Simon Fraser University, SIAT, PhD thesis research.

Supervised by:  Prof. Ron Wakkary (SFU), Prof. Peter-Paul Verbeek (University of Twente), and Prof. Carman Neustaedter (SFU).

Design-oriented HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) through Postphenomenology 

A design research inquiry informed by philosophical perspectives on technology

This research will explore intersections between philosophy of technology, especially the postphenomenological approach and its frameworks, and Design-oriented HCI research. In particular, this doctoral thesis project aims to show how postphenomenology can be utilized in design research and help guide efforts of exploring to better attend to human-centeredness in HCI.

I expect to be finished with my doctorate in the Summer of 2018. My defence is scheduled for July 19th.



This doctoral dissertation presents a reflexive account of a design researcher exploring a way to complement human-centered approaches in design-oriented Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) through postphenomenology. This endeavour is based on the possibility that human-centeredness in HCI may obscure aspects of the understanding of humans, technology, and the relations that come about between them. Postphenomenology, a contemporary strand of the philosophy of technology, seems to offer conceptualizations and a more holistic view that can deepen an understanding of the human and the many different kinds of relations that can emerge with technology in the context of HCI.

Motivated by this, the objective of this dissertation is to explore how postphenomenology can contribute a holistic perspective on human relations with technology that can help complement and expand human-centered approaches to design research and practice. To address this, postphenomenology is introduced as a novel analytical framing. Then, three cases of reflective design research practice are presented that illustrate how postphenomenology can be of value as a productive analytical lens by using it: (i) to retrospectively analyze an empirical design ethnography study of guide dog teams, (ii) to analyze a Research through Design (RtD) deployment study of the table-non-table, and (iii) to create a synthesized analysis of a range of contemporary prior RtD projects in an annotated portfolio to generatively open up new ways of looking at them and provide a scaffolding for future research opportunities.

What is revealed in design-oriented HCI through postphenomenology, as demonstrated in this dissertation, is a holistic perspective on the matters concerning the field of HCI that can be complementary to previous ways of understanding. Postphenomenology opens up a view of the human that in one way decenters the human and puts technology and the mediating effect of technology at the center. In this, the human, still a central concern, is understood as technologically mediated. This perspective overcomes a narrow view of the human present in human-centered approaches and it can help HCI researchers get a more holistic view of the human while taking into account the relations that in fact ‘make’ the human.

Keywords:     human-technology relations; postphenomenology; reflective design research practice; field work; human-animal relations; posthumanism