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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 7. Auditory Media


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In the previous chapter I defined “analogue” gustatory media as foods and drinks that have the potential to express sensory meanings that we can perceive. For example, I explained how vintners use particular materials and processes so that their fine wines have particular ideas/feelings that wine tasters can, with some imagination, interpret. I also discussed the social aesthetics of wine festivals. Digital gustatory media are in the beginning stages of development.

In this chapter I explain how we use the auditory sense to relate to others. The most obvious way is by listening to people talk, but we can relate to others with sounds that are not words. For example, gasps indicate surprise or disgust. Moans express excitement and pleasure. Sighs express negative emotions such as dismay, boredom, or futility. All of these sounds are meaningful. In addition, we hear the tone of someone’s voice when they speak and sing, and we hear the “voices” of objects and sounds of nature. In fact, the sounds of nature are connected to the sounds and meanings of words. We also relate in both silence and in loud, noisy situations.

The sounds of media are often calling us. Beeps signal that a text, social media, or email message has arrived, or we hear ringing because someone is making a phone call. These sounds have no relation to nature or to the body. ← 133 | 134 → Instead, technology calls and we respond. Media also...

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