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Philosophy for Multisensory Communication and Media

Keith Kenney

Multisensory media – hybrid media that engage more than the auditory and visual senses – is beginning to change the way that we communicate. While hardware and software for capturing and emitting different types of sensory data are still being developed, this book lays a theoretical foundation for their use. Drawing upon the ideas of philosophers who write about sensory perception as well as each of the senses, Keith Kenney explains the issues that communication and media scholars will need to investigate as we begin to exchange haptic, olfactory, and even gustatory messages.

Scholars interested in communication theory, media theory, and multimodality will discover new ideas by current philosophers, while scholars of sensory studies will learn how their field can be extended to communication and media. Designers of multisensory experiences, such as videogame developers, will find practical suggestions for creating richer and more meaningful experiences. A dozen sidebars apply philosophical ideas to common experiences so that the text can be used in advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

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Chapter 5. Olfactory Media


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In the previous chapter I discussed the power of both touch and movement to express clear emotions. Some of these emotions were pleasurable; others were painful. I also discussed the use of haptic media to help people living apart to feel psychologically close.

In this chapter I discuss olfaction, the sense of smell. One of my goals is to convince you of the importance of the olfactory sense. I discuss sniffing and what we learn by sniffing. I also discuss the connection between scents, emotions, and memories. According to Rachel Herz, an expert on the psychology of smell, “Scent is essential to our humanity—emotionally, physically, sexually, and socially. Our sense of smell enables us to know ourselves and influences our sociability with others. It facilitates our ability to learn and to remember and can alter our behavior. It allows us to experience an intense emotional life, awakens our memories, is interlaced with our mental health and triggers our passions. Our sense of smell even tells us with whom it would be biologically best to conceive a child, and it can make someone with movie-star looks unappealing and the plainest person the object of obsessive passion. Our sense of smell is truly our sense of desire” (2007: 241).

Olfactory media are more difficult to develop than haptic media, but less difficult than gustatory media. One technology that is already available is the ← 87 | 88 → oPhone, which sells for $150....

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