Eudaimonic experience design

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Signe Flydal Enevoldsen
4. term, Experience Design, Master (Master Programme)
The aim of this master's thesis is to connect ideals of happiness and well-being to aesthetic experiences and their potential of increasing awareness, as well as to understand how aesthetics can be incorporated when designing an experience in order to intensify the presence of the person perceiving the experience. This investigation seeks to derive key points that can be established as generic design principles which can guide experience designers who wish to develop this type of experience.
The thesis discusses philosophical ideals of happiness and well-being found in the teachings of hedonism and eudaimonism, connecting these ideals to experience theory, aesthetics, and art. This discussion provides the basis for analysing the art installation, Sex and the Sea, which represents the case study of this thesis. Sex and the Sea was created by the artists and directors Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway, and was exhibited at the Maritime Museum of Helsingør. This installation in particular has been chosen based on the axiomatic expectation that it can exemplify how experiences can bring eudaimonic happiness, even though they might inflict hedonic displeasure, by making people aware of good and appropriate actions regarding ideas and feelings that concern everybody. Sex and the Sea is examined through Umberto Eco’s categories of intentions; the intention of the author, the intention of the text, and the intention of the reader. In the analysis an interview at the Maritime Museum of Helsingør is conducted to understand the intention(s) of the author(s), next a phenomenological-semiotic analysis is conducted to understand the intention of the text, and lastly a go-along study is conducted to incorporate other possible readings, thus challenging the reading suggested in the semiotic text analysis. Based on the findings, five principles are generated:

The experience must be highly sensuous.
The experience does not have to be pleasurable in order to be good.
The experience must integrate and emphasize contrasts.
The experience should refer to ideas and feelings that concern everybody.
The experience must be designed in a way that accommodates space for reflection.

These principles may be used as guidelines in a design process encompassing the eudaimonic ideal of well-being in an experience.
This thesis concludes that an accentuation of sensory stimulation is essential to the eudaimonic experience. In holding the subjects attention, it is in fact keeping the reflection process alive. Even though such stimulation may result in interruption of pleasure, happiness may be re-acquired through the intrinsic good that is to be found in reflecting on good and appropriate actions, as well as in the resulting insights. The reflections are created through the use of contrasting symbols, where common human ideas on urges and reason are being opposed to each other. It is this intersection that aesthetics may mediate, resulting in either harmony or alienation. In experiencing empathy or alienation, a person’s prior assumptions and confidence in that person’s surroundings are brought into play, which may result in the transformation. The more present we are when experiencing highly sensuous, aesthetic experiences, the greater the alienation of our own lives. Our confidentiality in our surroundings is revised, thereby enabling transformed awareness.
Publication date19 Oct 2017
Number of pages62
ID: 263665069