“Intra-active” tactility as an aesthetic phenomenon in artifact design

16:00, Saturday 8 May 2021 (30 minutes)

Sophie Declerck, Loughborough University, UK

The tactile modality is complex and multi-determined: tactility is material, human, embodied, cultural, experiential and more-than-representational. An approach of openness is needed. However, attempts to formulate an aesthetics of touch have proven impractical or too reliant on the input of neuroscience, psychophysics, and ergonomics, thereby neglecting the sociocultural situatedness and the affective-symbolic dimensions of our experience with material objects. Moreover, tactility as an aesthetic phenomenon is under-researched in the context of physical design artifacts. In this presentation, I propose a philosophical, new materialist position to explore the aesthetics of tactility within design. By conceptualizing ‘tactility’ not as a human experience or material quality, but as constituted by multiple entanglements or – in Karen Barad’s terms – “intra-actions” of matter (the material) and meaning (the discursive), this presentation moves beyond the purely bodily sense of touch and outlines a new avenue and methodological approach for analyzing and designing ‘tactility’ that accounts for both aesthesis and semiosis, for affecting and being affected. By drawing upon the work and embodied experiences of conceptual and experimental designers, this approach to thinking ‘with’ tactility is applied to examples of contemporary furniture design to illustrate the variety of configurations this intra-activity takes.

Loughborough University London
Doctoral Researcher