Today as we discussed the reading (Barnard/Baxandall) I had a number of ideas and questions. I think the most interesting pertains to the notion of horizons and “reconstructing the user from the artifact.” Something Jeff said, I’m not sure what, caused me to wonder if this topic of discussion is somehow related to deconstruction theory. Granted my understand of it is somewhat limited. But, as I understand it, some portion of deconstruction theory says that meaning is created in the viewers mind by the act of decoding the page, composition or artifact. I find this idea very interesting. In graphic design this idea was experimented with rather extensively in the 80’s. The intrigue with this theory springs partially from the implication that the meaning is not inherent in the literal/verbal attributes of the composition. Graphic designers played with the idea that very abstracted visual compositions lead the viewer through an experience (as they “decode” the visual page) that in return builds meaning or understanding in their mind.

For example the theory might work something like this:
Imagine a poster designed using primarily very abstracted elements as well as text and images that would not necessarily be familiar to you. But it has been carefully composed and created using color, lines, texture, fonts, shapes, etc. Through the processes or act of scanning this poster with your eyes, your mind decodes or builds the meaning of the poster. The upshot is that by decoding the poster in this way the meaning is much richer and more poignant for the viewer.

Pretty cool stuff if it’s true and if you can pull it off. I personally think there is really some truth to it. The crux is that designing something in this way is more difficult and more apt to miss the mark. But, when/if it works then the payoff is big.

Somehow the phrase ““reconstructing the user from the artifact” in today’s discussion got me wondering further. Could this process of deconstruction and decoding somehow work in reverse? Can examining the code embedded the artifact tell us about the creator? Can examining the code embedded the artifact tell us about the viewer/user?