Thursday, September 20, 2007

Interaction Research as Societal Critique

Lately I have been involved in some discussion about by the idea of design research as critique, especially as a critique of societal phenomena where interactive artifacts play an important role. This is of course not easy, since such research has to "compete" with traditional research that has been refined for a long time for just that purpose, such as media studies, cultural studies, etc. But, I think there is a place for societal critique based on a deep understanding of interactivity. I would like to see someone being able to conduct such studies in the tradition of Marcuse, and his "method" in the "One dimensional man". This is a wonderful book, that I have praised here before. So, who can, in the tradition of Marcuse, based on an understanding of interactivity reveal the one-dimensionality that we are all trapped in? Is there anyone out there who know about work that would fit that vague description?


cctw said...

Not quite interaction, and more Heidegger/Merleau-Ponty than Marcuse, but Hubert Dreyfus' On the Internet [Routledge, 2001].

More VR than interaction, and again more Heidegger than Marcuse, but Albert Borgmann, particularly "The Nature of Reality and the Reality of Nature" in Soule and Lease's (at times reactionary) Reinventing Nature [Island Press, 1995].

And since in nearly all domains, the mantle of critical theory has passed (or been left to) Slavoj Zizek, perhaps his passing views on cyberspace and fantasy. A quick search on Zizek and interaction yielded this paper (McCarthy and Wright "Putting ‘felt-life’ at the centre of human–computer interaction (HCI)" in Cognition, Technology & Work Vol.7 No.4 (2005)) who make use of (much to Zizek's chagrin I would imagine) this essay by Zizek: "The fantasy in cyberspace" In: Wright E, (eds) The Zizek reader Blackwell, Oxford, 1999.

Erik Stolterman said...

Hi cctw

Thanks for your comments. Yes, I am aware of Heidegger and for instance the way it has been used by Andrew Feenberg, which I truly appreciate. Borgmann is one of my personal favorites and I use his ideas a lot.

I also know the work by McCarthy and Wright, but am not familiar with Zizek, maybe I have to look into that. My concern is still there however, despite all these references, since they are mostly work by people from outside the field. I would like to see critical research from within our own field resting on the foundation of knowledge that has over time been developed. So, I am still looking :-)