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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Ben Anderson

Ash, J., Anderson, B., Gordon, R. & Langley, P. Unit, Vibration, Tone: A Post-Phenomenological Method for Researching Digital Interfaces. Cultural Geographies. 2018;25:165-181.

Author(s) from Durham


Digital interfaces, in the form of websites, mobile apps and other platforms, now mediate user experiences with a variety of economic, cultural and political services and products. To study these digital mediations, researchers have to date followed a range of methodological strategies including the modification of pre-existing qualitative research methods, such as content analysis, discourse analysis and semiotics, among many others, and an experimentation with new methods designed to make visible the operation of data aggregation, analytics and algorithms that are hidden from users. Building upon, while distinct from these strategies, the article sets out a post-phenomenological approach to studying interfaces, websites and apps that explicitly interrogates how they appear as objects. In doing so, the article provides a response to a problem that animates contemporary cultural geography: that new cultural objects are emerging which place in question the habits and practices of analysis that composed the ‘new’ cultural geography. To do this, the paper develops the concepts of unit, vibration and tone to unpack interfaces as sets of entities that work together to shape the experiences and responses of users. As such, the article provides a methodological vocabulary for the analysis of how interfaces operate to modulate user response and action on a series of habitual and un-reflected upon levels and thereby to create outcomes that suit their owners and operators.