The hermeneutical strain that is employed here draws upon the hermeneutics that Heidegger und (by extension) Gadamer developed out of Husserl's phenomenology. While phenomenology focuses on the phenomena as experienced by an individual and eo ipso consciousness and structures of conciousness, hermeneutics focuses much more on the process of understanding and therefore on meaning.
Historically, this shift in focus towards understanding and meaning grew out of Heidegger's and Gadamer's scepticism concerning the phenomenological method: their conviction was that the historical biases any individual uses to interpret his or her world are simply too strong and pervasive to be rendered ineffective by the phenomenological method (Epoché). This led to the fundamental assumption that interpretation has to lie at the base of any phenomenological method. Thus, the practice of philosophical hermeneutics entails explicitely entering into the circle of expectations which is framed by prejudices and the perceptions. The analysis of the hermeneutical circle is undertaken in order to grasp how the process of interpretation is guided by specific preconceived notions. This leads to research on structures of consciousness and cognitive schemas that are intrinsically bound up with meaning, i.e., it leads to an analysis of the link between consciousness (e.g. any given individual's horizon) and the historically developed value systems in the lived world.
The hermeneutical approach entails then a shift in the locus of research: instead of focusing on the consciousness of an individual subject, it directs the researcher's attention to consciousness as immersed in one's temporal and spacial environment. This new direction of research was instigated by Heidegger's analysis of "Dasein" in Being and Time. With his explication of how an individual is dispersed in his/her environment, Heidegger showed how meaning is also dispersed in the lived world and in its referential framework. The resulting research - also pursued by Gadamer - spun off many concepts that are instrumental in our research: the relevance of historicity and prejudices, the circle of understanding, the part/whole relationship, the condition of logical coherence, selective attention or framing of expectations by the questions that guide one to a topic, the interpretive horizon and the fusion of horizons. Also the view that understanding plays a role constituting the lived world (Entwurf and Geworfenheit) and that emotions are linked to understanding (Befindlichkeit) is very relevant here. The problem is the lack of a hermeneutical method: Heidegger's and Gadamer's skepticism regarding method resulted in them limiting their analysis to a description of the process of understanding. However, they offer no method of how to do hermeneutical research.
This leads us once again to the problem of method. It is important to note that the question concerning the efficiency of the phenomenological method as developed by Husserl has never been tested in any empirical way. Heidegger and Gadamer were both opposed to developing a hermeneutical method that could serve as a procedure or technique to improve the process of interpretation. Thus, much of the research being done at the present centers on testing the limits of the Husserlian phenomenological method and developing a hermeneutical method to assist in mining meaning and providing access to hermeneutical cognitive schemas, and disclosing value systems. Apart from this the notion of meaning needs to be defined in a concise way such that it is intelligible non-philosophers. Also, the rapid and sweeping innovations in the area of digital recording beg for a more current definition of notion of a "text," the ostensible subject under investigation in hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics and phenomenology share that same ontological foundation. The shift in the focus of research from individual consciousness to consciousness as dispersed into the invironment transformed the problem of solipsism - which belabors phenomenological research - to the danger of relativity. Both the interest in performing concrete research to test and hone methods as well as the need to provide a theoretical foundation that make reaching a consensus in our academic community seem plausible led to language games and role playing.