I feel Barnard’s chapter “Interpretation and the Individual” is very relevant to our earlier discussion about authors. It also answers some of our questions such as what’s the relation between authors and readers/users/interpreters, and how to understand this relation.

Horizon is an interesting notion here. At first I wonder if it is the same thing as knowledge domain, cultural context, social norms, personal background, etc. But when Barnard refers it to “life-worlds”, I think he is talking about more than these (“social skills, religious beliefs, commercial practices”, p. 41), or a synthesis of all of these, especially if his “life-worlds” is similar to Heidegger’s “life world”. It seems that horizon is a very comprehensive notion that include all “aboutness” of a person. So this chapter seems emphasizes the role of interpreters.

When I was wondering “so where is the author?”, Barnard gives me a question: “whether the interpreter is fusing their horizons with those of the producer of the visual culture, or whether the interpreter is simply seeing the piece of visual culture from the perspective of their own horizons” (p. 56). Ok this is exactly what I want to ask. Also, a similar question can be whether the user is fusing their horizons with those of the designer, or whether the user is simply seeing the design from the perspective of their own horizons. Especially for those products that “no known individual designer linked with them” (p. 61). Perhaps for most people, design products are anonymous: They don’t who designed them, who “produced” them. They may know the brand, the giant company, but they do not know the “real” individuals who may project their horizons to the product. I have a feeling that a lot of designing works endeavor to achieve a consistency: consistent to the user’s background, consistent to the user’s needs, consistent to the user’s thoughts. Designers may “fuse” some of their horizons to the product, but since the product is “anonymous”, their individual intentions may not be discernible. Instead, comparing to the invisible designer, users are visible. So “in the case of much design, intentions, and life-worlds may be reconstructed”. By whom? The users.

In this sense, I feel Barnard suggests that different interpretations/ understandings of the same object is not a bad thing but a good (?) thing. He uses Gadamer’s perspective that the prejudices of the present (such as different people’s different horizons) are a condition of understanding, rather than an obstacle.

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