The evolution of the working environment, from analogue to digital, has significantly altered the dynamics of the working process in terms of how one physically moves through it. In this sense, modern behavioural working traits can largely be characterized by a subject seated in front of a computer, navigating through digital space. This thesis focuses on human-computer interaction (HCI), the interface between users and computers, and examines body motions and gestures, namely of the hands, that are made to carry out simple, repetitive tasks using common commands.
The aim of this study is to evaluate the role of the physical body within a digital working environment by examining how certain physical motions take on gestural meaning and how these motions translate into the digital gestures that they subsequently create. This study therefore analyses the way in which physical motions relate to digital gestures and how this relationship can be translated into images.
Gesture is a phenomenon of human movement that can be defined as the nodal point where culture (the imposition of bodily techniques), neurobiology (the given mechanics of a human sensorimotor apparatus), and embodied experience (the kinesthetic experience specific to an individual body) overlap and inform one another. Within the domain of cognitive science, this research addresses the concepts of embodiment and conceptual metaphor, and explores how our concept of time influences our physical movements. Thus, there is a particular focus on the correlations that can be observed in everyday physical actions as these form the experiential basis of our perception of time and motion.
A metaphorical conception of time that shapes the way we perceive work, both on a physical and mental level, is what Lakoff and Johnson term the “Time as a Resource” metaphor: a theory that provides the foundation of our perception of time as valuable, and our understanding of efficiency as a highly regarded asset. The incentive to increase efficiency in the workplace has led to the field of “Time and Motion Studies”, dedicated to the observation and analysis of micro-movements, and has also inspired the field of ergonomics and the current popularity of the self-tracking movement. This research applies the techniques used in “Time and Motion Studies” to reflect on the role of the body within the transdisciplinary field of cybernetics.
The experiments carried out within this research rest primarily on a foundation of perceptual theories of visual communication, namely cognitive and semiotic approaches. They address the question of how motion is perceived through images and how meaning is subsequently associated with them. Through practice-led investigations exploring alternative ways to visualize a subject’s motions and gestures while working in a digital environment, this research addresses the question of how we perceive and physically experience the routine and habitual nature of our everyday working worlds.