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Monday, September 29, 2003

Essentialist Interactions

We finished up our look at existential interactions ("transactions") today by discussing Henri Bergson's "Time and Free Will," then moved on to the third interpretation of interaction, essentialist interaction, discussing our reading from John Dewey's "Democracy and Education."

But first, a quick recap of the first two interpretations.

Entitative ("interface") interpretation: Reality is the entities around us. What interacts in this view are bodies in motion. Interface is how these bodies relate to other bodies: they only send signals back and forth. Emotions, values, and beliefs are all deemphasized.

Existential ("transactional") interpretation: What interacts in this view are sentient beings, who are able to make sense of the world. The focus here is on making sense, adding meaning, then projecting it into the world. What a person says and does is important.

Henri Bergson's views fit in this view. Bergson is all about space, time, and motion. Motion is made up of discreet moments that we connect. Motion is created in our consciousness.

There are two ways of looking at the world, according to Bergson: one in space and one in time. Time can be seen in space, however. Even though it is deceptive, we use space as a way of talking about time. Dreams are the one place that space doesn't dominate.

There is a second time that we do not measure: duration. Duration is the flow of our consciousness.

For Bergson, interactions take place in two ways: either they are put into space, or they dissolve inside the mind.

It's deep, deep stuff. I won't claim to understand it entirely.

We then moved on to the Dewey readings and entered into the third interpretation of interaction: essentialist interaction.

In this view, unlike the entitative view, communication and interaction aren't the same thing. What is interacting here are people and their environment. Environment, according to Dewey, isn't just our surroundings, it is physical and social, natural and cultural. The external world, unlike the existentialist interpretation, is not absurd: it has meaning, or essences. The environment "pushes back" in this approach.

In other words, here subject matter counts. Subject matter has essences; it has persistence and significance.

This view feels that we might not have all the answers, but we do have some, and they can exist in forms: art, institutions, design, etc.

Interaction occurs in this view as exchanges of energy and in the forming of experiences.

posted at 08:30 PM in design theory | comments (5) | trackback (0)


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