One of the conclusions that I’m slowly coming to in this class is that no one perspective from our four (designer, artifact, user, sociocultural) can ever really develop a full understanding of a piece by itself.

Let’s take, for example, the designer perspective.  We can talk about what the designer wants to express but we can never talk about how the designer did so without talking about it’s formal elements (artifact perspective) or whether their intent matches the user experience without the user perspective.  The sociocultural perspective might even be able to tell us why the designer had a particular vision if it’s related to the designer’s place in history or culture.

Our Barnard readings have done a lot of critique along this vein.  In discussing expressionist theory he states:

In conclusion, it appears that the attempt to explain the understanding of visual culture in terms of individual expression, either conscious or unconscious, is popular but wrong… The general weakness of the explanation, that it ignores the social, historical, political and other contexts within which visual culture is produced, may be re-stated as the idea that the explanation in terms of expression ignores structure. (p 87)

What I read out of this is: a purely designer perspective theory is weak because it ignores the sociocultural perspective.

In our reading from this week there are similar critiques from Barnard leveraged at a purely artifact perspective:

There are many positive weaknesses involved in such an approach.  The first is the one noted above, that it ignores or neglects the role of class, gender, ethnicity, history and other forms of cultural diversity in understanding visual culture. (p 181)

Perception cannot be abstracted from the understanding of meaning.  It is not the case that a distinction can be made between the ‘having of sensations and perceptions and.. the attribution of meaning and value to those sensations’ (p183)

I read these as: a purely artifact perspective theory is weak because it ignores the sociocultural perspective and the user perspective (ie we can’t separate out the perception of an object from some form of a user experience of it).

My working hypothesis right now is that any one perspective on it’s own is incomplete without some form of insight from the others.  I don’t think that addressing all four is necessary, nor do I think we need to look at them all on an equal playing ground.  For example, a critique could be written that focuses mostly on the designer perspective but touches on the sociocultural and artifact perspective.  But a critique that is purely done in any one perspective seems to me to be incomplete.  Thoughts?