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Which clippings match 'Gerry Stahl' keyword pg.1 of 1
19 NOVEMBER 2013

Applying Heidegger's Philosophy to Design

"Heidegger's philosophy offers what is arguably the most thorough account of the process of human understanding available. Although his analysis of interpretation is useful if one is to understand activities like innovative design, it never addresses the realm of design directly. Heidegger discusses interpretation at a high level of generality and chooses his examples from interactions between people and physical artifacts, like the use of hammers by carpenters. He is concerned with the nature of understandingly being in the world. While a person's world includes conceptual and imaginative realms like design, Heidegger's examples primarily come from the world of physical artifacts which can be encountered perceptually. ...

Heidegger treats artifacts in the world the same way he would treat design artifacts on the drawing board. That is, he is not really concerned with them as physically present objects of perception. On the contrary, his main effort philosophically is to distinguish artifacts–in–use from traditional conceptions of physically–present–objects. For example, a hammer in use is not understood by the carpenter as an observed object with physical attributes, but is skillfully applied to the activities of the current situation. Furthermore, this skillful use takes place within the context of future–oriented plans and desires, such as the anticipation of the item that is under construction. This is similar to components of a design, which are skillfully arranged in terms of their relationships to other design components and within the context of the anticipated final design. Marks in a design sketch, for instance, are important for their roles within a network of significances, rather than for their physical properties as lines. Interpretation of both physical artifacts and designs is situated. ...

The notion of breakdown in action plays a rather small role in Heidegger's analysis of human understanding. Heidegger uses examples of breakdown in order to make explicit the network of references among artifacts that are only present tacitly under conditions of normal use. Yet, the notion of breakdown has been elevated to central importance in the theories that have tried to adopt Heidegger's analysis to a theory of design and to operationalize this theory for computer support. Thus, breakdown plays an important role in Schön (1985), Winograd & Flores (1986), Suchman (1987), Ehn (1988), Budde & Züllighoven (1990), McCall, Morch, & Fischer (1990), Dreyfus (1991), Coyne & Snodgrass (1991), Fischer & Nakakoji (1992).

The fact that so many writers influenced by Heidegger have focused on breakdown does not provide multiple independent support for this emphasis. ... most of these writers have been influenced by Heidegger only indirectly–either through Dreyfus or through Schön. If one looks closely at the discussions of breakdown in Dreyfus and Schön, one can note an ambiguity in whether they are speaking about a (ontological) breakdown in the network of references or a (practical) breakdown in action. Dreyfus is certainly aware of the ontological role of breakdown, but he is concerned to make his presentation acceptable to an American audience, trained in the rationalist tradition. For the sake of concreteness, he uses examples that stress the breakdown in action. Schön is also aware of the ontological ramifications, but he has couched his discussion in terms of action (e.g., knowing–in–action, reflection–in–action), so it often seems that his examples of breakdown exemplify breakdowns in action rather than breakdowns in situated understanding. Given that it is easier to operationalize breakdowns in action than breakdowns in situated understanding, it is not surprising that people interested in producing practical results from Dreyfus or Schön's theories would tend to emphasize the action–oriented reading of the ambiguous discussions."

(Gerry Stahl, 5 January 2004)


action-oriented reading • Adrian Snodgrass • Anders Morch • anticipation • artefacts-in-use • being-in-the-worldbreakdown • breakdown in action • breakdown in the network of references • breakdowns in action • breakdowns in situated understanding • carpenter • conceptual domain • concreteness • current situationdesign artefactsdesign innovation • design sketch • design theoryDonald Schon • drawing board • Fernando Floresflow • Gerhard Fischer • Gerry Stahl • hammer • Heinz Zullighoven • Hubert Dreyfushuman perception • human understanding • innovative design • knowing-in-action • Kumiyo Nakakoji • Lucy Suchman • Martin Heidegger • nature of understanding • network of references • network of significances • normal use • objects of perception • Pelle Ehn • philosophy of design • physical artefacts • physical attributes • physical properties • physically present • physically-present-objects • rationalist tradition • Raymond McCall • reflection-in-action • Reinhard Budde • Richard Coynesituated construction of realitysituated knowledgessketching ideas • skillful use • Terry Winogradtheory of design


Simon Perkins
08 FEBRUARY 2009

Learning as shared meaning making

"Gerry Stahl (2003) strengthens the collaborative character of learning and refers to learning as shared meaning making. Meaning making is not understood as a psychological process which takes place in individuals' minds but as an 'essentially social activity that is conducted jointly – collaboratively –– by a community, rather than by individuals who happen to be co–located' (ibid, p. 523). Stahl grounds the collaborative character of meaning making in the philosophical tradition of Heidegger, Hegel, and in Vygotsky's concept of mediated cognition which shows how meaning is socially produced and situationally interpreted. His conception of meaning making goes beyond the exclusive focus on the individual as thinker. 'That is to say, the meaning–making practices do not merely take place within a 'context of joint activity', as actions might take place within the four walls of a room. Rather, the context of joint activity is those practices –– the practices form the context. Similarly, the meaning is not merely transferred from mind to mind by the activities, but the meaning is constructed by and exists as those activities. Similarly, artefacts are not simply instruments for conveying independent meanings, but are themselves embodiments of meaning' (ibid. p. 524)."
(Heidrun Allert, Journal of Interactive Media in Education)

Stahl, G. (2003). Meaning and Interpretation in Collaboration. In B. Wasson, S. Ludvigsen and U. Hoppe (Eds.), Designing For Change in Networked Learning Environments (pp. 523–532). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.



collaborationcollaborative learning • concepts of learning • contextGerry Stahl • JIME • Journal of Interactive Media in Education • learningmetadatamodellingpedagogy


Simon Perkins
10 DECEMBER 2008

A Model of Collaborative Knowledge Building

"Martin Heidegger (1927/1996) (an important recent German philosopher) and Donald Schön (1983) (an influential American theoretician of design) argue that learning starts on the basis of tacit pre–understanding (Polanyi, 1962; Winograd & Flores, 1986) (see chapter 4). Some form of breakdown in planning or in our worldly activity renders elements of this tacit understanding problematic on occasion (Dewey & Bentley, 1949/1991). The network of meanings by which we make sense of our world is torn asunder and must be mended. The resolution of the problem proceeds through a gnawing awareness of the problematic nature of some piece of our understanding. We may be able to repair our understanding by explicating the implications of that understanding and resolving conflicts or filling in gaps–by reinterpreting our meaning structures–to arrive at a new comprehension. This typically involves some feedback from the world: from our experience with artifacts such as our tools and symbolic representations. For instance, we might learn a new sense of some word or a new application of a familiar tool–more ambitiously, our understanding might undergo a fundamental conceptual change. If we are successful and the problem disappears, this new comprehension gradually settles in to become our new tacit understanding and to provide the starting point for future understanding and further learning.
The process of interpretation that seems to be carried out at the level of the individual mind is already an essentially social process. The network of 'personal' meanings ultimately has its origin in interpersonal language and culture. Interpretation takes place within language (Wittgenstein, 1953), history (Gadamer, 1960/1988), culture (Bourdieu, 1972/1995; Bruner, 1990; Cole, 1996), social structures (Giddens, 1984b) and politics (Habermas, 1981/1984). Our 'internal' thought process capabilities and structures themselves have origins in our previous social interactions (Mead, 1934/1962; Vygotsky, 1930/1978). Our personal interpretive perspective or voice is a consolidation of many perspectives and voices or genres of others we have known (Bakhtin, 1986b; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995)."
(Gerry Stahl)

Stahl, G. (2006). Group cognition: Computer support for building collaborative knowledge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


2006Anthony Giddens • Arthur Bentley • constellationscultural signalsdialogicDonald SchonengagementFernando Flores • George Mead • Gerry StahlHans-Georg Gadamerindividualinformation in contextintegrationJohn DeweyLev VygotskyLudwig WittgensteinMartin HeideggermetaphorMichael PolanyiMikhail Bakhtinmodelnetwork • network of meanings • ontologyPierre Bourdieu • Ramkrishnan Tenkasi • Richard Boland • shared languagesocial constructionismtacitTerry Winograd


Simon Perkins

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