RELATED TERMS: Philosophy; Praxis; Philosophy

Poiesis is a Greek term that means making, producing, creation, creative power or ability. Poiesis is contrasted with praxis, which means ‘doing’ or ‘acting’, by Plato and Aristotle. Excellent making requires techne, skill, while excellent doing requires arete, virtue.

The question for the design of narrative environments is whether the design process and the design outcome are modes of production or modes of action or, indeed, a mixture of both.

The distinction between poiesis and praxis is developed by Hannah Arendt, through a re-reading of Heidegger’s Being and Time, when she distinguishes among labour, work and action. For Arendt, labour simply reproduces the labourer and leaves no trace in the world; it is through work that the world is made and re-made in its material form; while it is through action that the political and the ethical dimensions of social existence are realised as spheres of human practice.

The important question to pose of a narrative environment is how it takes part in the work of (re-)making the world and how it acts ethically and politically (and upon whom or what)?


Arendt, H. (1998) The Human condition. 2nd edn. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.