Dourish, P. (2004) Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. Chapter 4. “Being-in-the-World”: Embodied Interaction. pp 99-126.

The fourth chapter of the book defines the concept of embodied interaction and brings together the themes of social and tangible computing through a quite heavy philosophical discussion.

The core message of the chapter is the definition of embodied interaction and the concept of embodiment. Dourish defines them as follows:

Embodiment is the property of our engagement with the world that allows us to make it meaningful.

Embodied Interaction is the creation, manipulation, and sharing of meaning through engaged interaction with artifacts.

The core idea in Dourish’s thinking seems to be that embodiment relates to the relationship between action and meaning. The social and tangible computing are linked to embodiment in that it is through embodiment that we encounter physical and social reality in our everyday lives. Thus social and tangible computing are in a way “founded on the same idea”.

Dourish traces the idea of embodiment in the thinking of philosophers from phenomenology branch. The chapter walks the reader through the main contributions of Husserl (transcendental phenomenology), Heidegger (hermeneutic phenomenology), Schutz (phenomenology of the social world), and Merleau-Ponty (phenomenology of perception). In addition to phenomenology also Gibson’s ecological psychology, Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology, and Wittgensteins thinking about language are linked to the idea of embodied action. The seemingly different approaches have three common elements that are also the core building blocks of Dourish’s idea of embodiment and embodied interaction:

  1. They all take embodiment as central and see embodiment as a way of being.
  2. They all focus on practice.
  3. They all see embodied practical action as the source of meaning

The post of the previous chapter is here.