Designing for Perceptual Crossing: Applying and Evaluating Design Notions

By Deckers, Eva; Lévy, Pierre et al. | International Journal of Design, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Designing for Perceptual Crossing: Applying and Evaluating Design Notions


Deckers, Eva, Lévy, Pierre, Wensveen, Stephan, Ahn, René, Overbeeke, Kees, International Journal of Design


Introduction

The research focuses on designing for perceptive qualities in artefacts and is inspired by and grounded in the phenomenology of perception (Merleau-Ponty, 1958) and ecological psychology (Gibson, 1986). Both bring forward the 'active nature of perception'1 and argue that 'the body is the centre point of perception'2. This body that enables us to sense the world is here considered an active and open form. Perception is not seen as an internal representation built upon the sensory input we gain: It is seen as the result of the dynamic coupling between a person's action in relation to her or his environment and the sensory input this environment provides (Lenay et al., 2007). Perception is here considered the result of the actions we undertake and the sensory feedback these actions result in and the other way around (Figure 1). We can access the expressive qualities and the meaning of the world by means of our body. For us this is fundamental to our design-research as we can design for actions in artefacts and invite people to participate in active engagement with these artefacts.

[Figure omitted, see PDF]

Figure 1. Theoretical descriptive model on the active nature of perception.

Perception is the result of actions we undertake and the sensory feedback this results in and the other way around.

About this active relation between our body and the world, i.e. perception, Abram, following Merleau-Ponty, states: "Perception is inherently interactive and participatory: It is a reciprocal interplay between the perceiver and the perceived" (Abram, 1996, p. 89). Our direct sensorial experience, our direct perception, only exists because of its reciprocal nature. We are only able to touch because our body is a touchable thing; to touch is also to feel oneself being touched and to see is also to feel oneself seen. In the phenomenological description of the body of a person two aspects are described. (1) The 'lived-body' is the body as I experience it; it is my ability to perceive. (2) The 'body as an image' is, as it were, the object I am in space, my appearance to others (Lenay, 2010). It is in the reciprocal nature of perception that we recognize others as intentional subjects, that we distinguish their 'lived-body' from their 'body as an image' and that they recognize our presence as intentional subjects. This phenomenon is referred to as perceptual crossing and is the interplay of perceiving and being perceived. In more simple words: I can see you seeing me and you can see me seeing you. Our perception of each other crosses, we attract and escape from each other's perception; we share a common space in which we can build a common history in our course of interaction (Lenay, 2010). It is in the other's perceptive activity that I recognize that I affect the sensitivity of the other person. And it is the other's perceptive activity that shows me that the environment affects that other person's sensitivity (referred to as primary and secondary inter-subjectivity, Gallagher & Zahavi, 2008, p. 197). It is because our perception of each other crosses that I understand my own intentionality; it shows me that I affect the sensitivity of the other; it shows me I'm involved in the situation.

Figure 2 shows a descriptive model of perceptual crossing between two persons. As explained before, perception is here considered active. Perceiving the perceptive activity of one another is the result of the actions they undertake towards each other and the sensory feedback they receive. Figure 2 presents this active coupling. Moreover the dotted lines show that the actions one undertakes to perceive the other are part of the perceptive activity the other perceives. For example, when a person turns her head to look at the other, the other perceives this action as part of the perceptive activity of the person. This also works the other way around. The perception of each other crosses.

[Figure omitted, see PDF]

Figure 2. …

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