Disciplining the body? Reflections on the cross disciplinary import of ‘embodied meaning’ into interaction design

MARKUSSEN, Thomas (2009). Disciplining the body? Reflections on the cross disciplinary import of ‘embodied meaning’ into interaction design. In: Undisciplined! Design Research Society Conference 2008, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK, 16-19 July 2008.


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The aim of this paper is above all critically to examine and clarify some of the negative implications that the idea of ‘embodied meaning’ has for the emergent field of interaction design research.

Originally, the term ‘embodied meaning’ has been brought into HCI research from phenomenology and cognitive semantics in order to better understand how user’s experience of new technological systems relies to an increasing extent on full-body interaction. Embodied approaches to technology design could thus be found in Winograd & Flores (1986), Dourish (2001), Lund (2003), Klemmer, Hartman & Takayama (2006), Hornecker & Buur (2006), Hurtienne & Israel (2007) among others.

However, fertile as this cross-disciplinary import may be, design research can generally be criticised for being ‘undisciplined’, because of its tendency merely to take over reductionist ideas of embodied meaning from those neighbouring disciplines without questioning the inherent limitations it thereby subscribe to.

In this paper I focus on this reductionism and what it means for interaction design research. I start out by introducing the field of interaction design and two central research questions that it raises. This will serve as a prerequisite for understanding the overall intention of bringing the notion of ‘embodied meaning’ from cognitive semantics into design research. Narrowing my account down to the concepts of ‘image schemas’ and their ‘metaphorical extension’, I then explain in more detail what is reductionistic about the notion of embodied meaning. Having done so, I shed light on the consequences this reductionism might have for design research by examining a recently developed framework for intuitive user interaction along with two case examples. In so doing I sketch an alternative view of embodied meaning for interaction design research.

Interaction Design, Embodied Meaning, Tangible User Interaction, Design Theory, Cognitive Semiotics

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (-)
Depositing User: Ann Betterton
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2009
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 13:35
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/522

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