Method, Hermeneutics
 and Hypermedia

Sérgio Bairon
Instituto Plural*


            It is important to face the challenge of a interdisciplinary research, when the aim is to make analysis directed to explore different areas of knowledge. This challenge is much more significant when it is available a different language, such as hypermedia is.

            In a research under my coordination, developed during years and finished very recently, in phase of public presentation, it was possible to face those challenges, researching concepts and themes from Psychoanalysis and History of Culture, producing a hypermedia, as much as researching about esthetic contents to explore conceptual analysis.

            Having the psychoanalyst Luis Carlos Petry as co-author, and with the cooperation of a few professionals to the locution, based in results of our research as well, we produced the CD-ROM Hypermedia, Psychoanalysis and History of Culture.

            In the following paragraphs, it is presented an excerpt of the Making Of that we prepared, in order to share with the scientific community our paths.

            The main idea in proposing to Convenit, with exclusivity and in advance, this article, is to get the chance of dialogue with scholars and people in general, who could be interested in discussing the meaning and possibilities of applying new medias of digital technology, to the conceptual research.

            The word method, which derives from the Greek méthodos, leads us to the conception of "path", a path through which we get to certain result, arrive to a certain place. This path is never finished, it never reaches its final point.

            The essential question around the criticism to the follow-up of modern scientific method must be discussed primarily within a philosophical perspective. From this perspective we come to the conclusion that we must consider as a source for the understanding of the historical-cultural palinode authors who have been treating language as a fundamental revelation of the being throughout the 20th century. We understand that Freud-Lacanian psychoanalysis, Heideggerian phenomenology, Gadamerian hermeneutics and Wittgenstein's and Bakhtine's philosophies of language, which have as their essential and final point language manifestations, can converge to the direction of a hypermedia system that in turn on the other hand discloses the essence of using digital technologies applied to the regionalities cited above.

            From Heidegger and Gadamer we can apprehend the fundamentals of hermeneutic criticism to the axioms of the contemporary Cartesian-illuminist scientific method, which has always sought in the normativeness of technique and demonstration the main resources to define the truth.

            By means of Freud-Lacanian psychoanalysis we can understand that language is essentially sociocultural and constituted of contradictory significations which necessarily not only do not annul each other but are also articulated in a relationship of interdependence. With Wittgenstein and Bakhtine on the other hand we have had a profound research on experiences of sense we can extract from the world's linguisticity, fundamentally in its imaginary expressions. Wittgenstein, in Philosophical Investigations, tries to teach us that language is a game without fixed rules and totally bound to the forms of life around it. In Bakhtine we find a good work of systematization of some of the historical-cultural dialogic senses which permeated the Occident, both from their intellectual carat to their wondrous popularity.

            The way of hermeneutics of facticity has been fundamentally built upon the works of Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Within this tradition, hermeneutics ended up as the main inquiring about the validity conditions of the modernity's scientific knowledge. An inquiring that intends a critical action concerning modern scientific method must not lack a hermeneutic approach. In this context there is an assertion condemning radically the separation between science and art, between knowledge and esthetics.

            The work of art has in its essential stuffings (condition of something that is in the world) construction criteria transcending the possible limits of historical temporality and cultural isoglosses. It is these characteristics that turn the work of art into a prototype for the study of the experience hermeneutically situated. It means that the work of art brings with itself the possibility of the encounter between the horizons that "remained" in the past and the horizons that surround us and define us in our condition of humanity. Therefore, we find in hermeneutics the way to treat understanding as a universal way-of-being.

            The universality of hermeneutics produces an immeasurable number of questions to every type of interest in history since it deals with what is in all interpretation underlying the historical question. Therefore, the scope of hermeneutics is to show that understanding only moves towards methodology when the historical consciousness derived from it needs to create a fundamental distance from the presence over all historical transmission.

            The concept of effective historical consciousness in hermeneutics presupposes both the attempt to define historical production and the consciousness determined by it and the consciousness of this having-itself-produced and be determined. Such interpretation context has enabled a light to pass through: the evidence of language. In various moments Gadamer announces: "The being that can be understood is language." By the way the psychoanalyst J. Lacan tells us just the same.

            The need pointed by hermeneutics, that of the search of the non-methodological universal, does not intend to put together generalizations of historical sense. The totality of sense defended here is the one present, explicitly or implicitly, in all understanding of history, but never that one appearing in a possible sense of the totality of history. As we work on a hypermedia production such question begins to clarify increasingly, because from the image we jump to the concept and from the latter to the former until we reach a level of creation and production that identifies the esthetic-topological argument with scientific-philosophic knowledge.

            Such way of analysis has been possible thanks to the increasing attention given to matters of valuing language as a theoretical agglutinating pole of a major part of social studies developed during this century. The evidence of language, therefore, aims at no dominance upon the being but, yes, it denotes that the experience of the being is where there is the possibility of understanding. Thus recognizing, hermeneutics aims at disclosing the theory of the real experience that thinking is. The secret lies in taking seriously the essence of understanding that always appears uncommitted in relation to any methodic rigidity.

            In this hypermedia the traditional scientific methodology represented for instance in Kuhn's Normal Science is not acting in order to forget the way-of-being of understanding in philosophy and in the work of art, since its experiences with the truth usually cannot be measured with the traditional means of scientific methodology.

            As for the scientific method, we must face the challenge of revoking the criteria long established by the methodological tradition, the possible need for differentiation between the inductive proceeding of the natural sciences and the experience of the sociohistorical world contextualized in the media structures of contemporaneity. Within this context, the sciences created and presented through the digital communication structures may not intend, at any moment at all, to institute the study of a concrete phenomenon as the fundament of a general rule.

            We cannot elect any individualization as a basis in the ratification of any legality whatever. The "scientific law" will always evoke the instability of tradition existing in the attempts to understand the phenomenon, i.e., it should always evoke a metacriticism of its own negation, fundamentally, as long as it is a law with its origins in the natural sciences.

            We should not try to devise an enlargement of generalizations with the purpose of knowing the scientific laws that can explain the evolution of thought or the relationship between neural, neuronal and digital. First let us try to value all narrative descriptions not committed to the search of the truth of law and let us fall into esthetic expressivenesses that protect us at the same time from the absolute obscurity of having-nothing-to-say, as well as from the specific narrowness of "having-only-this-to-say".

            By observing a number of productions and creations even if artistic in digital media, we always ask ourselves about this class of knowledge that intends to under-stand that something is the way it is just because this is the way is has always been. In our case we have never allowed at all that a technical resource whatsoever dominated our saying. On the contrary, we would be immersed in a kind of knowledge that would start first and foremost in self-hiding and would present itself as something new, being the new something that, as a matter of fact, has never belonged to it. This is exactly what happens with artists who produce their "technological" work as soon as they start to designate "subjective" all knowledge not produced through the expressiveness of the technological resource employed. Gadamer sees the idea of good taste directly related to the idea of "good society" in the sense that it is not something private but deeply sociocultural.

            The taste is constructed thanks to the facts that generate repugnance. And, in fact, what repulses good taste, what reaches its world, is the lack of taste rather than bad taste. Our complicity with hermeneutics at this moment occurs through the need to reveal the tradition that defined the insufficiency of self-interpretation of human sciences. Esthetics shall define such senses by presenting not the methodological-conceptual knowledge as a primary path to the truth, but the work of art's world revelation. Starting with Kant, the cognitive meaning began to replace the common sense that was reduced to a subjective principle.

            In the common sense we cannot find the beautiful. When limiting the taste as the common sense source of expression, Kant abandons definitively the political, moral tradition of the common sense concept that hermeneutics attempts to rehabilitate. Kantian esthetics tries to elect a meaningfulness of the beautiful through its closeness to nature. By comparing what is beautiful in nature to what is beautiful in art Kant creates his esthetic problem. It is in the closeness between art and nature, in the transcendence of the former over the concept, that Kant identifies the role of the genius. The genius becomes the decisive concept of esthetic taste, responsible for the vital feeling that generates imagination and understanding in the presence of the beautiful. The genius contains the spiritual vivification to the point that, even with a rigid scholar activity, it frees its invention and its originality in the creation of models. Nature presents its most beautiful principles through the genius: the fine arts are arts of the genious, Kant already said, annulling any possibility of approaching the common sense and the "fine art".

            This is one of the reasons that made us rescue the term Spiel (game), when it intends to take in the biggest part of this taking-place of understanding.

            Hermeneutics searches for alternative ways where the art phenomenon has to enable the self-understanding of historicity manifestations. In this way the essence of art is not a transitory actualization that manifests a pure historic consciousness, but the manifestation of a being that gets up to date by resorting to itself historically. Therefore, it is fundamental not to create over beauty and art any perspective that aims at the immediacy of scientific classification, but one that approaches the historical reality of immersing in horizon environments.

            This encounter would be ontologically fruitful and powerful in the revelation of its truth. Here hermeneutics situates Kant's abandon, mainly of his attempts to recognize the truth as a fruit of scientific knowledge, a fruit of the sciences of nature. That is, the work of art also evidences a world experience, just as science the search for truth.

            However, differentiations in art take place not only in the relativization of the supposed founding acts, but also in relation to its ontical and ontological being-in-the-world as directions. The hypermedia architecture, in its structures of immersion, has proved to be the art that best represents the manifestations of the content pointing far beyond itself. With the hypermedia architecture this far beyond takes place in two directions, because it is determined both by its use and the place it must occupy in the spatial context. Our references in 3D have acted as a type of architectonic monument containing these two directions. Because it achieved its expressiveness in 3D, hypermedia architecture has taken on the expressiveness of the art that gives form to space. This is the origin of its immeasurable value in making place to other arts, even promoting the end of concepts such as decoration, illustration and housing.

            Metaphorically, hypermedia is the architecture of language's esthetic manifestation. For this reason hypermedia can, in a certain way, reproduce a great number of variables we are faced with daily, thus offering us the way to acquire experience. Experienced is the person, who knows his or her limits with words, not intending to be the owner of time or of the future. It is the historicity itself that limits the true experience within tradition. Tradition is how hermeneutics chose to name language in the context of immersion in already given horizons. Leaving the traditional means to put language in an instrumental, methodological function; for this reason, being situated in tradition is not a matter of being limited to one's freedom of knowing, but rather it is exactly the essence of every possibility of knowledge.

            It is the criticism to esthetic and historic consciousness that leads hermeneutics to question all methodological Cartesian-illuminist objectivism even by approaching again the Greeks in the issue of truth. Nevertheless, when assuming language as an understanding unveiling core, hermeneutics takes on a sui generis posture: daily life and science try to appropriate language unsuccessfully, because both are immersed in the world. Poetic manifestations know this and manifest themselves like that. In their fragments they represent the world in which they are placed and are spoken of as a whole, the whole of poetry, not intending the literality of the whole. Poetry is speculative concerning the being because its goals not to copy a reality, it does not follow an order of essence, but opens the world to us. Systemless and at every revelation poetry simultaneously offers us chaos and saves us from it. This is exactly the path hermeneutics tries to disclose and scientific methodology usually tries to avoid.

            A hermeneutically orientated hypermedia posture must start from the acknowledgement of its true essence: there is no "present", but alternatively altered past and future horizons. This withdraws from understanding the possibility of granting itself the privilege of a scientific meaning, because we cannot understand an author better than, or just the same as, he or she has understood him or herself. Not better, but in a different way for sure. In this sense that we developed the relation between Hermeneutics and Hypermedia in the research that conduct to Hypermedia Psychoanalysis and History of Culture.


* Professor of Graduate Studies on Semiotics at PUC – Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo and at Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, São Paulo. At the Instituto Plural, the author is Scientific Coordinator of Research.