Some of you missed it, but last week I inadvertently did a really mean [sic] thing when I probed for a definition of the word ‘meaning’. It’s a term that gets bandied about a lot, perhaps even abused, especially as we as designers begin considering how our interactions are situated in a culture.

The operating definition we used for ‘meaning’ in Experience Design last semester was ‘the perception of a relationship’ between two things. Now, with the rising importance of hermeneutics in HCI we’re beginning to ask deeper questions about interpretation, and considering the importance of subjective knowledge and experience when dealing with interactions. The work of Gaver, Sengers and Boehner in the last few years considers such issues as multiple interpretations in an interaction, ambiguity, affective design, and ludic engagement.

So really, what I’m attempting to disentangle in my own mind, is what is meaning? What does it mean [sic] when we say something is meaningful? What does it mean when we say one Hello Kitty backpack is more “meaningful” to us than another Hello Kitty backpack?

What do we call the act of creating meaning? Does it even make sense to call it an act? Is meaning created instantly, or does it emerge over time? Is meaning making the same thing as sense making? What’s the verb at work, here? To sense-make? To meaning-make? How do we conjugate it?

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