From emotion to experience. Neo-stoicism and human factors in design

Few problems are more pervading in the design field than the one that stems from the intuition that user’s experience has largely been understated by practitioners and design scholars alike, and that emotion should be recognize as a central instance of human experience. In a sense, designers have been looking at ways to account for emotions to warrant a correct assessment of users. But in their enthusiasm for this new token of good practice, designers have quickly trimmed the concept of emotion off its rich and diverse experiential fabric. The resulting understanding of emotion by designers may very well pertain to behavioral psychology.
The production of favorable emotions amongst users have been sought after for its capacity to enable good disposition towards everyday environment. In that perspective, designers have become mere merchandizers, looking to satisfy consumers preferences that could trigger pleasure. Adopting the neo-stoic perspective developed by Martha C. Nussbaum in her 2001 book, Upheavals of Thought. The Intelligence of Emotions, it appears that seeing and using emotions in such a way raise, at least, two problems. First, to say that emotion expresses value means that they proceed from judgement. As such, an understanding of emotions has to account for their evaluative dimension. It has to account for the fact that emotions manifest more than a bodily answer to a contextual stimuli. They also express personal beliefs and conceptions of the common good. As such, the triggering of desirable emotions cannot resort to the sole excitation of some senses deemed sufficient to generate pleasure. Since moods do not only stem from stimulus outside the control of users, designers should be aware that their power over the emotion of the users is only at least partial. This means that the accountability of favorable emotions might well not present itself as the warrant designers were looking for in the first place. Second, to claim power over others emotion involve a capacity to form a representation of those others and of the dynamics that link the production of a given positive emotion to a particular personality. Strong tradition in positive science has led a lot of designers to think that with sufficient efforts they could achieve a truthful representation of the users and of those dynamics. But such a belief has been largely challenged in the humanities, casting light on the inescapable historic frame that defines human understanding of the world.
Overall, the neo-stoic view of emotions leaves designers with a tough question to answer : how can one make use of a theory of emotion which predictive capacity is limited to the knowledge one can have of the specific history of personal beings ?

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