The conceptual structure of product semantic models
The study is concerned with the conceptual structure and content of the framework for characterising user-product interaction, proposed under the title – ‘Product Semantics’. The sources for the critique of design, from which the framework is derived, are identified and analysed, and the substantive theoretical and methodological content given initial consideration in terms of the deployment of the central concept of ‘meaning’, and the principal theoretical approaches adopted in the analysis of meaning and semantic concepts generally. The commitment to a cognitive and experiential approach to user-interaction is established and the concepts central to the framework, and requiring more detailed analysis, are identified. The core of the study consists in an analysis of the sequence of concepts and contexts that are chiefly used in the theoretical articulation of the framework, including - function, affordance, categorisation, artefacts, meaning and expression - of which the concept of affordance is central to the structure. On the basis of the initial consideration of the structure and content of the scheme, and in the light of the analysis of concepts, the explanatory structure of the framework is established. It is argued that the core commitment to an experiential and cognitive account, and the form of the explanatory structure, are jointly incompatible with the conceptual content of the framework, particularly in respect of the pivotal role of the concept of affordance. Proposals are advanced for an alternative interpretation which addresses the central issues of consistency and coherence, and which suggests an alternative approach to the conceptual characterisation of the framework and the form of the explanatory hierarchy. The implications of the framework, and the proposed alternative interpretation, are considered in respect of their application in shaping approaches to the development of design theory and methodology, and the experiential aspect of semantics and cognition.