Phenomenology, AT, UX, and Post-Modernism

Before reading my blogging, I want to let you know briefly about my assumption. I guess the assumption is somewhat ridiculous. Turning back Macro/Micro point of views or Composing/Decomposing issues of human beings, I wanted to think about the views and the issues in Post-modernism and ecological system. I don’t read the book, ‘The Ecological Approach To Visual Perception’ written by J. J. Gibson yet (I just wanted to know the fundamental concept of the ecology in his book since He created the concept of affordance and Don. Norman borrowed it. That’s why I want to know about him further). I might make some mistake for my assumptions to apply it to build my thoughts up for this article, since I couldn’t survey enough. However, I am starting to write this article based on the fact that his intrinsic point of view on the notion of ‘ecology’ mentioned in his book would not be different from the dynamic process of nature where we live now. Based on my assumption, I mostly found my ideas for the blog fodder in the article, Activity Theory and Context Based Design, reading and comparing with other articles carefully. I want to apologize to you since I almost spent my time in investigating and studying to make myself understood for these questions so I couldn’t fully elaborate my ideas for posting yet. What I came to realize by comparing the earlier theories with AT and phenomenology is that we need to understand carefully the notion of ecological system that allows the whole contexts of human beings as nature teach us, and we can consider of the interrelationship between phenomenology and AT in the ecology system like post-modernism. Furthermore, I realized why we truly need to understand the moments of a user in HCI field, and more specifically, User Experience (UX) belonged to experience design is the fundamental goal for HCI people. I want to explain my idea by using the sentences extracted from the article and wiki. I hope my thoughts just acts on a sort of suggestions for this blogging. It is so difficult to make me understand but it is worth for bothering me even though my idea would be controversial or irrational. So, here are my ideas of the blog fodder.

What does activity theory expose as the limits of earlier ways of thinking about problems?
“Ecological systems are not always harmonious and functioning but have constant, tensions, discontinuities, and breakdowns that are necessary for survival and adaptability”. “The tensions and breakdowns that occur within activity system can be used as points of reference for studying the social constructions and design process”. 
Owing to the meanings of sentences, I realized that the ecological system does not always provide perfect theories with human beings, animals, plants, and so on to be able to deal with the all kinds of contexts/phenomenon occurred in the world. (I guess I can understand this is the merit of what we are calling ecological system). It lets human beings sense naturally constant, tensions, discontinuities, and breakdowns that are also the part of our life, and recognize the limitations, which is that we built up the former theories for only some parts of human beings’ life-world and horizon, trying to put them intentionally into sorts of standards/matrix/theories that we devised in the stance of structuralism. In my opinion, the former theories are not essential to allow to the exceptional tensions and breakdowns in human beings’ phenomenon. On the other hand, AT seems to try to absorb a number of individual activities into social network, recognizing the fundamental characters of the ecological system.  

What philosophical functions replace which other (earlier) philosophical functions?
Although I cannot help admitting post-modernism would not be comprehensive for the limitations such as tension, breakdowns, I think that Post-Modernism can somewhat support the limitations of the earlier philosophical functions. I found the dynamic analogies between the Ecology and Post-modernism through my research.  As the ecology system includes the terms such as constant, tensions, discontinuities, and breakdowns, ambiguity and change, order and chaos, steady state and breakdowns, harmony and controversy, Postmodernism also tends to refer to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, also ambiguity, diversity, and interconnectedness or interreferentiality. Post modernism imposes unities of meta-narrative (Wiki); the breaking of traditional frames of genre, structure and stylistic unity; and the overthrowing of categories and other forms of artificially imposed order. Activity theory and theories and related ideas evolve within the complex systems mentioned above. Phenomenology is understandable to include such exceptional examples. I guess that Post-modernism endows us with compatibility or omnidirectional editing opportunities of the phenomenon in the world.      

Phenomenology replaces Cartesian mind-body dualism.  
How did AT overcome those limits?
“Elements of our daily experience gain their meaning from the network of social interactions in which they figure. So the social and the physical are intertwined and inescapable aspects of our everyday experience”.     
Out of the dichotomy, the dualism that the mind and body were different things, if according Urin Bronfenbrenner’s model, Micro, Exo, Meso, and Macro are the elements for consisting of an ecological system or main culture/intersubjectivity for human development, as an example, I am thinking about the process that each armature’s individual activity in the activity triangle can be a bit of consisting a huge pyramid like a density spectrum, that contains the lower level that a number of armatures exist, intermediate level, and the upper level that professional exist so that the higher level is influential on the main stream culture. Here, the pyramid is just a certain ecological form/example of featuring a certain culture/phenomenon. These elements of the armatures’’ experiences consist of intertwined and inescapable aspects of our everyday experience. What I want to mention is that no matter what kinds of the features, AT, the organic methodology, inform of us that any meditating tool has the potential to transform the activity in which it is used reciprocally, allowing tensions and breakdowns. By using the meditating tools, the armatures and professionals are continuing to doing trials and errors the breakdowns and tensions. That is the way to interact with communities they belong to and to consists of the organic networks of social interaction.
What new limits are introduced by AT?
Since I am still studying AT and thinking that it is a perfect methodology in designing ;), I have no idea of the new limits caused by it. Nevertheless, it is necessary to ponder how HCI as mediator of tools does intervenes/mediate/design/edit User’s activity in complex technology system. Today, HCI focus on User experience, often abbreviated UX, which is a term used to describe the overall experience and satisfaction a user has when using a product or system( from Wiki ), but it is a frequently mentioned design that can lead to a poor user experience. We, HCI people, found in the past years, are finding still, and won’t stop to finding the breakdowns and tensions in UX contexts. I guess HCI people are confused that which solutions are better for users. They cannot choose the intuitive solutions like embodiment yet.     
“Embodiment: Embodied phenomena are those that by their very nature occur in real time and real space in where the action is written by Paul Dourish”
There are a lot of challenges that I might be worry on myself since I would access users with lacking of understanding them. Ethnographical methodology as an ambiguous, not scientific, not logical more open ended way to access users is helpful to understand them. Designers are the moderator between users and technology.   

Ø     Human Computer Interaction
Ø     Information Architecture
Ø     Interaction Design
Ø     Interface Design
Ø     User Interface Design
Ø     Usability
Ø     Usability Engineering
Ø     Visual Design         
( From Wiki )

On the other hand, in the fields above, we also need to think about the issues of multi-disciplinary, pursuing positive aspects of psychology, anthropology, computer science, graphic design, and industrial design in HCI body itself. It is true that HCI members in the multi-disciplinary are facing with conflictions, tensions, and breakdowns. The limits might create synergy to support users or not. Designer is also the moderator between them, understanding each own field.   
How could we overcome them (by adjusting our philosophical foundations)?
Like Dourish’s idea, I guess we are already used to be encompassed by the philosophical foundations. As we are inhaling and exhaling air, we do not feel them but we know we need them definitely. Without the theoretical value conveying our philosophies and the concomitancy of thoughtful consideration on them, I realized that I could not design any things and would not think what my fundamental approaches for design are even though it is not directly related to each other and not practical to apply them into real design things, or even though I have excellent sense/originality to create/design so that I don’t need to care of them ( please, don’t get me wrong I know I am not ). I am reflecting on myself now since I used to design superficially some things like vogue, style, or sense. Yes I did. (But if we are designers, we need to enhance our instinctive sense too) I want to be subordinated to them by engaging thoughtfully with users’ activity and technology used in various contexts. I think that my solution to overcome is to develop the practical interconnection of design methodology based on the philosophical foundations.

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One Response to Phenomenology, AT, UX, and Post-Modernism

  1. gimhyewon says:

    Just… I am happy to finish this article . Huuuu. However, I am so ashamed that I have to expose many ideas of mine not proved and I didn’t take enough time to consider these issues but I have finish at this point. I guess this article is my limitation now. Shameful! -.-;;

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