Exploring the contested borderland between data and meaning: using hermeneutic phenomenology and experience-based design for insightful engineering

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Abstract

At an engineering research centre in Denmark covering a broad spectrum of engineering specialties, we have employed a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to a wide range of educational and industry projects to help us to better understand everyday human experience for the people for whom we intend to design. Through this work, we have experimented with and explored creative ways to 'enter into' the lives of various individuals and groups within the health, pharmaceuticals, education, manufacturing and local government sectors. Some of our ideas have been a little unorthodox; applying ready-to-hand technologies in very different ways, but we have discovered that they work and can provide powerful insights into the everyday 'natural' worlds of ordinary people. Finding new ways to capture lived experiences (as best we can), understanding 'hidden meaning structures' contained within them at the most primordial level, and communicating these insights experientially are the goals that have driven this work. In this paper we will share some examples of how we have infused design thinking with hermeneutic phenomenology across the four stages of each project (Exploring, Sharing, Understanding and Showing How). We have developed this approach by constantly referring back to philosophical first principles to inspire new techniques and 'ways into' the life-worlds of real people that we are striving to help. We hope that designers and engineers will find these examples helpful in their attempts to find new perspectives on old problems and to challenge old perspectives on new problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-36
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace
Volume7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 04 Mar 2020

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