This text approaches the design of extended reality (XR) environments from of a somaesthetic standpoint. We currently witness the advent of a world transformed by augmented reality, with implications for how we dwell in it. XR technologies have the potential to transform our engagement with our environment. This text argues that recent developments in XR design can transcend the Cartesian logic of its origins and that an approach informed by somaesthetics has the potential to inform, and indeed transform, design theory and practice in this field. The text takes as a case study; In Darwin’s Garden (2014), a large-scale augmented reality artwork, in order to demonstrate how the design of a new tool can amplify an already familiar embodied action and encourage the participant to engage with and co-curate a different experience of the environment and thereby experience an altered, enactive landscape. The chapter focuses attention on somatic movement, particularly the sensorimotor action of reaching. It is argued that the use of a tool that facilitates reaching can produce an alteration in attitude from the detachment and stasis of the Albertian/Cartesian subject, to an entirely different more active engagement, reflecting a dynamic, 4E (embodied, embedded, extended and enactive) cognitive model.
Traditionally, design practice is based on the development and production of tangible outcomes, which provide both functional and aesthetic solutions. Materials, forms and details constitute the aesthetics which are embedded and evaluated within the classic discourse on semiotics, material culture, technology, usability and styling. This is also the case in healthcare contexts, where designers are still primarily involved in shaping medical products like MRIs and surgery tools. However, in recent years designers have become increasingly involved in areas outside the commercial and industrial spheres, seeking to influence and trigger change in diverse social contexts and scenarios. These changes, which reframe the role of designers, involve new research methods and outcomes, including the design of processes, systems and services, specifically directed at promoting people’s well-being. These shifts challenge the meaning and evaluation of aesthetics, as the focal point moves away from the designed object to the reframing of experiences, sensations and situations. Stemming from co-design and inclusive design strategies, this approach seeks to harness aesthetics vis-a-vis complex human scenarios. Through case studies which focus on the sensorial, emotional, as well as socio- cultural aspects of body-centered design projects, this chapter will highlight new layers of the Somaesthetics of Healthcare Design.
The built environment implicitly regulates bodily movement, whether through decorative curbs marking areas as private or lighting accentuating pimples to drive youths away. Drawing on my own observational research and empirical studies, I argue tacit boundaries such as these are harsher for people under the weather in the threefold sense of suffering from inclement conditions, ill-health and oppressive social climates. Inasmuch as design filters people in these ways, space is “selectively permeable.” I pursue these lines through Shusterman’s somaesthetics and Gibson’s affordance theory. A tenet in somaesthetics is that culture, mind, body and values are codependent. Gibson’s framework likewise holds that body, values and environment are codefined. An icy stairway, for example, may afford falling to the infirmed and look threatening to them more than it does to the healthy, who therefore value it differently. The same pattern occurs in cultural-political environments: a woman may see an urban setting as more threatening than a man because it places her at greater bodily risk, just as citizens in an authoritarian society may face more danger than tourists, experiencing things accordingly. That agents face objectively different obstacles in the same environment allows for selectively permeable design and it makes affordances political.
This chapter considers examples of self-education that rely on embodied knowledge described in memoir writing that may hold useful lessons for design and craft education. Shusterman’s somaesthetics seek alternatives to bodily communication that do not revert to language en route back to the body. The admittedly eclectic range of examples I have drawn together from memoir writing attend to the very challenge of articulating the knowledge that begins within our bodies. In the memoirs discussed, the acquisition of embodied or tacit knowledge occurs in situations (far beyond design and craft education) where bodily safety is at risk: learning to read the snowpack in avalanche conditions, landing an airplane, lunging a horse or training a falcon to a lure. These examples not only confirm that our bodies know far more than we credit, but, I hope, may encourage a wider range of learning situations to be considered comparable, at least in aspects, to design and craft education. Educators such as myself based in design and craft are far less unique in the challenges we face teaching embodied knowledge than we may wish to recognise.
Somaesthetics, given its melioristic aims of improving experience, is centrally concerned with transformation. But the concept of transformation has not been properly theorized in somaesthetics. This chapter fills this gap by examining how to conceptualize somaesthetic transformation in a way that can advance both theory and practice in somaesthetic design. We first analyze the concept of transformative somaesthetic experience in terms of ten characteristics, and then we discuss three different exemplars of design involving somaesthetic transformation from different domains: design of practical workshops in somaesthetics, design in performance art, and design of human-computer somaesthetic interaction.
After a short introduction into the emergent field of ritual design and into current debates in Ritual Studies, an analysis of the ritual body is undertaken, wherein affinities with somaesthetics are detected. Rituals embody meanings through practices of encultured bodies that are expected to be performed attentively. As enactments they presume a non-intellectual knowledge that has to be trained and its reiteration “designs”, in the long run, the living body. At some point, if ritual design were to be integrated into design theory, it should clarify its relation to functionalist and semantic theories of design. In particular, further clarification is necessary with regard to the triangular relation between ritual design, design theory and somaesthetics. The underlying values and worldviews of these related disciplines need to be uncovered so as to illuminate wherein divergences lie – whether these result from their image of the human, their understanding of freedom and the prevalence of tradition versus innovation. In addition to these theoretical challenges, the practice itself of crafting rituals is divided between analytical and intuitive approaches.
This work combines Christian theology, Enlightenment liberal philosophy, and modern social science to defend the marital family as an essential institution for adults and children, straights and gays alike. John Witte presents the marital family as an integrated sphere with natural, social, economic, communicative, contractual, and spiritual dimensions. He rejects modern efforts to abolish the legal category of marriage or to reduce it to a transient and malleable sexual contract. While celebrating the sexual liberty of consensual adults, Witte calls for stable marital families and responsible sex and parentage as the surest and safest path to private flourishing and social stability for all.
Over the last 40 years, neoliberalism has come to dominate urban form and experience in many cities. This is where ‘rational landscapes’ are designed to provide measurable and controllable environments that privilege the interests of their investors within a logic of rentier capitalism. Bodily gestures and somatic memory are conditioned for and within these settings. The ‘neoliberal sensorium’ therefore becomes hardwired into participating in the work of financialization. By combining performative and representational research, this article presents a sensing field study undertaken in Kalasatama, a new district of Helsinki, Finland. This becomes the starting point for a more general exploration of connections between the somaesthetics of neoliberalism and design culture. Rhetorics and practices of efficiency and functionality course through multiple objects and social understandings. These go beyond individualised notions of the ‘quantified self’ to form another, instrumental layer of neoliberal subjectivity. In this, particular focus is given to how practices of calculation, coordination and anticipation are active in these socio-material and socio-economic relationships.
In their projects in art, architecture and design and in the interplays between them Olafur Eliasson, internationally celebrated for his interdisciplinary works, and the outstanding video artist Eva Koch have made visible several objectives that are inspired by Shusterman’s somaesthetics or are parallel to it. They have aimed at enforcing some basic elements of somaesthetics. Particularly the concepts of embodied creation and perception, the interplay between design and art and between the viewers and the surroundings. And like somaesthetics they have focused on unification of art and experience, and the ambition to inspire and enrich life through art, architecture and design. Olafur Eliasson works – e. g. the solar light-based design project Little Sun – and Eva Koch’s permanent site-specific video works show an understanding of the body’s very important role in visual art and design, also viewing it as a resource for working on benefiting life, society and nature in general. Their interdisciplinary projects create new openings and orientations to practices and to new ways of living. For them creating art is always an embodied and interdisciplinary transformative experience, where new horizons can emerge, the realizing of meliorative goals can occur and the reintegration of art and life can take place.