Archives for the month of: December, 2016

Interaction is a noun. Vaguely, it can be used to mean some force affecting another. The cue striking the eightball would be an example. But this could also be described as a reaction. in that sense, we could consider one use of ‘reaction’, as in a chemical reaction. There, chemicals react predictably. To act is to perform some action, but also initiate some action. Thus,  intentionality seems to be implied in the word ‘interaction’.

“Inter” means between. While this could be the action of one body towards another, it is better captured by the sense of two or more bodies acting upon one another. Thus while one pool ball may be deformed when it impacts another, this is not the same category as when a person gestures at another. The struck pool ball has no intentionality towards the first. The change in the first pool ball is due to its motion and conveys no intentionality. In the second case, the act of waving (a gesture) may change the person waving. They may anticipate a smile or a wave back.

So, my brief account here defines interaction and its various conjugations as describing a change in the initiator of the interaction as much as the object. Indeed, it would be a mistake not to consider both (or more) parties as subjects.

One attempt to think about the relationship between spectators and interactive art is presented by Carlos Castellanos.

“Symbiogenic experiences are those that give rise to a sense that we are co-emergent, that is, that we exist in mutually influential relationships with our increasingly technological environment.” Castellanos 2016

Castellanos, Carlos. “Co-evolution, neo-cybernetic emergence and phenomenologies of ambiguity: Towards a framework for understanding interactive arts experiences.” Technoetic Arts 14, no. 3 (2016): 159-168.


Phenomenology, as the philosophical attempt to account for the structure of experience, has some methodological relationship with craft, or ‘making’ as it has come to be called. Heidegger’s(1954) phenomenology of silversmithing a chalice provides an example. He describes the experience and significance of wielding a hammer, and of the object that is being made. It is important to phrase the last clause in the passive voice. Heidegger was not a silversmith or practitioner of any other material craft, as far as I know. The contemporary ‘maker movement’ offers philosophers a renewed opportunity to engage with the “things themselves”. As van Manen(2014) notes, much phenomenology entails reflecting on a pre-reflective experience. Often those experiences are not all-consuming. He gives the example of driving home, and skillfully operating the car, with no clear memory of the drive. On the other hand, making an object also involves concentration in- the- moment, but the process is ostensive, rather than performative. The object bears the marks of the process by which one made it.
By making objects intended as subjects of reflection, we can develop new thoughts abductively, which can then be subject to inductive or deductive analysis. While I do not think this is the sole way to do phenomenology, I think this allows a means for engaging with the things themselves with both creativity and wonder.


Words to think on:

imaginative variation (is this not ‘art’?)

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology (1954) in Basic Writings David Farrel Krell, ed. Harper Collins, 1993

Hatch, Mark. The Maker Movement Manifesto.2014

Van Manen, Max. Phenomenology of practice: Meaning-giving methods in phenomenological research and writing. Vol. 13. Left Coast Press, 2014.