Dear Ph.D Listers:
Thanks for the answers. I will deal with them in the order in which they arrived.
Don Norman wrote: "I have long thought that we need a "Handbook of Science and Engineering for Designers." A handbook that would take what is known in Science and Engineering (and Technology)_ and translate it all into practical, applied terms that designers could understand and use.
Richard's plight in trying to find works on perception that are directly applicable to design speaks to this issue."
Me: I hope to achieve something of that with the writing project that is behind my inquiry. One thing is that I may end up leaving Gibson on the cutting room floor. Regarding useful things for designers, I have scoured my environment for actual examples of where design was and was not in accord with Gestalt theory. All those abstract dots and lines arenīt enough. Car design is full of Gestalt fails.
Don Norman: "Richard also said:
Edmunde Burke wrote that every subject expands indefinitely. A corollary is that if you look closer into the details you only find more details, all the way down. This seems to be the case with Gibsonīs theories.
This concept, that what something looks like, is the same as it looks even when magnified, is what is called a fractal. (Widely attributed to Mandelbrot, but actually his work followed a long history of related work.)
a fractal is a shape made of parts similar to the whole (Wikipedia article on Fractals)".
The same image occurred to me - itīs the branching of linked ideas. One difference is that fractal branches donīt rejoin (I believe) whereas information can be connected in multiple ways. This makes writing hard because you have to omit connection and remember to return to them if necessary. Writing is linear and knowledge is connected like the structure of a spicular sponge.
David Sless mentioned 'Learning and Visual Communication'. I will try to check it out. Thank you!
Keith Russel: "... For me, there is an agony in Gibson that I might compare with the problem of the ONE and the MANY. That is, for some people, the ancient Greek issues around such questions, are real, urgent and in need of answering. The Hegelian answer of absolute particularity sounds like a logical joke to many people but for some it is a moment or revelation. For me, the agony in Gibson, that is NOT addressed in Gestalt understandings, is the primitive realization that experience is DIRECT."
Can I say here that one way of reading Gibson is that he is tending to leave perception as black box? He jumps from input to perception and dodges the bit in between, though points at the thing out there as an explanation for itself: we perceive the affordances of things because they have affordances.
Keith again. "One only becomes aware of this issue when confronted with the scientific evidence of mediation such that, in the case of vision, the school teacher likes to tell students that their eyes see the world upside-down and then the brain turns things up the other way = brain magic. This can be proven in experiments where people wear special glasses such that they see the world upside-down and then, over a period of time, they flip the world, in their brains while wearing the glasses. So, the innocent people see the world "directly" until they are convinced that "information pickup" is indirect, impure, fabricated by consciousness. How to get back to the purity of mere seeing/being in the world?"
Drawing it might be an answer. Andre Breton supposedly said drawing was intelligence made visible. The interesing thing about design is we draw that which does not exist and then have to analyse it, second guessing reality.
Keith again. "Of course, you never lost that pure picking up of stuff which is what Gibson proves by redetermining the relationship of observer and observed holistically. SEEMING becomes a holistic picking up of information rather than a naughty distortion by consciousness of an unapproachable reality."
Me: there is a problem with holism just as with reductionism. One has to toggle between the two approaches. Which leads me (by metaphor) to a point I have about ways of seeing. I can look at an object in detail or choose to see it as a whole (one looks slightly around the object but focuses attention on the whole image). I believe that Europeans tend to the former and Asians the latter. Please excuse my massive generalisation. It is one reason Japanese cars look more detailed than European ones. I have no evidence whatsoever to back this guess up. Thereīs a research paper in that question. Maybe Gibson speaks more to holistic seeing? I only began to appreciate Japanese cars once I stopped looking only at the details.
Terrence Love provided a few nice references and the predictive gap. I will address the last paragraph: " To focus on *outcomes* requires, however, the development of design theories that can predict outcomes. So far, these kinds of theories are mostly missing in almost all design fields. They are not difficult to develop. Rather, developing them has been overlooked. The problem has been an obsession with designed outputs, rather than the consequences for the world of those designed outputs."
Me: I will interpret the last phrase "consequences for the world" in relation to aesthetics, as how the designed object is seen. Gibson seems not to be able to make predictions which are what Jane and Jake Designer need (and my students). From my limited reading of Gibson, there seems to be no point where I see an idea that means if you do X then you might expect Y to happen (apart from the affordances issue). Even then, I think the affordances point owes more to Don Normanīs work than Gibson.
Sara Ljunglblad directed our attention to an interesting video. I have to repeat that my focus is on Gibson. What is it he writes that is actionable. So far itīs door-handles and controls etc (via Don Norman) and ladders, compressing lines and horizon/size indication.
Joâo Ferriera cited Wareīs book and the fact it is ironically badly designed. He made the point that design guidelines should move from design outward rather than from other fields in. Iīd say we need both approaches.
Thanks for all that. I will get a hold of Wareīs book and perhaps put Gibson aside and move on to anthropomorphism...
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