The ontological foundation that both phenomenology and hermeneutics rest upon - the phenomena as a fusion of sense data with consciousness - makes both suspect to the threat of relativism. Is the reality or the "truths" that the hermeneutical approach render always relative to the individual person who percieves them? This concern lead Gadamer to the experience of art. The experience of art is not one founded in the "objective reality" of the natural sciences, and, yet, those watching a play, standing in front of a painting, reading a poem or participating in a religious ceremony share a common world - how does a "sensus communis" like this develop in the experience of art? To refine his ontology, Gadamer turns to Huizinga's notion games, and it makes sense to describe the basic ontological structure underlying both the lived world and the communication in a referential framework as that of a game. This conceptual tool provides us with an excellent model to understand human behavior and interactions, in as much as this dynamic structure arises through and, yet, simultaneously governs (human) interaction. Games - as do cultures - create an overarching social structure with shared interpretive schemas that guide how individual "players" view and interpret their "played reality." All games rest upon rule-like structures, but these structures are modified constantly due to interactions with other games and players: the similarities to the role played by cultures in societies are apparent. When one considers that fact that communicating also has much in common with playing games, then it seems obvious that the pragmatic issues involved with communication across linguistic and cultural boundaries could also be understood in light of a hermeneutical game theory. Thus, the notion of a language game is used as a theoretical construct to understand language, and Wittgenstein’s notion of family resemblances serves as a helpful conceptual tool to address the issue of the relative ease or difficulty of communicating across cultural and linguistic boundaries. These axioms render a paradigm that is dynamic in character and underlines not only importance of linguistic elements in the translation process, but also provides us with a theoretical construct that can account for the relevance of pragmatic and cultural elements in the same.
Erving Goffman has picked up on and developed how the meaning underlying the intersubjectivity of any given shared world is "framed" by the way social activity is organized. Scholars in the "Chicago School of Sociology" such as Robert Park and Gary Fine have researched the similiarities between playing games/playing roles and interacting within a cultural framework, showing how roles mediate perception of self and other and foster the development of a "Shared Fantasy." The research here shares many basic presuppositions with Goffman, Park and Fine - however Huizinga's characterization of games as a freies Handeln (free, unfettered activity) and his explication of the link between cognition (thinking) and the play of metaphors provides us with a model for creativity. If we reflect on Kant's free play of powers of cognition (Erkenntnisvermögen: Sinnlichkeit und Verstand) and embed this free play into the structure of hermeneutical game playing, we have a very productive model for the creativity that underlies all communication. All communication is an art, and this model grounds this creative experience in phenomenology and hermeneutics.
There is one last advantage to this model that needs mentioning: it provides an arena for research. Give the assumption that playing games and role playing share fundamental structures with the interaction in society, we can do role plays to research communication in most of its varieties. The three projects discussed on this portal are designed to explore the possibility of using role plays as a medium for research in communication.