structures... I miss having those experiences, today they are too few.

Listening to Dennett is also an experience similar to listen to good music performance. With an extraordinary skillfull muscisian any music can sound good. You don't have to agree with everything Dennett says, but you can still enjoy the clarity, the logic, and the reasoning. Well, enough of praise.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Understanding Experience

There is a strong movement today in HCI and interaction design towards "experience". The way experience is defined is diffuse and diverse. This is of course not strange, since experience is one of the "big" concepts that have been at the center of philosophical investigations for centuries. The argument behind this movement is in many cases that our earlier ways of describing and understanding interaction have been too focused on functionality, usability, and other concepts that does not embrace the way people seem to relate to their lifeworld. This movement is in many ways all good and well. It does increase our understanding of artifacts and widens our appreciation of what matters in design. We have to acknowledge and accept the "whole" human experience of interacting with artifacts and systems in our environment.

But, at the same time it seems as if the struggle to find, define, explain and operationalize "experience" ends up in either one of two "places". Sometimes the explanation of experience becomes an abstract and philosophical enterprise, which is necessary and important from a research perspective. But most of the times we end up with really simplistic and flat understandings of experience meant to inform design. This latter way is not by any means "practical" or useful, it floats around in the vast space between theoretical discourse and real design practice. This means that the large majority of "experience" oriented thinking is neither interesting as a theoretical attempt or as giving practical guidance. I think it is time to view experience approaches as needed as a theoretical analytical tool, but from the perspective of practice there are other more useful approaches.

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