Reading. About research and the development of the project.

My research started with the exploration of senses in general, about what they mean and how they work. An in depth exploration of how our senses affect our daily decisions, what is their role in one’s life and how they shape the world that we live in. For this, the book called “ A natural History of the senses” by Diane Ackerman was a vital starting point. The book is an exploration of our five senses, sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. The author combines her knowledge with scientific explanations and with personal experiences.

Ackerman, D. (2000) A natural history of the senses.

Another book that played an important role in the journey of discovering how senses work was “The hidden sense- synesthesia in art and science” by Cretien van Campen. The book explores the relation between synesthesia and arts. Although the chosen field is not related to synesthesia, the book gives substantial information about how senses work. There have been a lot of studies related to perception in early childhood. The neonatal synesthesia of babies’ starts to disappear slowly and the senses begin to develop and specialize in one area.

In the brain of a newborn there is an abundance of neural connections as everything is related to everything. The newborn perceives the images, tastes, smells and what he touches as one single sense. He feels them all at the same time as everything is connected. After that stage the senses start to specialize into a specific domain and the neural connections are reduced to specific targeted ones.

What is important is that environment plays a huge role in the sensory development of a child. Because the environment is different the sensory development varies for each child. It has been clearly demonstrated that a congenital blind child develops different sensory abilities from a child that is able to see. This discovery led the project to the next step of development. It led to making a connection between senses and the environment and to undergoing further research on the relation between senses and environment.

            van Campen, C. eds. (2007) The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science . MIT Press.

The third book that played an important role in the research is called “Art, History and the Senses” that was edited by Patrizia Di Bello and Gabriel Koureas, which was a step further in relating senses with the environment. The chapter called ”The senses” questions the fact that instead of being solely innate, the senses are instead shaped by environmental, cultural and social circumstances. It has been proved by scientists that our senses need to adapt to changing circumstances, because that is the only way that they can be used as tools of survival. This chapter raised a lot of questions regarding the senses and their role in human relations to the world.  Do we perceive the world through our senses or do our senses shape the world? How do cultural and historical differences influence our perception? How do taboos change the way people perceive the world?

Di Bello, P. and Koureas, G. eds. (2010) Art, History and the Senses. Ashgate.

 

All these books led the project into a single direction. The project then fallowed the next step into exploring the relations between senses and the urban environment. As it fallows it was divided into the five major senses and each of them were supposed to be explored separately in relation to the urban environment and then together as a whole.

The first sense that I chose for the research was the sense of touch. Not only is touch one of the most important senses that we posses but it has been discovered, that the sense of touch is a very important factor to the survival of premature babies. The book “ A natural History of senses” by Diane Ackerman in the “Touch” chapter reveals that it has been showed that premature babies that are touched have a lot more chances of survival, they gain more weight and become more alert, responsive and aware of their surroundings as opposed to babies that are not touched. Touch has the same affect on adults, as it has been discovered that everyday physical contact helps people live longer and healthier lives. In everyday life touch is one of the most neglected of our senses. Although we do not realize it, we are always touching something or we are being touched. But touch, is an inaccessible scent, as it is the one scientist know the less about. Scientists were able to study every other sense except touch. All other senses have a key organ to study whereas for touch the organ seems to be the skin, which stretches over the whole body. Touch is a sensory system, which is hard to isolate or eliminate. It is the one sense that has the unique functions but which also combines with other senses, which is why is hard to study and define.

But how does our need for tactile sensations deal with the fact that the urban environment was designed not to have any contact with our skin? This is the question that emerged from the fact that we use as little interaction as possible with our “outside experiences”. There are no obstacles on our way; everything is kept clear, simple and non-disturbing so one could walk without paying attention to what surrounds him. There is nothing around that can remind people of the materiality of the environment. As ”The book of touch” by Constance Classen shows us “Outside is often just a space we go through to get inside”.  The architecture and the design around us provide an environment as depraved of tactile sensations as possible.

In the “outside” environment we interact with what surrounds as little as possible and only at arms-length. The ground, which is an important part of our space, as we walk on it every day is neglected and considered a contaminated place, and the only people that seem to have no problem in interacting with it, are the kids.

Classen, C. eds. (2005) The book of touch . Berg Publishers.

Other important books for the research:

Ackerman, D. (2000) A natural history of the senses. 2nd ed. London: Phoenix.

Classen, C. eds. (2005) The book of touch . Berg Publishers.

Di Bello, P. and Koureas, G. eds. (2010) Art, History and the Senses. Ashgate.

Diaconu, M. et al. (2011) Senses and the City: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Urban Sensescapes. Lit Verlag .

Geary, J. (2002) The body electric: An anatomy of the new bionic senses. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Paterson, M. (2007) The senses of touch: Haptics, affect and techologies. Berg Publishers .

Serres, M. (2012) The five senses : a philosophy of mingled bodies. 3rd ed. Continuum International Publishing Group.

van Campen, C. eds. (2007) The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science . MIT Press.

Zardini, . et al. (2005) Sense of the City: An Alternate Approach to Urbanism .

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