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SOMA LITERATE DESIGN – Recentering the Interstitiality of Experience

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posted on 09.12.2021, 15:49 by Stephen NeelyStephen Neely
The domain of Interaction Design (IxD) strives for rich interactions yet continues to work with both a shallow definition of gestalt experience and a meager palette of experiential variables from which to pull. The presence of the body in human experience is noted, but poorly understood
or utilized when making design moves. Through a turning of attention to the visceral variables of experience, this thesis presents the first comprehensive definition and taxonomy of Soma Literacy to reveal an expanded palette of variables to the design fields. Interventions into worlds through such a tactile and personal lens challenge many entrenched
beliefs and reframes the very nature of interaction and experience. This new framing and set of priorities applicable to designing for engagement of the felt-sense provides both a timely provocation, and a much-needed practical aid to designers and educators. Influenced by interaction aesthetics, somaesthetics, pragmatic philosophy,
and the theoretical and pedagogical principles of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze’s Eurhythmics, I present the sentient body (soma) as the core of experiential perception. I introduce the soma tier of experience and discuss to what extents Design can offer interventions to reveal, nudge, magnify, or
diminish experiential gestalts through the manipulatible variables of the soma tier, thus offering interaction design not just a renewed and expanded palette, but also a clarification of the fundamental palette of human interaction factors. The human experience is analog. It is the actual, visceral, flesh and bone, breathing, beating body that is the only translator of experience that we possess. It is only through this lens that we might come to know and thereby design meaningful interactions. This thesis re-presents the feeling body as the single fundamental constant for IxD, a playground for all participation, engagement, and
felt-experience. Soma Literacy is introduced as an encompassing and organizing field of study that frames this renewed attention and offers a path to analyze, interpret, reveal, and make meaning through the bodied content present in experience.




Degree Type




Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Jonathan Chapman Dan Lockton Cameron Tonkinwise

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