Sophie Declerck

Feeling with' objects: Towards a semiotic aesthetics of tactile affect

Sophie is a doctoral researcher in the Institute for Design Innovation. Her research interests include aesthetic theory, Peircean pragmatism and biosemiotics, sensory design, posthuman philosophies, and design ontology.

Sophie holds an MA in History of Design from the Royal College of Art (RCA), offered jointly with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She obtained a BA in Applied Linguistics at Artesis Hogeschool Antwerp and also completed a BA in Photography at the Royal College of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium.

PhD research description

How do design things ‘represent’ touch and produce palpable, visceral affect? This thesis is a speculative and creative proposal, what Daniela Rosner refers to as a “critical fabulation” (2018), for a more-human-aesthetics for design things, using the relational figure of the ‘tactile’ as a material and conceptual mode: as a bodily, phenomenological sense, as potentially affective, and as a quality emanating from more-than-human matter. Design things exist in the physical, natural world, but they are also known and experienced as objects in species-specific semiotic life-worlds or Umwelts.
Drawing on Peircean pragmatism and biosemiotics, this thesis argues that the palpable visceral force emerging in aesthetic encounters with design things, “tactile affect”, emerges from the continuous action of signs or semiosis, and that non-human beings and ‘inanimate’ matter are equally involved in this relational becoming. Such a relational aesthetics challenges Cartesian dualisms and has far-reaching implications for design epistemology and ethics.

PhD supervisors

Sophie's PhD is supervised by Dr Sharon Prendeville and Dr Burce Celik (IMCI).

Awards, grants or scholarships received

The project is funded by a technē Doctoral Training Partnership studentship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Papers, publications and articles

Technēcast episode:
Talk for Neo Design Collective, Paris Design Week 2021:
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