Hahahahahahaha whoops! That was certainly a fun reading! Hey, OneStart says all 15 people dropped IC. Must be a bug!

OK, here is a little bit of free Jeff in your pocket to help with this long and difficult reading:

  • What are some of the main points he’s making?
  • What does “aesthetics” mean in general? He says that aesthetics is “relational.” Relational between what and what? (Note: sets of relations add up to a “structure”)
  • What does “design aesthetics” mean in particular?
  • How does Folkmann’s notion of “aesthetics” differ from what we typically associate with design aesthetics (e.g., style, slickness, surface)?
  • What is the epistemological role of aesthetics?
  • Vocabulary check: phenomenology, hermeneutics, taste, ambience, “ungraspable surplus of meaning,” hyperreal, aestheticization, … others?
  • What are the relationships among perception, meaning, (aesthetic) codes, experience?
  • What was the point with each of the design examples?
  • When we talk about design “meaning,” what are we talking about?

Chair” in italics refers to the French word for “flesh.” When you see it, he’s talking about flesh, not things you sit on.

I might edit this more, but it’s a start for now.


Some nice quotes:

Central to my argument regarding design as a medium of meaning and imagination as a means of producing and enabling meaning is the connection between the sensual and the conceptual.  (p.25)

It is clear, then, that every process of aesthetic “appreciation” implies a perceiving and aesthetically focused subject; nevertheless, at the same time, categories of aesthetically appealing objects-objects wanting to be perceived as aesthetic-can be separated from other objects. (p.30)

In the sections that follow, I claim that design is important by virtue of its sensual effects (the sensual-phenomenological platform), its ability to challenge our under- standing (the conceptual-hermeneutical platform), and its capacity for creating and construing meaning on the level of society (the discursive-contextual platform). (p.32)

Here’s a nice summary of “aesthetic experience” according to Dewey and as developed by Shusterman (but note that while Folkmann is summarizing Dewey and Shusterman, he does not agree with them; specifically, he thinks they focus too much on the experience side and not enough on the object):

The core idea of this pragmatist approach to aesthetics is to focus on aesthetic experiences as some- thing that evolves in context and is not necessarily bound to art. Aesthetic experiences derive their quality not from a relationship with specific objects (e.g., works of art) but instead as a particular aspect of the experience itself, indeed of the whole field of experience, which can emerge in any situation. This includes the element of an aes- thetic experience where “the experience is an integrated complete experience on its own account” (Dewey 2005, 57). Here, Dewey also points to qualities such as coher- ence, balance, equilibrium, harmony, and unity as constitutive for this specific type 15 of experience. (p.33)

Here’s a good summary of a foundational concept of phenomenology. (It is defining itself against notions of scientific objectivity, which we have inherited from Descartes, including the separation of the mind and body into two different realms, treading the mind and thought as disembodied):

Here he [the French phenomenological philosopher Merleau-Ponty] follows a basic assumption in phenomenology: that experience is a matter for a concrete and specific subject whose consciousness is incarnated in a body that is located in a concrete world of things and intersubjective relations. Con- sequently, the “world” is only ever a matter for a bodily incarnated subject. (p.35)

Back to juicy quotes:

I combine the frameworks of phenomenology, with its focus on the conditions of sensual experience, and hermeneutics, with its grasp on the conditions for understanding. (p.43)

In the same way that the sensuous relationship between an appealing object and a sensitive subject can be called aesthetic, I wish to shed light on the relationship between sensuous surface and incarnated idea and the challenge to understanding inherent in this more or less complex incarnated idea; the purpose of this analysis will be to further our understanding of why some objects are regarded as aesthetic. (p.43)

I will argue that aesthetics in design within this context concerns how design relates to meaning and modes of understanding. It is not enough to ask what the meaning of a specific design is on a conceptual level (the “idea”); we must also ask how it performs or reflects this meaning in its physical form and how it relates to the kind of self-reflective aesthetic function where it displays a surplus of meaning. (p.48)

A side note about the next quote. Why is Eli’s class about “meaning and form”?

[This quote is about the multi-scaled circular chairs] As with Panton, the idea pervades and determines the design, and in both cases there is an almost perfect integration of idea and physical manifestation. The idea is relevant only insofar as it is put to work; the physical expression of form has little relevance without an idea or meaning content. In my view, this is a hallmark of aesthetics in design. (p.52)

Back to juicy quotes:

This structure of investigating how an idea can be reflected in the design and how it can create a surplus of meaning (the overall aesthetic question of how design relates to meaning on a general level) can not only be described in design; it can also be used more actively (by designers) as a tool for reflection in the design process. (p.52)

Aesthetics is political and ethical in the sense that it deals with the creation and distribution of sensual material and addresses how artistic practices, in their ways of doing and making, contribute to the “modes of being and forms of visibility” (Ranciere 2004, 13). (p.55)

Tablet computers, for example, are vehicles of aestheticization, not because they contribute to the cre- ation of the overall number of beautiful forms in the world (even if Apple might think that its iPads do that), but because they, following Ranciere, “determine what presents itself to sensory experience” when they serve as media for knowledge and entertain- ment and become devices for a discursive structuring of knowledge and through this process enable and condition experience. (p.59)

Note that Dunne & Raby make a distinction between “affirmative” and “critical” design, which will come up again and again later in this course. The following quote expresses a very similar distinction.

All design objects partake in aestheticization; they simply differ in the degree of awareness they claim to have about this process. This also affects the kind of representation that the design involves. Design with a low degree of reflection has a tendency toward realism, that is, toward confirm- ing the natural and given condition of the existing reality, while design with a high (and even artistic-like) degree of self-reflective bias may open the realm and the boundaries of reality to investigation and exploration in a process of simulating new possibilities of the design.