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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 8. Visual Media


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In the previous chapter I compared the auditory and visual senses. With the visual sense, remember, we see objects’ highlights, shadows, tones, textures and colors. In addition, we see the lines, edges and contours of objects, their shapes and sizes, and their position in space. In addition, we see all of these attributes simultaneously. And we see the particularities of things as well as the whole or gestalt of things and states of affairs. In addition, I explained the importance of hearing sounds from objects, nature, and people’s tone of voice. Such sounds, as well as music, express sensory meanings that are the foundation of linguistic meanings.

In this chapter I explain how we not only see things, but we also sense presence in absence. We believe that seeing is understanding, but science and philosophy may be too strongly associated with vision. I also explain the difference between human seeing and machinic seeing.

This chapter discusses philosophers’ ideas about three types of predominantly visual media: paintings, photographs, and films. According to Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon paints the rhythms of sensation rather than objects or stories. The rhythms of sensation occur as forces flow back and forth between the figure of a painting and its background. Another idea is that in order to avoid clichés, painters should use random marks and controlled accidents when painting. In ← 165 | 166 → the photography section, I present Roland Barthes’s ideas that viewers may...

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