A worldview is the aggregate encapsulation of the ways people perceive the world around them. This concept of a Weltanschauung comes from philosophy, including works by Husserl and Heidegger. The worldview (Weltanschauung) is developed over time through peoples’ interactions with others, influenced by their cultural background and heritage. The product of this development is a set of “lenses” through which everything in the world from frozen yogurt to set screws are seen, perceived, and given value.
If a child is raised in a “picture perfect” neighborhood, a downtown apartment, or lives in a car at the edge of homelessness, the parts of their worldview “lenses” are shaped by these experiences and the cultural makeup they support.
People have a profound influence on others’ worldviews. Uncles who broke their promises, grandparents who modeled religious faith and morals, and partners who never abandoned hope when there were hard times all color and shape worldview lenses in profound ways. Experiences with people lead to lenses that present the world as a safe place, a place of danger, or a place where oppression is an ever-present force.
Love, fear, abandonment, joy, accomplishments in the face of uncertainty, baseball games, and just plain “everyday life” (the stuff culture is made of…) all combine over the course of a person’s life to shape their worldview. It’s a sort of meaning-making that attempts to reconcile the notion of reality with why reality is the way it is.
Some people see the world as hopeful. Others, not so. It all comes down to the ways past experiences shape lenses through which people view the world. When looking through different lenses at what is real, reality looks different.
Worldviews and Design
Our goal as designers, then, is to understand how users interpret their own involvement with the world as a meaningful activity.(Wendt, 2015)
Let’s look at how someone’s view of design could be impacted by their worldview.
A person may grow up to believe mobile technologies connect people and advance understanding across great distances because they developed a worldview that technological innovation can be trusted. Maybe this person had parents who used these technologies openly to communicate with loved ones as a family or they know a friend whose counselor saved their life because they used mobile technology to offer help when there was no hope. The series of circumstances and beliefs passed down from trusted individuals combine to build a positive worldview of hope in technology.
Now, a different person who may have grown up watching technology divide and isolate their friends could have a very different worldview. Perhaps this person grew up when rapid technological innovation was applied to create convenience for some but led to isolation for others. This could support the development of a skeptical view of technology.
These are very basic examples and don’t really do justice to the concept of Weltanschauung, but they are small examples of what it means.
Design Outcomes are Worldview-Influenced
People create design outcomes, and people all have worldviews.
When developing design outcomes, worldviews held by designers or other stakeholders in the design process influence the form and function of the design as well as its intended goals.
The result is a “groupthink” worldview-influenced design that may be effective and accessible to some people but may also be inconsistent with other people groups’ beliefs.
The challenge for designers when it comes to worldviews is to identify the worldview and the inconsistencies between it and the desired goals for the design.
Heidegger, M. (1988). The basic problems of phenomenology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988, c1982 Rev. ed.
Smith, J. A. (2016). Experiencing Phenomenology: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
What is your worldview? How does it shape the way you perceive the world around you? Can you identify aspects of others’ worldviews? How do you know this?
Wendt, T. (2015). Design for Dasein: Understanding the Design of Experiences (Kindle ed.).