A multidisciplinary framework for (teaching) Human Product Relations

Year: 2010
Editor: Boks W; Ion, W; McMahon, C and Parkinson B
Author: Eggink, Wouter; van der Bijl-Brouwer, Mieke
Page(s): 266-271


In this paper we introduce a framework for dealing with the complexity of human-product
relationships. The actual framework is a matrix of design perspectives, with three cooperating
disciplines on the one hand and three levels of abstraction on the other hand. Basis of the framework is
the notion that a product cannot be seen as stand alone, yet always is influenced by the user(s). Thus,
according to philosopher Don Ihde [1], user and product together define the actual product (use). The
framework was developed for an integrated course on human product relations with input from the
research groups on Usability, Design Aesthetics, and Philosophy of Technology. The interaction (or
relation) between the product and the user can be analyzed and influenced with the use of theory from
these three disciplines. Therefore we discern “A human as a User”, “A human as an Aesthetic”, and
“A human as a Consumer”. From the philosophy of technology perspective (the human as a consumer)
for instance, the theory of mediation and the ethics of influence of behaviour are used to analyze
existing human product relations and create meaningful new ones. The three levels of abstraction
within the framework concern interaction on an individual, a social and a societal level. Finally we
discuss the implementation of this framework within education practice.

Keywords: Human product relations, aesthetics, usability, philosophy of technology, research through design education


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