Motion Sensing Phenomenology

What is Motion Sensing Phenomenology (MSP)?

MSP, developed by Dr. Rebecca J. Lloyd and Dr. Stephen J. Smith, is an approach to phenomenological inquiry for researchers and educators who wish to study the movement disciplines and physical activity practices in which they are immersed. Influenced by the methodological offerings of Max van Manen (2014; 1997), MSP prioritizes the kinesthetic sense when it comes to meaning-making, so that vision becomes secondary and we feel our way towards understanding phenomena in question. To sense movement infers an orientation to write and approach an inquiry from the inside, where there is no detachment nor separation.

Philosophical Influences: Radical Phenomenology

MSP is influenced by the radical phenomenology of Michel Henry (1922-2002), his scholarship stretching some fifity years from ‘The Essence of Manifestation’ to ‘Incarnation: A Philosophy of the Flesh“. Henry directs our phenomenological attention away from the essentially inert materiality of worldly appearances and toward the inner sense of that which bequeaths life:

If the question of phenomenology, which alone can define itself, is the question of the givenness not of objects but of their how, then the theme of radical immanence as transcendental affectivity will allow it to complete its agenda. For this radical how is what phenomenology misses at the very moment when it explicitly defines itself for the first time” (Henry, 2008, p. 81).

The Practice of Doing MSP

Phenomenology is a rigorous methodology that requires the dedicated reading of philosophical texts and a commitment to writing. In MSP, movement is not perceived as being secondary to this scholarly work, e.g. a walk to take a break from sitting at your desk, rather, movement experiences are what we articulate. This requires a shift from “reflectivity” on “lived experience” to a phenomenological “reflexivity” in “living experiences,” or an awareness while moving; a thinking-and-feeling-in-action.

In MSP, we are more concerned with the how, or the “manner of things appearing” (verb) than the “appearance of things” (object/noun).

E.G. Framing MSP through the Function2Flow Model:

When we move, in what MANNER can we become increasingly attentive to:

  1. Function – the fundamental capacity to move
  2. Form – the shapes, aesthetics, of particular movements
  3. Feeling – the moment-to-moment feelings and kinaesethetic sensations
  4. Flow – the expansive and ecstatic ‘now’

When a movement is over, we do more than reflex back on it and ‘write it down’. Rather, we aim to attune to the ‘now’ that flows into the present moment of ‘writing up’ one’s movement experience.


Stay tuned for tips and tricks on doing MSP!