I’ve finally gotten to my interaction culture blog. Ok,

A very interesting class on structuralism and phenomenology today, really got me thinking not just about viewpoints of different types of analysis or criticism in general, but in particular, film studies, since we’ve read a few articles critiquing films in this course, and about the possibility that we as interaction designers might (still up in the air, no?) utilize critique theory/methods from other fields in order to critique interaction designs.

Since I think design is a discipline that is not just unique to interactions (e.g. design in music, film, art, architecture, etc.). I cannot see any reason why borrowing critique theory/techniques from other schools of design would be incomprehensible. I dunno what other people are thinkin’ since I aint no mind reader, but it seems pretty obvious to me that borrowing ways of critique or analysis from other ‘schools’ of design is not only feasible, but advantageous to a younger field like HCI, and also to interaction designers (maybe this is obvious? Dunno, but blogging it anyway. Sorry if it’s a tome.)

(Well, let’s just see then. Fail or not, something will be learned, and that’s what I’m here for. Here we go!)

In class, I think what came about in discussion was that many people didn’t like the idea of using (for example) auteur theory for critiquing films because it would focus too much on asking/looking for the intent of a single designer (the director) and not a team of collaborators (the rest of the crew) who had just as much to do with the outcome as the director did. Auteur theory also seemed to ignore the importance of any reactions/critique from the audience themselves (the everyday person), which would be unheard of if we were instead referring to interaction designs and users.

So if I were using auteur theory to look at a film, I might be like: “What was the director thinking when he shot this?” or “What was the director’s intention when creating this scene?”

Ok, but I don’t think I’d completely worry about that if it were an interaction design. My learning tells me to ask questions like, “What did the users think?” or “How did the users react?” Right?

I think in HCI we might tend to think that if the user’s happy (*phew), then the design must not be all half bad, though we all know there are probably flaws, and there is always room for constant improvement and revision.

Now auteur theory might analyze the ‘auteur’ of the design, and wonder what his/her intent was, not really focusing on the audience or their reactions. We have been trained to think about the user first, and perhaps offer critique from their perspective, if not even just asking them ourselves during usability testing.

I think that although Kael may have come across as arrogant in her language, she was, in fact, arguing against auteur theory rather than ‘looking down upon’ the everyday person as a critic (though I can see why one might perceive her narrative this way). I agree with the idea that relying on one ‘set way’ or a ‘one size fits all’ option for critiquing a film (or maybe a design?) is a flawed approach, and doesn’t come from the realm of the situation, where a designer should linger. (According to Erik)

I think that there is a lot that can be learned from critique/analysis in other schools that can be applied to HCI critique/analysis.
So, what might a film critique or analysis look like that IS specifically modeled around specific users (audience) instead of focusing more on the intent of the auteur, director? I guess, something pretty much the opposite of auteur theory? I think Mulhul’s analysis/critique was an interesting example that is explained from the view of his own lifeworld, and his own understanding and experience. His analysis took a phenomenological view as Jeff stated in class.

I think I have an example of an essay of film analysis that is overall structuralist, but utilizes phonomology and lifeworlds to communicate the categories/structure of the model. It’s an essay I read in undergrad.

I was taking a class on film directors and film theory, and in particular we viewed works done by George A. Romero (Casey, you better know who he is), David Cronenberg, and a dash of Wes Craven thrown into the mix. Yup, it was a film studies course on directors of horror genre films.

Now, horror films, I would argue, are designed to evoke a certain audience reaction. I guess that’s my claim. They are made to scare an audience. How might we use the different viewpoints discussed in class to ‘view’, and they maybe critique, these types of films?
The article I read was written by Linda Williams, a film studies professor at the Unversity of Colorado:


In the essay, she attempts to explain a ‘view’ that might be used to analyze and critique these types of films. Williams states, “My hope therefore is that by thinking comparatively about all three ‘gross’ and sensational film body genres we might be able to get beyond the mere fact of sensation to explore its system and structure as well as its effect on the bodies of spectators.” (Williams, p. 112)

The article:
Film Bodies; gender, genre, and excess


In the essay, when she starts talking about categories (after her introduction) Williams at first seems to take a structuralist approach. She steps out of simply the horror genre, and instead begins to look at any film with excessive sex, violence, or just emotion—all excessiveness based on (shared) audience physical reactions. She refers to these three genres (I guess sub-genre, apologies for those that hate that word) as “Body Genres.” To explain these quickly, they might be referred to as:

1. The tear Jerker
2. The fear Jerker
3. The jerk off

Now, by categorizing these genre films into a sub-genre, this would seem to me to be a structuralist view. By referring to and categorizing the films according to audience physical bodily reactions (that may or may not be shared equally by all audience members), but which refers to common experiences we can all ‘kind of’ relate to (physical reactions to these kinds of films), I’d say that aligns more with a phenomenological view. So according to this categorization, it’s a way to ‘view’ and explore (analyze and critique) the system and structure of these specific kinds of films which contain excessive content, and which are made to elicit bodily responses from the audience. The tear jerker is a film that is designed to elicit strong sad (or happy) physical emotions from the audience. The fear jerker is a film that is designed to elicit fear and scary emotions from the audience. The jerk off is a film that….well, you get my drift.

(Ok, Joe, dammit, so what’s your point?)

I guess my point is that Williams has used a nifty combination of viewpoints (structural and phenomological) to categorize, analyze, label, and sort of provide a way to look ‘inside of’, discuss, and maybe even critique these types of films. She has used a combination of viewpoints that we have discussed in class to ‘look at’ specific types of films according to their own unique characteristics, and in terms unique to these types of films. She has found patterns in the types of movies she is discussing, and also has used lifeworlds and intersubjectivity based on common audience physical reaction to create and communicate this way of ‘viewing’ them. She has designed a unique way to view, analyze, and critique these types of films based on their own unique conditions (situation?).

I dunno, but it just seems to me that having the skill or ability to be able to design-in-action a unique way of critique for any unique design might be an awfully fantastic way to analyze, view, and open discussion for critique on different interactions in a field like HCI, since each design is so unique and based on so many infinite numbers of changing conditions (user group, setting, context, and restraints, etc.). Having this ability is something I’d definitely like to possesses for my own ‘designer’s toolkit’.