In the PhD school at AHO, we were asked to write a short text about how and in what ways technological and aesthetical aspects will be a concern in our projects, and in what ways we plan to approach them. This is my text:
The object of my study is the computer interface, which is made possible only through the relatively recent discovery and ongoing developments of computer technologies. I focus on the interface as a medium that communicates certain values, knowledge or beliefs. I adopt a socio-cultural perspective on media, technology and communication, and see technology related to tools through which we can express ourselves and mediate information and meaning. Even though technology is not the main concern in my research, I relate to it in two important ways:
- Theoretically: understand how interfaces and the design of these relate to technology. How do digital development tools facilitate the inclusion of certain interface features at the expense of others? How does this affect the aesthetic qualities and possibilities for communication in the interface?
- Practically: in my own work I will have to deal with the possibilities and limits of contemporary technology and emerging technologies connected to dynamic interfaces. Especially, in doing “research by design”, through designing artefacts myself, I will have to use available technological tools, which naturally will affect the results.
A general challenge in researching something based on digital technology is the rapid development in the field. Doing proper research appears to be a rather slow activity, so there is a challenge of how to follow the technical development at a practical as well as theoretical level. The object of my study is continuously in movement, so to speak, as are designers’ aesthetic expressions and choices embodied in interfaces that explore and innovate aesthetically and communicatively by way of changing technical parameters and computer applications.
Aesthetics is a historically complex field, and I will need more time to understand its different interpretations, and how it relates to my project. According to Ludwig Wittgenstein(1), beauty is not a property of the object itself, as an experience always involves interpretation on behalf of the viewer. Taking this point further, the aesthetic experience may also be seen as relational to the cultural and social context, rather than existing in an independent and private space(2). I am particularly interested in the communicative aspects of aesthetics, and how interfaces communicate multimodally through aesthetical means, i.e. through visual movement. However, aesthetics is not only bound to beauty or visual perception. It may relate to our rational or irrational interpretations, to different senses such as touch and hearing, or to the experience of interacting with an interface over time. In the evolving field of interaction design, the emphasis on user-centered design also poses new questions regarding aesthetics and the role of the designer. The field needs greater clarification of aesthetics and dynamic interfaces at the level of communication and not only information and systems design.
The PhD course has so far given some valuable and specific insights into the concepts of technology and aesthetics. However, to relate this to my project I will need to carry on studying these fields and concepts, and get more specific to the approach and object of my own research.
1. Wittgenstein, L. (1966). Lectures and conversations on aesthetics, psychology and religious belief. Oxford: Blackwell.
2. Bourriaud, N. (1998). Relational Aesthetics. Les presses du reel.
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