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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 3. Perception and Sensory Meanings


· 3 · perception and sensory meanings In the previous chapter I assessed several of the multimedia theories in use today, and I suggested that additional theories are needed. Then I reviewed a few methods for developing new theories and argued that in order to create dramatically new theories, scholars might want to use the ideas of philoso- phers in imaginative scenarios. In this chapter I synthesize the work of several phenomenologists who write about perception. Several points are emphasized: (a) instead of think- ing we have five senses, think that we use all of our senses together, with each sense influencing the others; (b) perception varies according to culture, physical geography, profession, and media; (c) perception is interactive, so other things are always acting upon us, just as we act upon them; (d) most of the time we act out of habit and don’t need to make conscious decisions; (e) meanings arise from our interactions in emotion- laden situations; (f) sensory- based metaphors are the foundation of abstract concepts. Notice that none of these points mentions mind or brain. 42 philosophy for multisensory communication and media Senses Are Separate or Senses Form a Gestalt Ever since Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), we have generally believed that there are five senses: visual, auditory, haptic, olfactory, and gustatory. In the 1980s, however, Dutch physician Albert Soesman identified twelve senses (2000). The seven additional senses include a sense of oneself moving, equilibrium, temperature, speech, imagination, life, and self. And now scientists estimate that there may...

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