Towards a computer-assisted aesthetics of user response
Digital Scholarship in the Humanities
The article focuses on the analysis of the user as an aesthetic category and proposes a methodology for evaluating user response within a framework that combines theoretical background from different areas, the theory of aesthetic response, psycholinguistics, appraisal theory, dialogism, and affective stylistics, with the application of digital tools for corpus linguistics and sentiment analysis. Four user types were derived from the corpus linguistics analysis referred to as immersed, distant,
... sceptical, and enthusiastic users. Each type may encompass a certain degree of intentionality and convey an attitude, implying features such as commitment and honesty, objectivity and engagement with the audience, critical reflection and circumspection, openness to technological novelty, and enjoyment. This assumes that the users involved in usability testing are not neutral or undifferentiated informational entities placed in an experimental context but individuals that respond to the same stimuli and express themselves differently in light of psycholinguistic factors and rules of social interaction. On the other hand, the results of sentiment analysis showed that an experiential analysis, centred not only on the artefact but also on the response and the experience it generates, may enable understanding the user as involved in a hermeneutic process of interpretation during his/her interaction with the studied artefact. Given the small scale of the analysed data, the study does not intend to provide evidence for general or definitive statements but formulates and illustrates a set of interpretative hypotheses and methodological directions for further enquiry aiming at developing an 'aesthetics' of user response.