The hand, the mind and the book

Kirkham, Lisa (2018) The hand, the mind and the book. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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Digital technologies are unquestionably affecting all aspects of human life, with positive and negative implications for our present and future existence. More specifically, the effects on the publishing industry and changes to both the form and function of the book in all its realms have consequences for the ways we read and write, and disseminate and preserve all forms of knowledge and ideas. While these areas are the subject of current research, there is a lack of research into the impacts of digitisation on the process of design for the printed book. I argue that changes in this process are important for ongoing discussions concerning the future of the book, and in this thesis I investigate how technological change has affected the process of design through the ways we think, perceive and act. The research combines empirical data collected through in-depth interviews with practising designers, analysed from the different, but interconnected theoretical perspectives of technological mediation, embodied cognition, affordance, haptic perception and material culture. While the focus is on design of the printed book, by drawing on cognitive science I extend existing research in other design fields by looking more closely at manual manipulation and sense of touch as part of our cognitive system. In addition, I review recent publishing theory and make a case for maintaining a view of the book as a container, and argue that physical attributes are key to future success. The research findings indicate that working exclusively with digital technologies affects the degree to which we imagine, or mentally visualise, as part of the design process. I conclude that digitisation has affected the ways we think in relation to design, by encouraging us to off-load more mental effort to external objects. By offering less precision and ease, traditional methods appear to have particular benefits for our cognitive processes generally, and for the material qualities of the printed book.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: Book design, digital technology, materiality, touch, tactility, affordance, embodied cognition, publishing
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2019 16:55
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:56

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