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Design-oriented HCI through postphenomenology

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Human-technology relations
Reflective design research practice
Field work
Human-animal relations

This doctoral dissertation presents a reflexive account of a design researcher exploring a way to complement human-centered approaches in design-oriented Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) through postphenomenology. This endeavour is based on the possibility that human-centeredness in HCI may obscure aspects of the understanding of humans, technology, and the relations that come about between them. Postphenomenology, a contemporary strand of the philosophy of technology, seems to offer a holistic view and conceptualizations that can deepen an understanding of the human and the many different kinds of relations that can emerge with technology in the context of HCI. Motivated by this, the objective of this dissertation is to explore how postphenomenology can contribute a holistic perspective on human-technology relations that can help complement and expand human-centered approaches to design research and practice. To address this, postphenomenology is introduced as a novel analytical framing. Then, two cases of reflective design research practice are presented that illustrate how postphenomenology can be of value as a productive analytical lens by using it: (i) to retrospectively analyze an empirical design ethnography study of guide dog teams, and (ii) to analyze a Research through Design (RtD) deployment study of the table-non-table. In addition to that, to provide a vertical grounding of this research and scaffolding for future research opportunities an analysis of a range of prior RtD projects through the lens of postphenomenology is synthesized in an annotated portfolio. What is revealed in design-oriented HCI through postphenomenology, as demonstrated in this dissertation, is a holistic perspective on the matters concerning the field of HCI that can be complementary to previous ways of understanding. Postphenomenology opens up a view of the human that in one way decenters the human and puts technology and the mediating effect of technology at the center. In this, the human, still a central concern, is understood as technologically mediated. This perspective overcomes a narrow view of the human present in human-centered approaches and it can help HCI researchers get a holistic view of the human while taking into account the relations that in fact ‘make’ the human.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Ron Wakkary
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.