Husserl's broad influence on the philosophical environment in the early and mid-twentieth century (Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Heidegger, Gadamer and Derrida), on sociology (Schütz, Luhmann and the Second Chicago School of Sociology) and on linguistics (Bühler) speaks for the vibrance, versatility and robustness of the phenomenological approach and method. The research here docks onto the Husserlian tradition. The decision to employ Husserl's approach and method in reseach on communication (face to face interaction and translation) was made based upon the strong affinity between the phenomenological method and the subject matter under investigation.
Phenomenology does not endeavour to study objects as they exist independent of consciousness (the objects of "objectivity"); rather, it investigates phenomena, i.e., reifities as "present to the mind" (Peirce). Phenomenology, is then, the study of phenomena as experienced from the viewpoint of the first-person singular; by implication it is then also the study of consciousness itself, of the structures of consciousness and acts of cognition. The focus on phenomena is particularly helpful in the area of communicology, since the subject matter we deal with in all forms of communication is usually a fusion of some kind of "sense data" with meaning, cognitive schemas, and value systems. Normally we do not hear a string of sounds that we retrospectively recognize to be phonemes, process them accordingly and thereby turn them into words, ascribe meaning to these words and then interpret them within the context we heard them. Rather, we preceive meaning when someone speaks to us, and we do so because we automatically fuse the sense data (phonemes) with meaning, cognitive schemas, and value systems within the context of the lived world that we find ourselves in at the moment. When we communicate, we are dealing with phenomena in the fullest sense of the word.
The shift of interest away from the objects of objectivity has two important consequences: 1) It positions the research squarely in the realm of the experience of the lived world, and 2) it broadness significantly the sphere of human experience that can be investigated with scientific rigour, thereby offering an overarching framework that encompasses and gives meaning to the natural and empirical sciences. Raising phenomena to the primary subject matter under investigation entails a fundamental ontological shift, making the interpreted world ontologically prior to and epistemologically primary vis-à-vis the "objective" reality of the natural sciences. As Cohen points out, this ontological shift opens the door to comprehensive knowledge: "By grasping will, feeling, desire, judgement, etc. not as real things but as meanings legitimate in their own right - naive realism or realist science would otherwise reduce them to 'subjective' opinons or 'secondary qualities' - whole new regions of signification" can be taken seriously (see Cohen's introduction to Levina's book Discovering Existence with Husserl, p. xiv ).
In spite of its promise, phenomenology has one major drawback: it is a "turn-off" due to the difficulty in grasping the method (see Vagle, Crafting Phenomenological Research, p. 19). This is where the research here taps in. How can we develop a phenomenological method that is accessible to "non-philosophers." What notions and procedures are necessary to the method? Assuming we need the epoché, how do make this "bracketing" accessible to young students and scholars? Is the focus on intenionality necessary? If so, how do we make this concept and especially its application in phenomenological research intelligible to young students? Are the various reductions - including the eidetic reduction - necessary?
The promise phenomenology holds is great, as is the interest in pursuing this kind of research. But to make that promise hold, we have to hone the method and make it accessible to those individuals who are interested in using it.