What I found most interesting about these most recent two readings was their juxtaposition to one another in the syllabus. In Barnard’s “Interpretation and the Individual” chapter, he references the two key examples of visual culture in the form of the fifteenth-century Italian art and Vespa scooters. Through these examples, he illuminates a hermeneutical approach to understanding them via the intention of their creators and the “life-world” of those who experienced them first-hand at their inception. But Barnard also highlights a crucial weakness our ability to comprehensively interpret the life-world of these individuals:
The most serious question that arises concerning understanding conceived in this way is about the very possibility of that understanding in the first place. It is argued that, if understanding is based on the intentions and life-worlds of people from other times and places, and given that, by definition, one is not of those times and places, then one cannot have those intentions or life-worlds and understanding must be impossible. (Barnard, p55)
Whether through straightforward temporal distance, or other cultural factors, Barnard concludes that it is impossible to completely understand the situated context in which a particular piece was conceived and constructed. However, it’s in his discussion of Gadamer’s “horizons” as a means of reframing this approach that I found the most value. Gadamer takes the ideas, beliefs, and hopes of the interpreters (i.e. the core composition of their life-world) and rather than viewing them as an obstruction to holistic understanding, instead “may be thought of as ‘ways in’, or ‘entrances’ to the horizons of other people and thus to the visual culture produced by other people, no matter how distant in time or space.” (Ibid., p58)
It is these “ways in” that I eventually connected with the contrast between traditional ocularcentrism in film, and Elsaesse and Hagener’s examination of the use of skin and embodied systems of experience in modern filmmaking. The skin as an everyday experience is both everywhere and invisible; our largest organ and at the same time the one that is most often taken for granted when referring to culturally shared cinematic experiences. Elsaesse and Hagener cite several example of skin being used semiotically in various contexts: as a marker of accomplishment, of identity re-appropriation, as an agent of discomfort, and so on. But it is the ability for film to engage an audience on an intuitive and somatosensory level that is of greatest interest to me vis-a-vis design and life-worlds,
…the intersubjective communication in the cinema between spectator, film and filmmaker is predicated upon and enabled by shared structures of embodied experience that permits the perception of experience and the experience of perception in the first place. (Elsaesse and Hagener, p117)
At the intersection of our “accultured sensorium” suggested by Elsaesse and Hagener and Gadamer’s horizons I believe lies a space for interaction design to flourish. The dominance of ocularcentrism in film has resulted in the displacement of the other senses; so too has the commodification of the results of product design muted and anonymized the details of their origins, and the life-worlds of those who created them. As supply chains become longer and more occluded and demands for resources rise, I believe it will become increasingly important for us to establish and maintain a tangible, somatic connection to the physical artifacts we use every day. Elsaesse and Hagener suggest a potential approach to this problem by aligning the embodied experiences of the spectator, film and filmmaker, and it is not difficult to draw parallels to the user, artifact and designer from these conventions. If we can co-inhabit a shared perception of experience with respect to product design and ecology, a shared life-world of sustainability, I believe we can become more cognizant of both the means and ends by which the products we need and desire are sought, wrought, and moved to purpose.