Uncommon Senses II Conference

Art, Technology, Education, Law, Society
– and Sensory Diversity

Concordia University                                              Montreal, 3-5 May 2018

“The sensorium is a fascinating focus for cultural studies,” wrote Walter J. Ong in “The Shifting Sensorium” (1991). Ong’s words heralded the arrival of sensory studies, an interdisciplinary field of inquiry which takes a cultural approach to the study of the senses and a sensory approach to the study of culture. Sensory Studies has galvanized much exciting and provocative research and experimentation in the humanities and social sciences and visual and performing arts over the past three decades. Uncommon Senses II aims to take stock of the many advances in sensuous scholarship and art practice since the first Uncommon Senses conference at Montreal’s Concordia University in 2000.

The conference is organized around three broad topic areas:

  • Crossing Sensory Borders in the Arts: The Rise of Multisensory Aesthetics and New Media Art
  • Alternative Pedagogies: The Education of the Senses
  • Law and the Regulation of the Senses
Comenius Orbis Sensualium Pictus
John Amos Comenius, Orbis Sensualium Pictus, 1695

Please find below the abstract of the plenary address to be presented by Keynote Speaker Caroline Jones (MIT, Architecture) on Thursday, May 3 at 6:00 pm, followed by the complete list of abstracts of papers that will be presented at the conference during the subsequent two days –  Friday, May 4 and Saturday May 5, 2018. Abstracts of artwork appear at the end of the list.

Registration is now open! Click here to register

The conference programme will be posted in mid-March.

For further information please contact us at senses@concordia.ca


Sensing Symbiontics, or, being with archaeo-bacteria (plenary address)
Caroline A. Jones
Professor of Art History
History, Theory & Criticism, Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Symbiontics” is a portmanteau for a polemic: let us set a new goal for our cultural evolution, in collaboration with the earth systems and multiplied species on which we utterly depend. Symbiosis, in my polemic, is that which is, hence “ontic” in the terms of technical philosophy. Symbiontics is thus how life is organized into its reality, whether or not we humans can perceive that “given” with our partial system of consciousness. Thinking with a range of contemporary art works that lead us in the right direction, I explore how sensory studies can serve as the opening wedge for a critique and an awakening, through which the obsessions of Western philosophy (privileging the phantasmagorical “individual,” his “rational mind,” and his “internal representations”) might finally be set aside. In the clearing thus produced, we might glimpse, touch, taste, smell, and hum with that which is, (ontics). Sensing the message of evolution, we might be able to resonate with the fact that we are cooperative amalgams of anerobic single-celled organisms and other archaeobacteria, further porting a swarm of bacteria that monitor our mood, digest our food, and provide a constant stream of information to our immune system. Knowing that our sensory cells derive from ancient partnerships formed with spirochetic bacteria, whose wriggling chemical and electromagnetic sensitivities give us our haptic, auditory, olfactory, and retinal access to the world, informs symbiontics’ polemic. It also deepens aesthetic understandings of contemporary bio-art in a variety of new media installations. Can we use our strange tools of art (Noë) and cultural discourse to open ourselves to these resonant frequencies, these ancient collaborators within? I argue for a collective imaginary: to feel symbiosis as the truer order of things, letting sensory studies lead us to new visceral certainty about our interspecies dependencies.



Therapeutic sensescapes? Rethinking the history of un/healthy spaces.
Victoria Bates, University of Bristol.

This paper, which relates to the conference topic of ‘perception of the environment’, will explore how sensory history can contribute to understandings of ‘therapeutic landscapes’. It will take the late twentieth-century hospital as a route into this topic, showing that ‘therapeutic landscapes’ literature has been unduly focused on the visual. Instead of focusing on ’green spaces’ or visual arts, this paper will show how a multi-sensory perspective – which includes, for example, the touch of a sculpture or the smell of a garden – opens up new understandings of the cultural history of wellbeing. It will not divide the design and experience of therapeutic sensescapes, but rather show how unhealthy/healthy spaces have historically been made and remade through the senses. It will critique a common narrative of the relationship between modernity, health and the senses, which argues that the visual has increasingly dominated and that health has become associated with the elimination of other senses – such as noise and smell. The paper will show that therapeutic sensescapes were made through sensory control rather than medicalisation or elimination, in line with a Western understanding of individualism and the turn (back) to ‘human’-centred healthcare.

Keywords: sensory history; health’ therapeutic landscapes; sensescapes; hospitals


‘Listening to Country’: An artistic experiment in situated listening
Andrew Belletty, Department of Art & Design, University of New South Wales

This presentation describes my experimental practice-based research into the multi-sensory aesthetics of situated listening. My work draws upon the Aboriginal idea of ‘Listening to Country’ through song practice. It is based upon a model of listening that extends beyond audibility, to sub-audible energies and vibrotactile phenomena and, thus, suggests a more complex and grounded notion of sound, perception and a connection to the environment. This model challenges the compartmentalization of the dominant euro-centric sensorium where sound has become something that can be easily quantified, recorded, reproduced, stored and disseminated through technological means and attenuated by digital media practices. Sound and listening is instead situated energetically, perceptually, corporeally, and environmentally, enmeshed with place and culture through practices connecting human to non-human bodies and entities. My creative practice is derived from my experiences and collaborative work with Aboriginal communities in song practices evincing a very deep, connection to ‘Country’ developed through highly trans-sensory attention and activation of place and temporality. Based upon these extended modalities I propose a decolonizing critique of the euro-centric concept of sound and listening tied to the capacities of experimental creative practice.

Keywords: vibrotactile, sub-audible, multisensory, de-colonising, experimental


Sharing Sensoria: The transmission of Bharatanāṭyam and its challenges in Canada
Marie-Josée Blanchard, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture (CISSC), Concordia University

In this presentation, I will address the challenges faced by second-generation and newly-immigrated Indian women in teaching Bharatanāṭyam, a classical Indian dance form, to Canadian children coming from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds. Teaching a classical dance form, in this context, means “code-switching” between different sensoria, ways of sensing, and worldviews. I will draw data from my PhD fieldwork to demonstrate how teaching in a new environment for these dancers has raised many questions about their own practice and ways of sharing body knowledge—moving from an environment in which dance is embodied in the lifestyle, bodies and senses of students, to a new world where Indian dance and its mythology become a “fantasy story”, to quote one of my informants. Inspired by the work of Tomie Hahn (Sensational Knowledge, 2007), this exploration of the transmission of Bharatanāṭyam will thus focus on the use of sensory strategies in this knowledge-sharing setting. I will show that sharing sensoria in this context means aligning the physical, practical approach to teaching in India with the theoretical perspective on knowledge in Canada—knowing through the body and the senses, in this case, means understanding first what the movements mean.

Keywords: Bharatanatyam, Dance transmission, Teaching strategies (Dance), Body knowledge


Creating correspondences in crossmodal art
Jo Burzynska, University of New South Wales.

Contemporary research in neuroscience and psychology concerning crossmodal correspondences – the universal tendency of a sensory feature in one modality to be matched with one from another sensory modality – is suggesting new paths through which artists can work among the senses in their practices. In this paper, I present a selective overview of my current practice-led doctoral research into interactions between sounds and flavour/mouthfeel characters and the resultant creative outputs. The research demonstrates that artists have the potential not only to apply, but to generate unique approaches and opportunities for understanding these crossmodalities. These findings also open up a discussion both on the possibility of crossmodal sensory symbolism in a multimodal arts practice and how they might contribute to the theory of multisensory aesthetics. This proposition draws on my professional experience as a wine writer and my doctoral research as a multisensory artist working with the sound and chemical senses in the creation of exploratory immersive and perceptually integrated, intensified or destabilising crossmodal artworks.

Keywords: crossmodal art, crossmodal correspondences, multisensory aesthetics, multisensory symbolism


Metaphor, space and the senses. Translating spatial experiences into language through cross-sensory metaphors
Rosario Caballero, Universidad De Castilla-La Mancha, Spain.

In this talk I describe the ways architects use language to evoke the visual, olfactory, tactile and interactive experiences afforded by buildings. I am particularly concerned with discussing how architects transfer their perception of space as knowledge, and how this knowledge is communicated by using figurative language of various sorts in one of the most popular genres in architectural discourse, namely the architectural review (AR). Indeed, and contrary to folk views of experiencing and assessing architectural space as mainly visual affairs, contemporary architects maintain that their work is much more multimodal, and that vision actually engages the other senses as well (Bloomer and Moore 1977: Pallasmaa 2005; Seamon 2007). The task of reviewers, then, is to translate their experiences through the medium of written language in a form that the readers can understand and, presumably, also relate to through their senses. This is an extremely complex and sophisticated task which often requires the use of imagery of diverse sorts. In this regard, the ultimate aim of this paper is to explore the ways in which imagery informs and contributes to the shaping of the sensory landscapes of the community of architects as these are staged in the AR genre.

Key words: cross-sensory metaphor, synaesthesia, architectural discourse, built space


Fieldwork for renewing basic concepts in cognitive linguistics: Examples for vision (color terms) and audition (phonetic descriptions)
Caroline Cance, Matt Coler

Fieldwork on color naming in Palikur (French Guyana) as well as speech description of Aymara (Peru) allows us to clearly draw the limits of standard linguistic (lexical and phonetic) descriptions involved in any experimental design and conceived along categories given by natural sciences (color categories as defined along the physics of light, phonetics defined along acoustic properties) previously to any precise anthropological research defining the conceptual (meaningful) categories of indigenous communities (renewing within cognitive sciences the ethic/emic distinction). If, from such examples, we intend to more generally focus on methodological aspects of sensory research, largely inspired from anthropological research, we must reconsider some basic theoretical concepts grounding cognitive sciences such as “information processing” and contribute to a more situated conception of cognition.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Uncommon Cognitive Sciences for Common Senses organized by Danièle Dubois, Emeritus Director of the Laboratoire d’Acoustique Musicale, CNRS/Univerité Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris.


Seeing objects/being objects: Using blindness studies to understand the interdependency of race, gender and disability
Elizabeth Davis, Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

This paper brings critical disability studies into conversation with critical race and feminist theory to explore how the notion of visuality as an optical phenomenon in Western culture belies the embodied nature of seeing. The positivist conception of vision as ‘purely’ optical breaks down when confronted with accounts of non-normative bodily experiences. I explore how the embodied nature of vision is revealed to us in instances of racialization and sexualization. This paper reads W.E.B. DuBois’ concept of ‘double-vision’; Franz Fanon’s description of having the gaze stolen from him by a white child; feminist conceptions of ‘the male gaze’; and theories of ‘objectification of women’ alongside critical disability studies of blindness to unpack what configuration of the human body and (its alleged) sensory capacitation is embedded in the normative notion of vision as optical. Without pathologizing experiences such as ‘double vision’ or collapsing the differences and metonymies in processes of racialization and sexualization, this paper explores how the optical-only conception of vision itself relies on embodied whiteness and masculinity.

This paper is part of the panel entitled The Experiential Life of Blindness: deconstructing sight and blindness in Western culture organized by Elizabeth Davis (OISE/UofT)

Keywords: blindness; race; sexuality; critical theory; embodied experience; visual culture


‘Warning off contact less he crumble’: Being Touched by Mina Loy’s Insel.
Allyson DeMaagd, Department of English, West Virginia University.

This paper explores the feminist elevation of touch in Mina Loy’s modernist novel, Insel. By observing the hands of her characters, Loy reveals a male resistance to touch rooted in fears of intimacy and emasculation. The hand of Loy’s antagonist, Insel, barricades itself in an effort to guard against sensual femininity and tactile interaction. Insel’s inflexible hand, variously described as fearsome, paralyzed, and increate, signals his unwillingness to “get in touch” with the people and things around him and reflects the waning power of touch as a viable mode of modernist knowledge. In contrast to Insel’s absent, often violent touch, Mrs. Jones, a character modeled on Loy herself, invites touch and embraces tactile knowing. Touch entangles with the other senses via Loy’s multisensual language, which offers an intersensory, egalitarian perspective on sensation. Responding to the denigration of the overly sensitive, “touchy” feminine body, Insel elevates the epistemological value of the socalled lower sense and the socalled lesser sex. In so doing, Loy posits touch as a site of insecurity, one that contests sensory privilege and gestures toward inclusive sensory alternatives.


Sensory modification: Experiments, accidents, and pain in the pursuit of ‘exceeding the body’
Mark Doerksen, Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University

The augmented body modification scene is made up of a small but diverse group of citizen scientists and laypeople (sometimes called ‘grinders’).  Through do-it-yourself surgeries, they aim to enhance their sensory capabilities by assimilating material technologies (including, but not limited to, electronics, magnets, biometric devices) through subdermal implantations.  I argue these practices are driven in part by a shifting sensory economy, where the changing function of visual information in particular leads the way for experimentation with other electronically mediated senses.  How do grinders come to understand what they want to sense and do not want to sense?  Based on over three years of ethnographic research, this paper discusses how grinders use their bodies to search for sensations that exceed their current capacities, from the painful to the accidental.


Montreal’s Coney Island in 360°: More-than-Human Presence in the Greatest Show on Earth
Natalie Doonan, Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas, Department of Philosophy, McGill University

My current artistic research focuses on encounters between humans, plants and other animals in a feral urban site along the St. Lawrence River in Verdun, Montreal. One of its outcomes is a series of 360-degree videos created for Virtual Reality (VR) head-mounted display. The videos will be geo-tagged and accessible from an online map. The audiovisual content is based on sensorial investigations of the site, sensory ethnographic interviews, historical, and archival research.

While there is well-founded skepticism about VR because of its potential to lure users away from their physical environments, its unparalleled capacity for creating “illusions of embodiment” and sensations of presence could equally lead to greater enthusiasm for natural environments. Paradoxically, although 360° video places the viewer at the centre of the scene, my use of this technology intends to lead spectators into a perspective of this place in which the human is de-centered, with the hope that this experience will increase awareness of the more-than-human participants involved in the performance of everyday life.

Keywords: immersive art; more-than-human geographies; spectatorship; virtual reality;  taste and place


The dancer’s senses: On the acquisition of embodied knowledge in ballet class
Doris Dornelles de Almeida, University of Roehampton-U.K./ Federal University of Viçosa-Brazil

This paper aims to understand how the dancer’s senses are connected to the acquisition of embodied knowledge in daily ballet class, in various environmental cultural settings of professional ballet institutions in London (companies – The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Ballet Black and independent studio – Danceworks). The daily ballet technique class is an everyday practice which helps the professional dancer prepare for rehearsals and performances. It improves the physical and artistic proficiency of the body. The methodology included ethnographic descriptions, my active participation in ballet class, interviews with dancers, archives (video and photos) and performance analysis. Dancers engage through their senses in the ballet class, for example they: hear the teacher’s tasks and the music, see themselves in the mirror, see the space, sweat, feel the body temperature, sense the heartbeat, feel the pressure of body weight against gravity and sense the presence of other dancers in the studio. Dancer’s sensorial experiences and the way knowledge is incorporated are interconnected to modes of thinking with their bodies, such as: focused attention, memory, imagination, projection/mental representation, inner conversation and imitation. The professional ballet classes were thus investigated as a complex practice where embodied learning is socially, politically and culturally framed. I argue that a person’s learning processes result from a dynamic interplay of interwoven bodily senses of each dancer depending on the social context.


Sensory sciences, education and alternative pedagogies — smell and taste: An experimental domain for better foods, better life and sustainable development. 
Danièle Dubois

Research on taste has been largely developed under the impulse of the food industry. This new domain of sensory sciences is largely dedicated to identifying how to please humans … as “consumers”. The field rapidly expanded the investigations beyond the organoleptic qualities of products (addressed within chemical and biological studies) to face new societal issues such as obesity and ecological problems of sustainability, while not losing sight of the fact that taste is also the ground for culinary arts as representative of cultural diversity and identity (even the UNESCO declares the French cuisine as “intangible world heritage”!) Taste involves challenging multidisciplinary research requiring the cooperation between natural and social sciences. We will discuss unique teaching and learning initiatives based on sensory experience of food in everyday practices to introduce children to the diversity of domains ranging from nutrition to cultural diversity for better health of people … and of the planet.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Uncommon Cognitive Sciences for Common Senses organized by Danièle Dubois, Emeritus Director of the Laboratoire d’Acoustique Musicale, CNRS/Univerité Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris.


Animated Touch: Proprioception, theatricality, and performance in Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale and Romeo & Juliet
Holly Dugan, Department of English, The George Washington University.

The senses are key to creating a sense of self, rooted in the world. The sense of touch, as many scholars, artists, philosophers, and scientists have noted, is reciprocal and intimate, the entire body transformed into an organ of perception. In fact, what scientists now term distinct sensory modalities—the ability to perceive heat, motion, and pressure—are often conflated into one global sense of touch. Yet this seemingly intimate and proximate modality is also one of the most removed from staged effects of performance: we rarely imagine characters and audience members touching one another. In this presentation, I examine this paradox more fully, exploring how the sense of touch animates characters in two of Shakespeare’s plays: bringing the dead back to life in the case of the Winter’s Tale or, in the case of Romeo & Juliet, tragically failing to do so. In the course of this presentation, I take up scholarly approaches to the history of cognition and its role in shaping audience reactions to performance in order to make a case for how we might think about staged animation and collective experiences of proprioception.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Uncommon Touch, Medieval and Early Modern organized by Richard Newhauser (Arizona State University) and moderated by Arthur Russel (Case Western Reserve University)

Keywords: touch, stage performance, Shakespeare, cognition, proprioception


Big Food and the banana: Children, taste, and the marketing of healthy foods
Charlene Elliott, Department of Communication, Media and Film, University of Calgary

In March 2017, the Walt Disney Company launched the “There’s Beauty in Healthy Living” initiative—a strategic partnership between Disney and Dole Food Company to help parents encourage their children to make healthier food choices. Timed to correspond with the box-office release of Beauty and the Beast, the commercial initiative featured—as a health promotion—stickers of characters from the movie placed on Dole pineapples, bananas, and bagged salads.

Marketing produce to children has become increasingly popular over the past decade, largely due to childhood obesity and the public health community’s push to “fight back” against the promotion of poorly nutritious foods. Part of this strategy is to apply Big Food marketing tactics to unprocessed foods, using character licensing and also ‘junk food’ appeals to make fruits and vegetables more desirable. Essentially, the strategy aims to inscribe processed food marketing onto unprocessed edibles (in order to manipulate children’s taste for produce). This paper maps the marketing of produce to children according to three dominant techniques—impersonation, association, and distraction—and critically assesses the implications of these ‘fun’ promotional strategies when it comes to children’s health, identity and taste.

Keywords: Food, marketing, health, child, taste


In/human sensations of the Little Ice Age
Lara Farina, Department of English, West Virginia University

When the weather shifts, people feel their environments differently. The beginning of the “Little Ice Age” in fourteenth-century Europe brought with it storms, crop failures, and famines on a scale that hadn’t been in centuries. This paper proposes that one of the means of grappling with climate change in this period was an attempt on the part of artists, authors, and natural scientists to understand how nonhumans, particularly plants, sensed their surroundings. A variety of cultural artifacts—sculpture, literature, illustrations in herbals–gave new consideration to the question of whether plants have feelings and how humans might apprehend these vegetal sensations. With present-day bioscience turning once again to this question, once again in the context of concerns about a changing climate, it is an apt time to consider the inquiry’s historical precedents and legacies.


Sonic Ethnography: Deep sound, rock music, and urban life in Singapore
Steve Ferzacca, Department of Anthropology, University of Lethbridge, Alberta

Sonic ethnography takes seriously the notion that sonic participations are “sonic knowledges” in the making (Smith 2000). Frith remarks that, “making music isn’t a way of expressing ideas; it is a way of living them” (1996: 111). This sonic ethnography is a study of a small community of rock and roll musicians, friends, and family who organize their lives to a great extent around sound. This research follows these Singaporean musicians as they make rock music on stage, in practice studios, and the basement of an aging mall. As local, yet globally informed “cultural producers” (Mahon 2000), this community of musicians reproduce “cosmopolitan” aesthetic dispositions, cultural values, ideologies, and identities within the constraints of urban life in this city-state. In this milieu, making rock music is an experience and performance that intensifies local social relations revealing the productive and resistant nature of power. While the city and the government provide “spaces of dependence” (Cox 1998) that inflict institutional, sociological, and historical constraints on public performances and music making, the manner in which these spaces are used by this community of musicians generate “spaces of engagement” (Ibid.) that allow for the sonorous expressions of history, identity, and the social that is meaningful in an intensely local way of knowing the world for which sound is central.


From research to ritual, from performance to possession
Sebastien Fitch, Department of Art Education Concordia University

In the book Art as Performance (2004), philosopher David Davies argues that art objects are nothing more than the products of the performances which led to their creation. The term performance, however, can be read not only as referring to physical gestures or to the idea of theatrical performance, but also to performance in the sense of ritual, religion and magic. Let us imagine, then, a narrative where an artwork goes beyond being merely the focus of the senses and instead takes those senses over: hijacks, possesses the artist, like a ghost, a demon, or an idea… Join artist, educator and researcher Sebastien Fitch as he reveals publicly for the first time his experiences during a decade-long studio project which recreated the working methods of the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). Although the dissemination of research findings included artworks and academic writing, a conscious decision was made at the time not to discuss the more esoteric and psychological dimensions of the research, as these would not necessarily sit well within traditional academic circles.

For a moment, he thought of praying that the horrible sympathy that existed between him and the picture might cease.
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Keywords: art as research, magic, performance


Responsive Music-Making
Lois Frankel, School of Industrial Design, Carleton University

This paper will discuss co-creation research conducted by Carleton University students Andrew Ferrier, Josh Mackenzie Haines, Brandon Lewandowski, Lisa Simla, and Alyssa Wongkee in collaboration with the author and Jesse Stewart. Research has shown that music motivates people during physical exercise; the musical melodies and rhythms make exercise more enjoyable and divert exercisers’ attention from their physical discomforts. A recent pilot study investigating ways to generate music while exercising, using a variety of user-friendly, adaptive music technologies, suggested that seniors are motivated to exercise and engage more with one another while making music. Through co-creation with senior participants, the studies generate sensory product designs that integrate existing music-making technologies (AUMI and SAMI) in novel ways. By making music while exercising, instead of simply exercising to music, the new concepts have the potential to engage seniors, while increasing their motivation to exercise and strengthening their social relationships.

This paper is part of the Uncommon Music-Making roundtable organized by Lois Frankel of Carleton University

Keywords: music-making, co-creation, product sounds, product design, musical feedback


The Nu-Tarab Soundscape: Alternative Arab identities in Canada
Jillian Fulton, Department of Anthropology, York University

Migrants from the Arab world in Canadian diaspora collectives are challenging normative identity politics through the performance of “nu-tarab”. Nu-tarab, a burgeoning musical culture in Toronto and Montréal, fuses electronic sounds and rhythms with a genre of traditional Arabic music known as “tarab”. Within this music culture, I explore the music’s performers and performative spaces in an aim to understand what identities are articulated, reinforced, and emerging. As these spaces are sensory and heterochronic, the moments conjured up within them have the ability to establish and recreate individual and collective identities and can either generate a sense of belonging or a lack thereof due to the promiscuity of the meeting point between sound and space (LaBelle 2010). This analysis examines the ways in which these spaces evoke understandings of “Arab” identities. How are such identities articulated, produced, and managed? How do the different ways the music played and performed in nu-tarab events serve to recall and reinforce histories and memories of “Arabness”? Through this sensory exploration I aim to create a discussion about the ways in which nu-tarab (re)creates particular socio-political, religious, and cultural landscapes, and pasts, presents, and futures with a view to understanding how it shapes conceptions of home, foreigner, and belonging.

Keywords: Arab identities; diasporas; nostalgia and memory.


Inter-Intra: Artful Experiences of Community Art Education and Migration
Arianna Garcia-Fialdini, Department of Art Eduction, Concordia University

This article explores in depth an ongoing project of research creation in the form of an evolving artful experience titled Inter-Intra, based on lived experiences of art education and migration. Inter-Intra considers symbols as a catalyst for empowering ‘voice’ within immigrant identities. The aesthetic and representational choices in this evolving art-as-research-process are discussed from a contextual stance and through personal engagement with newly arrived and

disenfranchised immigrant communities in Montreal, Quebec. This artful experience (Inter-Intra) was approached through portraiture of a series of immigrant inhabitants, the study of urban landscape via mixed media, sense-based research methods such as sound mapping and oral history methods. The work is intended to represent some of the many diverse cultures that share Montreal as a new home and living environment and have become in one way or another part of a collective migration story, as well as to partake through a collaboratively formulated sharing platform through a visual and sound piece of immigrant and newcomer migration experiences.

Throughout the paper, the decisive, gradual and collective process followed is discussed, as well as the ways in which it is tied into a much larger project of immigrant exploration of identity through art-making, sound mapping and oral history. Recent newcomer experiences and challenges are illustrated, as well as some of the commonalities that can be shared through diverse art making processes around this theme. This artful experience presentation ultimately embodies lived and shared experiences of art education, multiculturalism, diversity and migration as well as the challenges that come with these. Following the framework and guidelines of research creation (Vaughan, 2015), the theoretical and pedagogical concepts and background explored are similarly discussed and presented in detail.

Keywords: art as research, lived experiences, migration, disenfranchised immigrant communities


Greek Cultic Norms and Sensory Regulation
Adeline Grand-Clément, Greek History, University of Toulouse 2, France

A series of inscriptions, called by modern scholars « sacred laws », provides a great deal of information about the various rules applied in Greek sanctuaries. These ritual norms may be read as an attempt to control the sensory background in order to establish order and harmony during festivals. The paper will focus on a few inscriptions related to the cult of the goddess of cereals and agriculture, Demeter, whose worshippers were mainly women. The regulations prohibiting colourful garments, gold adornments, shoes, make-up, and even flute may result from the combination of religious taboos linked to ritual purity, attempts at restricting aristocratic display of power and wealth, and the male authorities willing to control women’s behavior by restricting their attire. But the paper will argue that another purpose of the rules is to reinforce, among the participants of the cult, the feeling of being part of the same community, beyond the differences of social status. The female worshippers are invited to share the same feelings that the goddess experienced when looking for her daughter abducted by Hades, Lord of the Netherworld.

This paper is part of the panel entitle Regulating the Senses: Ancient Rituals and Sensorial Experience organized by Adeline Grand-Clément (University of Toulouse 2) and chaired by Alexis Avdeef (University of Poitiers)


Anticipation as the sense of time—enacting presence in time-based arts
Tomie Hahn, Center for Deep Listening / Department of Arts), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
and J. Scott Jordan, Department of Psychology, Illinois State University.

Ephemeral sensibilities unfurling in time-based arts conveys presence in practice. The authors draw attention to qualities of anticipation and propose that, as a sensory modality, anticipation reveals insights into aesthetic notions of presence in time and form. We ask: How does multi-sensory awareness physically orient us in time and space, culturally, individually, and with others? This presentation examines the nature of enactive anticipation as a sensibility of being and as a key to comprehending time. We propose that embodied anticipation emerges as bodily activity and gives rise to bodily and environmental couplings that persist at time scales larger than those entailed in the bodily activity. This recursive dependence between being and practice organizes the senses of the developing individual, allowing them to embody such practices and, ultimately, intuitively (i.e., unconsciously) anticipate their unfolding. These intuitive, embodied anticipations constitute the sensual “background” that allows current experience to be foregrounded, giving rise to presence. From this perspective, the experience of “time” might emerge from the relative discrepancy between the embodied anticipations entailed in enacted presence, and the unanticipated events that come and go within the context created by enacted presence. The presentation utilizes improvisation as a key element to display anticipation-in-action.

Keywords: Anticipation, Presence, Time, Improvisation, Movement


Making our skins crawl: Visualizing Haptics in Public Health Handwashing Campaigns
Sheryl N. Hamilton, School of Journalism and Communication and Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University

In pandemic culture, epidermal relations are fraught. In flu season, for example, North Americans are repeatedly and regularly advised by authorities, both popular and public, that our skins are contaminated. We are invited to govern ourselves accordingly. In the visual culture of pandemic, particular attention is paid to the skin of our dirty hands, constituted as a key vector in the spread of communicable disease. There has been an explosion of public health poster campaigns targeting handwashing as a favoured technique in the management of disease risk. These posters abound in our most promiscuous and populous places – hospitals, restaurants, public transportation, shopping centres, schools and workplaces.

In this paper, I want to take up Ahmed and Stacey’s exhortation to “think through the skin,” to read the skin, to ask, “how does the skin come to be written and narrated? How is the skin managed by subjects, others, and nations?” (2001: 2). My research suggests that the visual culture of pandemic writes our environment as one of skins in touch. And these skins are both contaminated and contagious, animate and inanimate. Mores specifically, in this analysis, I explore the ways that public health posters as a site of skin writing offer a complex sensual interpellation to viewers, where changes in the scale of the visual invite a haptic response, where envisioning the microscopic makes our skins crawl.

keywords: skin, haptics, visual, hands, disease


The Feel of Blindness
Devon Healey, Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

This paper explores the feel of blindness, thus challenging the current, sighted, contemporary Western understanding and imaginary of blindness as something that is experienced physically in the eyes. Blindness does not merely inhabit the eye but rather, it is a full sensory experience. Making use of autoethnography and critical disability studies, my paper explicates how blindness is felt by the body even before it is noticed by the eye.

The oft asked question, “When did you notice your blindness?” is one that imagines blindness as something that happens in the eyes alone. In this paper, I explore how the eyes may not always be the knowing sense of blindness. Blindness as a full body experience allows me to engage with the question of how I noticed my blindness differently and not strictly in my eyes. I do not know how long blindness had been with me before I noticed its presence. I suppose it began with a feeling rather than a noticing of something different. It was a feeling of difference that hinted at something. This paper explores the feeling of difference in the body that illuminates blindness.

This paper is part of the panel entitled The Experiential Life of Blindness: deconstructing sight and blindness in Western culture organized by Elizabeth Davis (OISE/UofT)

Keywords: Blindness; Sight; Physicality; Imaginary; Feeling; Senses.


Sensory Display of Information: A Comparative Study of Visualization, Sonification, and Sensualization of Data
David Howes, Centre for Sensory Studies, Concordia University

Our experience of the world is intrinsically multimodal, yet most of our means of cognizing reality tend to be modality specific. This paper asks: what is gained and what is lost through the use of visualization as compared to sonfication? How might the proximity senses of olfaction and gustation complement or extend our capacity to cognize and communicate about the world relative to the distance senses of vision and audition? And, what of using the whole body, or what Natasha Myers calls “embodied animation” (feeling though) as a means of modelling both macrocosmic and microcosmic processes, from the birth of stars to the molecular practices of cells? This paper examines the respective contributions of a range of different sensory technologies to the generation of “data,” and makes a strong case for sense-experiments as an alternative to ostensibly amodal thought-experiments in the pursuit of knowledge.


Tactile Intimacies: Blind Life-writing in Medieval and Modern Media
Jonathan Hsy, Department of English, The George Washington University.

This presentation examines modes of blind life-writing across time, asking how monastic environments foster sensory communities that code touch and gesture as key modes of knowing and intersubjectivity. Late-medieval poets John Audelay (a deafblind monk) and John Gower (a layman in the Augustinian Priory of St. Mary Overie and blind in later life) composed first-person lyrics attesting to “touchyng” and “tastying” (meaning physical grasping or gustatory sensation) as ethically-charged epistemologies. Such poetry reveals the vitality of multisensorial subjectivities evading norms of sighted culture. Modern authors have revisited such modes of blind knowing through first-person narrative media. The audiobook version of Bruce Holsinger’s work of historical fiction The Invention of Fire transforms the blind poet Gower into a detective exploiting a nonvisual multisensorium to navigate London and solve murder mysteries, and Scattered Shadows by John Howard Griffin (journalist who becomes blind and joins a monastery) casts his adjustments to total blindness as entry into a new sensorial brotherhood. Unwittingly rerouting ocularcentric rhetorics of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s influential model of ethical “beholding” (derived from feminist disability theory), these monastic contexts limn the powers of touch, gesture, and physical contact as radically queer cripistemologies.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Uncommon Touch, Medieval and Early Modern organized by Richard Newhauser (Arizona State University) and moderated by Arthur Russel (Case Western Reserve University)

Keywords: touch, sensory communities, intersubjectivity, blindness, cripistemology


Feeling our way: researching digitally mediated touch communication
Carey Jewitt, Director Knowledge Lab, University College London
Kerstin Leder Mackley, Knowledge Lab, UCL and Sara Price, Knowledge Lab, UCL

The communicational potential of touch is at the centre of the development of new sensory digital communication devices and environments by computer scientists and human computer interaction designers. While this work is significant and exciting, it is oriented towards technological possibilities and advancements, rather than the social questions raised by such new designs of digital touch. In order to illuminate the social aspects of touch, methods are needed that attend to both the semiotic features and qualities of touch, and touch as a sensory experience – as well as the spaces in-between. This provides our rationale for bringing multimodality into dialogue with sensory ethnography and arts-based methods. This theoretically orientated paper shows how, when combined, these methods can produce a rich and textured social, sensory and affective account of touch communication that moves beyond ‘ways of seeing’ to include ‘ways of feeling’. We illustrate methodological tensions and opportunities through a case study of personal remote touch communication. The case study involved a series of three workshops with adults using rapid prototyping to explore their experience and imaginations of personal remote touch communication. In doing so, we engage with the challenge to multimodal scholars to connect with the sensory.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Innovative methodologies for exploring sensory digital environments organized by Carey Jewitt (University College London) and moderated by David Parisi (College of Charleston).

Keywords: multimodality, sensory ethnography, arts-based methods, digital, touch


Algorithms, Aphasias, and Edgeless Ethics
Brian Justie, New York University

In this paper, I interrogate the preponderance of so-called ‘edge-detection algorithms’ within both the human and machinic sensoriums. I trace this phenomenon through several distinct sensory heuristics employed for tasks of object identification and pattern recognition, both of which are predicated on the human or non-human subject’s capacity to distinguish edges, boundaries, thresholds, and outlines. Such a process of distinction-making finds ample scholarly foundation to build from spanning Gestalt psychology, art history, and phenomenology, each of which is put into conversation with technical research in the field of computer vision. I highlight the ways each of these disciplines has above all sought to probe (and perhaps even automate) techniques of distinction-making between figure/ ground, subject/object, or adjacent pixel values. Ultimately, I dwell on several clinical conditions in which these edge-detection algorithms fail or malfunction, and seek to contextualize and problematize each condition within the context of both sensoriums under investigation: aphasia, a dysfunction of the abstract, symbolic, or ‘digital’ sensory capacity; agnosia, a dysfunction of the affective, qualitative, or ‘analogical’ sensory capacity; apophenia, wherein patterns are recognized in patternless or random data; and finally, the most speculative (and non-clinical) of the bunch, apophasia, informed by François Laruelle’s uniquely edgeless framework of ‘non-philosophy’ and ‘non-standard aesthetics.’ This latter category is proposed as strictly human, and perhaps the basis of a generative approach to an ethics of ontological difference that is not dependent on arbitrary binarisms. While humans and machines alike employ edge- detection algorithms, the problem will be to critique these modes of meaning-making without falling into the problematic traps laid by, on the one hand, speculative realism’s flattened ontology and, on the other, the anthropocentric backdrafts of Cartesianism.

Keywords: machinic sensorium, algorithms, phenomenology, art history, ethics


Dwelling at the Edge of Unknowability: How the Experience of Pure Sensation in the Body Gives Rise to the Potentiality of Thought.
Esther Kalaba, Department of Art Education, Concordia University

Knowledge in the academy is seen as a cognitive pursuit. Used as a noun, knowledge is stationary, external to the self, and removed from direct experience. Objects are thought about, labelled, interpreted, judged, controlled, and categorized. However, by doing so, knowledge often predetermines the limits on what can be known.

As a student of Kundalini yoga for the last decade, I have been told to forget what I “know”. The practice, is a study rooted in the inquiry of pure embodiment, a wholly sensory experience, “unthinkable” and experiential, where through specific meditations, one is engaged in a practice that perpetually revisits the limits of what is known to be possible. It consists of holding uncomfortable and sometimes painful asanas (postures), complex breath work (pranayama), and chanting mantra for extended periods of time.

Through my practice I have observed how sustained attention to the sensations within the body, in the presence of a physical stimulus, allows for known mental structures to gradually dissolve.

By doing so, the self becomes unified with lived experience, knowledge becomes a verb representative of a moment, in the body, of its happening. This paper will discuss how felt knowledge, gathered from the senses, gives rise to the potentiality of thinking processes.


“Psychotic Bodies/Embodiment”—Navigating through the Sensorium of Immersive Worlds and Psychoscapes
Luke Kernan, Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria

Ever since Christina and Stanislav Grof coined the idea of a “spiritual emergency,” (1989) in opposition to or substitution of an episode of psychosis (a break from reality), there has been mounting interest in debating and outlining the role of exactly how alternative states of consciousness (trance states and otherworldly encounters) have come to define life-worlds and spiritual breakthroughs. Clarke (2010) in Psychosis and Spiritual: Consolidating the New Paradigm provides context for these mounting and theoretical concerns; her multidisciplinary and co-authored text examines how psychosis offers a gift of ‘trans-liminality’ in re-orienting the human mind towards experiences of alternate phenomena, enhanced creativity, and what often translates as mysticism. In working along these lines, I want to explore the sensory worlds of the psychotically inclined, the inspired—carving out intellectual space and capacity to understand and empathize how they as embodied selves process reality, stepped in mythic, symbolic, and, above all else, subversive (sub)texts of being that map out the present moment as a ‘lived’ psycho-scape. Using theories from the interdisciplinary canon of cultural, social, and political thought, I plan to analyse localized accounts of psychosis, literatures of madness, and the cultural neurophenomenology of belief in documenting both resistance and transformation.

Keywords: Cultural Poetics, Psychosis, Psychoscapes, Mythography, Sensory Worlds


Sensing Microbes and Microbial Sense in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage
Grace Kim, History | Anthropology | Science, Technology and Society Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Microbiologists today work to use their latest research to help conservators care for cultural heritage. These scientists study microbes that grow on heritage surfaces in order to prevent or slow their deterioration. Surprisingly, they also transform microbes into allies and demonstrate how microbes can be made to preserve cultural heritage. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among microbiologists in Milan, Italy, I analyze how new insights into microbial nature are reconfiguring the terms of heritage stewardship. I consider how practices of sensing operate variously in this research by detailing projects that aim to measure the color of microbes on stone monuments and to use bacteria to selectively clean the dark crusts on marble without touching the noble patina underneath. The conservator’s judgment on what the authentic artifact looks like is now being supplemented by the versality of microbial life.

Keywords: Authenticity, heritage conservation, microbes


Attesting to the Insensible: Technologies of Law and Audio-visual Evidence of Police Violence
Deniz Konuk, Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University

Struggles about the documentation and verification of police violence in the legal domain are not new. However, the accentuated role of audio-visual mediums as evidence claims recasts the regime of bearing witness in relation to the juridical techniques of denial. This paper explores the operationalization of these technologies in cases where police forces stand trial for human rights violations. It draws on the trial of the police officers who shot and killed Dilek Dogan, a 24 year old Kurdish-Alevi woman, in front of her family during an anti-terror raid in Istanbul. The legal controversy amplified with the release of police footage as an evidence. The shooting scene displayed in the courtroom sparked off visceral outbursts that interrupted the trial substantially. I argue that the contentions in this case concerned not only the actuality of violence but also the terms of its recognition. This circulating media artefact which cannot be fully contained and addressed by the legal means has challenged law’s monopoly of identifying, assessing and knowing. In turn, it also animated the techniques of law seeking to resettle the modes of seeing, hearing and inscribing the police violence in a certain way. The way legal reasoning formulates and negotiates the perceptibility of violation in the courtroom invokes the histories and mechanisms that regulate what is sensible. The paper analyses the trial, characterized by this unequal “distribution of the sensible” (Rancière), as a site that crafts a matter of factness and its terms of validation rather than one that neglects the truth claims.


The Place of the Encounter: Using the Body to Navigate Art
Yani Kong, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University

This essay analyses how encounters with contemporary art may give rise to ethical life by rousing the embodied capacities of the viewer. I draw upon Spinoza’s definition of the material body as any entity that carries the capacity for affecting and being affected. As these bodies come in contact with one another, they gain and lose momentum; their capacities increase or diminish. A Spinozan aesthetic analysis asks: What does the work of art do to me? Does it increase or diminish my capacities, and in what ways? Félix Guattari envisions the subject/object relationship as occurring in the space between these bodies as they come to meet. Rosi Braidotti characterizes this space between as the place of the encounter, containing within it the possibility for a new, more powerful whole, where subjectivity emerges in relation to another as opposed to remaining singular. I apply this analysis to a study of works from Walid Raad (Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut 1994), 2017), Marwan Rechmaoui (Beirut Caoutchouc, 2004-8), and Kader Attia (Untitled (Ghardaïa), 2009), wherein the city emerges as the site of the encounter, involving the viewer who is made to traverse each work’s precarious terrain. Using Spinozan analysis, I study how affect propels the viewer’s navigation of these artworks, initiating political engagement through embodied participation.

Keywords: Spinoza; Affect; Contemporary Art; Aesthetics; Embodiment


Skin Matters: Thinking Through the Body’s Surface
Marc Lafrance, Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University

Over the course of the last twenty years, a new subfield has emerged. Now known by many as “skin studies,” this subfield takes the body’s surface as its key object of enquiry. Indeed, skin studies is a trans-disciplinary project informed by a variety of social science and humanities approaches, such as anthropology, art history, communications and media studies, history, literature, philosophy, psychology and sociology. What is more, skin studies has been constituted by and through its on-going engagements with other subfields such as critical race studies, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial studies and sensory studies. Skin studies “avoids taking ‘the body’ as its privileged figure” (Ahmed & Stacey, 2001, p. 1)—focusing instead on how the body’s surface is made liveable, intelligible and meaningful—and emphasises how the skin is open, processual, relational and sentient; human and non-human, material and immaterial, indeterminate and multiple; and, of course, crucially bound up with thinking and rethinking experience, power and technology. But here we might reasonably ask: why does the skin matter so much? In other words, what makes the skin—as both subject and object—deserving of its own subfield? And how, exactly, has this subfield taken shape? To answer these questions, I will introduce the critical study of the skin in two parts. I will start with a reflection on what makes the skin such a suggestive and, arguably, special phenomenon in both individual and collective contexts. I will then provide a brief overview of the key works, recurring themes and on-going debates that characterize the skin studies subfield as it stands today. And finally, I will end with a discussion of how skin studies and sensory studies might enrich each other further as both subfields continue to develop.


Consumer Education in the Craft Bean-to-Bar Market: Exploration of a mixed approach where the senses act as gateway to learning
Jordan LeBel, Department of Marketing, Concordia University and Karine Chrétien-Guillemette, Marketing, Concordia University

Educating consumers about the merits and properties of their products/brands has always been a key concern for marketers, chiefly in order to convey the differences and superiority of their products vis-à-vis competing ones. Helping consumers to learn about products and brands has typically taken a top-down approach. For instance, in product categories with an important sensory component, such as foods and beverages, consumer education efforts have focused on providing consumers with a tasting vocabulary in the hope that it would enable them to better appreciate their sensory experience. The literature on experiential marketing and sensory branding is filled with advice that urges marketers to vary and enhance the sensory load of the experience they offer customers (e.g., Schmitt, 1999; Lindstrom, 2005). In this literature, shaping and enhancing the sensory experience is the end goal. But what if it were just the beginning of a journey in which the goal would be to create a conversation about a product’s other less tangible but equally important benefits and values? In this paper, we explore an alternative route to the current cognitive approach to consumer education, one where the senses and sensory experience are used to engage customers to learn about a product’s ethical position, its local and socio-cultural significance, and its environmental impact. We plan to use the paper to detail the objectives, parameters, concerns, challenges, and other aspects involved in implementing such an approach, focusing on the craft bean-to-bar chocolate.

Keywords: consumer education, sensory experience, learning, artisanal products.


Third Skin: The Borderless Sensibility of Creative Resistance to Neoliberal Boundaries
Minah Lee, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University

This essay transforms an individual encounter with neo-imperialism in the postcolonial world into an embodied method of analysis. An image of the Statue of Peace (2011) in Seoul, which commemorates ‘comfort women’ enslaved during World War II, mobilizes attention to the exploitative nationalism in control of migration that is still functioning around the globe. Mobilities that threaten national borders posed by refugees, the movement of capital, and advanced technology, aggravate state violence manifested in surveillance. These same mobilities reinforce global citizens’ desire for a transnational sensibility, which I model as Third Skin. This method for embodying border-crossing experiences draws upon theories investigating the intersections of art, politics, and senses. This sensory journey is demonstrated with three art works: visual artists Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ multimedia sculpture The Gates of Hell(2004); choreographer/dancer Su-feh Lee’s ritualistic dance of remembrance The Things I Carry(2016); and multi-disciplinary performer Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro’s memorial to the lost indigenous cultures After Sundance(2015). The process of witnessing these artworks is articulated by the author, a migrant body straddling two far apart places: Seoul, Korea and unceded Coast Salish Territories, now called Vancouver, Canada. Third Skin tangiblizes the weight of our interrelations in globalization as creative resistance.

Keywords: (in)sensible borders; racialized mobility; surveillance technology; experiencing art; transnational resistance


Somatic Pedagogies As Academic/Political Resistance
Mark Lipton, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph

“Welcome everyone. There are 200 students registered in this class. Thank you for your attention. Before I begin, I have a request. Here are your instructions: Everyone get out of your seat and touch the wall.” The Professor and his TAs step backwards and move to a wall of the lecture hall. Student reticence and hesitance is addressed with direct instruction. “Spread yourselves around the room so you are touching the wall.” Each student is asked to think of an adjective to describe how they feel at this very moment. Examples are given. “My name is Mark and I’m a bit anxious.” How do instructors “identify” with large groups of students? How can we embody and teach empathy? Where does “care” enter our academic profession? My challenge for compassion has been a physical, emotional, traumatic, yet promising and transformative experience. To make a social/political difference and work with a service-oriented consciousness, my pedagogical experiences with compassion reveal resistance strategies for coping with current neoliberal academic life.


“(Other)worlds of sense:  Conjuring the ghost of the city in techno-mediated tourism”
Erin Lynch, Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University

In recent years, cities around the globe have attempted to capitalize on the narrative potential of new media platforms and re-enliven their destination spaces through locative tourism applications – apps designed to enable interplay between digital content and streetscapes via the technologically-extended body of the tourist.  By layering the lived experience of the city with the sights and sounds of bygone eras, many of these apps purport to enable their users to “see into the past” or to “walk the streets as they were.”  Still others go further in their reanimation of the city by attempting to activate the sixth sense of the user (as in digitized ghost tours of cities, wherein the tourist might, for example, be invited to feel for the chill of a passing spirit in the air).  These apps attune users to their environment in particular ways, and derive much of their allure from the perception of having one foot in two worlds – the past and the present, the spectral and the hypervisible, the digital and the “real.”  This paper draws from ethnographic research to examine how the entanglements and disjunctures of these worlds are experienced in real time through the technologically-extended senses of the tourist.


A Sense of Forgetting and Remembering: Narratives and memories of smell and clothing
Julie Macindoe, Queensland University of Technology

This presentation takes up the argument proposed by Constance Classen, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott in Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell (1994) suggesting that the smell of clothing is more powerful than the sight of clothing in remembering and identifying the bodies that once wore them. Through collected narratives and memories, the presentation reveals some of the personal and shared practices that form individual identities and histories. The smell of a father’s jacket acts as a reconciliation, creating a missing history, and in the process, constructs an identity. A boyfriend’s jumper, sprayed with the promise and artifice of fragrance, forms an aroma of deception that negates the material and visual appearance of both the garment and its owner. And a traveller’s wardrobe reminds that smell in clothing is not a socially-neutral experience but a material object that provides a sense of self in society. Our personal experiences of smell and clothing become inextricably woven into the social relationships and contexts in which they are learnt, performed, and remembered. Embedding smell in the material context of clothing brings smell beyond the fleshy surface to the dressed, multisensory experience of being human.

Keywords: Clothing, narratives, memory, smell


Things are Different Here
Rod Michalko, University of Toronto (Retired), Independent Writer

This paper is a fictional exploration of a sensorium whose common-sense ratio is disturbed by the appearance of blindness. It follows Bradly, a blind man, as he waits outside of a Manchester, UK, department store for his partner, Hailey, as she shops inside the store for a scarf. As he waits, Bradley’s world is suddenly disturbed by the appearance of sight in the form of a bright flash of light. His uncommon sense ratio is unsettled and he searches for the source of this unsettling. The story follows Bradly as he follows the light. The story portrays the insistence of a common-sense ratio even in the midst of uncommon sense sensoria, the insistence of sight in the midst of blindness.

Keywords: Blind; Light; Disturbing.


‘Doing things outside the academic box’: Teaching sensory geographies in practice
Nina Morris, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh.

This paper will focus on the design, and students responses to, my human geography undergraduate Honours option course Space, Place and Sensory Perception. Now in its fourth year, the course has four key aims: to introduce the students to the broad range of scholarship on the senses currently circulating within geography and related disciplines; to illustrate the ways in which our understandings of distinct sensory perceptions are historically, culturally and geographically situated; to consider the methodological implications of geographers’ theorization of the senses and the challenge that new and emerging approaches present to older paradigms; and, to encourage the students to reflect upon their own sensory engagements and make connections between knowledge gained in class and the wider world. Organised around lectures (including presentations from visiting scholars/practitioners), film screenings, student-led discussions, and immersive tutorials (with mini-field excursions, demonstrative props, and practical experiments) the course attempts to be as sensorially engaging as possible in its pedagogy, providing numerous opportunities for students to physically explore their senses. Demonstrating a commitment to experiential rather than rote learning the course is assessed primarily by student blogs (composed of six posts) which individuals write in response to the course material or their own experiences.

Keywords: sensory geography, pedagogy, assessment, undergraduate


Transforming gardens: the lazy luxury of artificial turf
Nina Morris, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh.

This is a paper born out of curiosity. There is now a wealth of evidence to show that urban greenspaces (including domestic gardens) have numerous human benefits, including positive effects on physical health (Maas et al, 2006) and psychological well-being (CABE, 2010), social cohesion and community pride (Shinew et al, 2004), and reduced crime rates (Spector, 2016). Urban greenspaces also have a range of ecosystem services benefits; including localized air cooling and purification, flood mitigation, water purification, erosion control, noise reduction, carbon sequestriation, and the provision of wildlife habitats (Monteiro 2017). In turn, contact with nature is said to encourage environmentally sustainable behaviours, particularly amongst children (Chawla 2007). But what if the nature outside is not real? How different might our experience be? Research on artificial turf has tended to focus on its use in relation to sport, e.g. related injuries, athletic affordances. In this paper I look at the marketing of artificial turf for domestic gardens, in particular, the emphasis placed on its aesthetic qualities (its neatness, greenness, lushness), its cleanliness (no dirt, easily sanitised), and low-maintenance demands (no mowing, no weeding). In so doing, I reflect on the intimate sensory encounters that lost or prevented through its use.

Keywords: senses, artificial grass, marketing


The Smell of the Others. An olfactory history of the German partition 1945-1999
Bodo Mrozek, History of Media and the Information Society, Centre for Contemporary History / Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung (ZZF)

In interviews, many contemporaries of both German states, highlight the role of odors and olfaction as an indicator for difference. These interviews raise a variety of questions, some of which are comparably simple. Did the West smell different than the East? How did it smell? And what was the significance of its smell? In the memory of the people who lived at the time it was obviously of great importance. Other questions are rather complex such as those concerning the relationship between the senses and politics or the senses and memory.

The hypothesis of my paper is that during a division that lasted 40 years, not only the smell scapes changed, but also the senses themselves. The paper will raise questions concerning the historically specific situation of this division: How deeply was the disconnection a result of the Wall, custom laws, and the development of different industries and economies?

Keywords: History / politics / culture or the senses


The Plow as a Site for Defining the Touch of the Medieval Peasant Sensory Community
Richard Newhauser, English and Medieval Studies, Arizona State University,

Using the approaches of both interobjectivity (Bruno Latour, Manuel DeLanda) and modal anthropology (François Laplantine and others), and using material taken from Latin and Middle English texts and late medieval manuscript illuminations, my presentation examines what it meant in Middle English to “putten honde to ploughe.” The phrase became nearly proverbial to mean to “undertake a task” (as it still can be used today), but also never fully shed its literal semantic field. The touch of the plow, in this way, can be seen as defining a stereotypical peasant experience in which laying a hand on the plow was a significant element in the sensory community of the rural peasantry. Three important characteristics of this sensory interobjectivity emerge from my presentation: touching the plow is part of a communal activity that helps define peasant agency; this object-sense interaction also helps delineate peasant masculinity; and the haptic experience of touching the plow was foreclosed to the aristocracy, as is demonstrated in Piers Plowman.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Uncommon Touch, Medieval and Early Modern organized by Richard Newhauser (Arizona State University) and moderated by Arthur Russel (Case Western Reserve University)

Keywords: touch, interobjectivity, sensory communities, masculinity, peasant agency


Sounds and listening in Merovingian hagiography
Pancer Nira, Department of General History, University of Haifa

The recent decade has seen a proliferation of studies on soundscapes and aural culture in medieval literature. And yet the soundscapes of the Merovingian hagiography have not yet been dealt with. This lack of interest is not surprising: sounds as acoustic information hardly appear in Merovingian texts, if at all. Based on Pierre Schaeffer’s four modes of listening (Écouter, Ouir, Entendre and Comprendre), this article will try to explain the methodical silencing of a certain category of sounds by the hagiographers. By removing aural evidence of secular life and by creating a new imagined range of hearing, combining echoing dramatic revelations and minor, marginal miracles, the hagiographers encouraged their listeners to identify and experience god in each and every sound. I call this new aural horizon “sacred sonography”. In this way, the hagiographers wished to lend the ears of the believers to the “numinous” (Rudolf Otto) and to cultivate a spiritual attention.


Crafting the gifted ballet body
Lauren Norton, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University

This paper draws on 12-months’ fieldwork among professional ballet students to examine the multisensory ways bodies experience and are shaped by institutionalised training processes. Anthropologists have traditionally sought to understand ballet, and attended to power, in and through visual analysis and surveillance. ‘Reading’ the performing ballet body in this way has left little room to examine the dancers’ sensory experiences or ask how a ballet body becomes. Yet when examining the formation of ballet bodies in the ballet school, powerful relations between bodies are facilitated and experienced in complex sensory ways beyond the visual. Knowledge is exchanged and produced body-to-body, and students and teachers ‘make sense of’ these relations via their ability to feel, hear and see. Building on our understanding of touch to be a simultaneous action and reaction, material and immaterial, and experienced between, within and external to bodies, allows us to examine these often invisible relations for what they can tell us about the formation of social and gifted bodies. This senso-historical bodily engagement is the cornerstone of ballet training and it is through a cyclical, (in)formative process of giving, receiving and returning bodily knowledge that gifted ballet bodies are formed.

Keywords: Touch, ballet, bodies, power, gift


The CareTunes Project
Elif Özcan, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft

This paper will discuss the evolution of the author’s work from designing critical alarms within the scope of information ergonomics to making music with alarms for improving wellbeing of patients and clinicians. Dr. Özcan will present the CareTunes project, funded by the federation of Dutch design schools, and discuss the positive impact of musical data streaming on patient delirium and alarm fatigue. Care Tunes is a concept that challenges the clinical utilization of audible alarms (beeps) of monitoring devices found in Intensive Care Units (ICU). Care Tunes is developed as a continuous musical stream that summarizes patient vital signs and presents them in a coherent, logical, and pleasant way to the clinicians. With Care Tunes clinicians can have a clear understanding of the overall criticality of the patient status, its trend toward recovery or deterioration, impulsive changes in the vital signs of the patient and the history of the changes of vital signs. Care Tunes brings together the knowledge and skills of designers, researchers, artists, engineers, and clinicians in a unique and creative way. Care Tunes is an international collaboration between Koen Bogers (design student at TU Delft), Joseph Schlesinger, MD (anesthesiologist from Vanderbilt University, US), Yoko K. Sen (electronic music artist and experience designer at Sibley Innovation Hub, Johns Hopkins), Astrid Gribnau, MD (trauma doctor with interest on music as medicine and medical system designer at NewCompliance, NL), TU Delft (NL) and Erasmus Medical Centre (NL).

This paper is part of the Uncommon Music-Making roundtable organized by Lois Frankel of Carleton University


The Generative Artifice of the Stimulus: Computer Haptics as Sensory Deception
David Parisi, Department of Communication, College of Charleton, South Carolina

In “Thinking Colours and/or Machines,” Friedrich Kittler described nineteenth century psychophysics research into seeing and hearing as the enabling condition for the later emergence of technical media that electronically extended the eyes and the ears. In uncovering the parameters by which the eyes and ears both correctly and incorrectly identified the differences between stimuli, experimental psychologists laid the groundwork for engineers who crafted machines that deceived these sense organs. But Kittler, situated in a media-historical tradition that treats seeing and hearing as the only senses extended by media, neglected touch’s centrality in psychophysical research. As with the eyes and the ears, the skin too was subjected to batteries of experiments intended to lay bare its capacity misperceive artificial stimuli. Until the late twentieth century, this research had little practical value. But the establishment of Computer Haptics as a new discipline in the 1990s provided earlier investigations of touch with a positive utility they previously lacked, staging the development of technical media that could productively deceive the haptic senses. By examining a series of experiments with electrical and mechanical stimuli in the history of haptics research, this paper shows how the artifice and uncommon-ness of tactile stimuli seeded the eventual development of computational haptic media.


Shaeffer and Schafer: when musicians promote scientific hypotheses on auditory experience
Arthur Paté, Pascal Gaillard, Catherine Guastavino.

Considering the work of two major figures of the music history of the 20th century brings in inspiring thoughts about sound studies and corroborate recent soundscape and music research. Telecommunication engineer Pierre Schaeffer (born 1910 in France) is acknowledged as the inventor of “concrete music”, using the technological development to torn recorded everyday noises/sounds from their natural sockets and promoting them as music in giving those “noises” an amplified and independent existence.

Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer (born 1933) introduced the concept of Soundscape, as a musical interpretation of environmental noises and developed acoustic ecology (The Tuning of the World, 1977).

Both individuals blurred the common-sense categories of sound, noise and music referring to different “worlds of senses” or Umwelten. This requires us to reconsider theoretical questions and current models of auditory perception prevalent in cognitive psychology. It becomes necessary to consider different ways of listening/hearing producing different categories of sensory experience, accounting for the role of technology and more generally of the culture matérielle in producing a large diversity of auditory objects as cultural objects.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Uncommon Cognitive Sciences for Common Senses organized by Danièle Dubois, Emeritus Director of the Laboratoire d’Acoustique Musicale, CNRS/Univerité Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris.


Exploring how sensory interaction shapes young children’s understanding and articulation of mathematical ideas
Sara Price, Knowledge Lab, University College London and Sam Duffy, Knowledge Lab, UCL

Alongside technology’s increasing capacity to exploit sensory and multimodal forms of interaction, there is growing interdisciplinary interest in embodied cognition and multisensory interaction. In contributing to the design of a multisensory serious game, our work seeks to better understand embodied, or sensory, meaning making in the context of learning. Specifically, we are interested in how tactile, aural and bodily action experiences shape young children’s understanding and articulation of mathematical concepts. In so doing, we can inform how the learning environment can be designed to foster or elicit meaningful embodied and sensory experiences. A series of studies have been carried out with children aged 6-10 years to explore children’s meaning making through a kind of sensory elicitation of mathematical ‘concepts/ideas’, using touch and movement as a stimulus for expression and description. For example, one study investigates the role of touch in eliciting children’s conceptualisation of physical shapes. Children wearing blindfolds explored 3D physical shapes with their hands. They were asked to describe the shapes in such a way that another child could guess the shape. The vocabulary they used, and the way that they manipulated physical shapes in their hands, revealed children’s understanding of the characteristics of geometric shapes such as faces, vertices and edges, to give insight into meaning making through different senses.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Innovative methodologies for exploring sensory digital environments organized by Carey Jewitt (University College London) and moderated by David Parisi (College of Charleston).

Keywords: embodiment, sensory meaning making, mathematical learning


What is a good or a bad sensation? Fitting or Unfitting Sensory Phenomena in Akkadian Texts
Anne-Caroline Rendu-Loisel, Assyriology, Strasbourg University, France

In the twelfth tablet of the Gilgameš Epic, the king of Uruk Gilgameš warns his dear friend Enkidu against drawing attention to himself when he goes down to the Netherworld: Enkidu should not wear clean clothing that the spirits will see, noisy sandals that the spirits will hear, or aromatic perfume that the spirits will smell. If he does, he will be recognized as a stranger to this community of the dead. In ancient Mesopotamia, appearance, sound, and odor belong to specific codes that characterize the individual in his community. The present paper will investigate the aesthetic values associated to sensory phenomena in ritual and literary texts written on ancient cuneiform tablets (2nd and 1st millennia BCE). It will focus on the Akkadian vocabulary describing a sensory experience as being “good” (ṭābu), “bad” (lemnu), or “fitting/unfitting” ((ul) natû).

This paper is part of the panel entitled Regulating the Senses: Ancient Rituals and Sensorial Experience organized by Adeline Grand-Clément (University of Toulouse 2) and chaired by Alexis Avdeef (University of Poitiers)


The 432 Hz movement and the debate over concert pitch
Ruth E. Rosenberg, Department of Music, University of Illinois, Chicago

In 2014, pop icon Prince used a Q&A on his Facebook page to promote the theory that music tuned to concert pitch (A=440 Hz) is “out of tune” with nature and humanity, and that music tuned to A=432 Hz may be beneficial to listeners physically, psychologically, even spiritually. Prince had entered a debate over concert pitch that dates back to the early twentieth century, but which has taken on new implications in the digital age. Today, 432 Hz music can be found on youtube, online radio, and music streaming services. There are apps that instantly convert listeners’ favorite music into what they perceive to be a healthier listening experience. The 432 Hz “movement” has grown into a community of listeners whose discursive practices around sound, healing, and listening merit examination vis-à-vis current scholarship in sound studies, sensory studies, and digital media.

In this paper, I examine the phenomenon of 432 Hz tuning, the historical and scientific claims used to promote the benefits of 432 Hz music, and draw from ethnographic research done with listeners and musicians to argue that the 432 Hz movement represents a revaluation of both how and why we consume music.


Modulating Sexual and Sensual Desire in a BDSM Community in Mexico
Daniela Sanchez, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Drawing from the concept “erotic career”, derived from Howard Becker and Erving Goffman’s sociological work, and through ethnographic research and interviews conducted in a BDSM community in Mexico City, I seek to deconstruct the trajectory which participants go through in order to become dexterous BDSM players. I highlight the somatic work necessary to acquire the expected skills, the importance of collective and interactive learning and the substantial time and money investment required. I also examine the discursive and sensory shift in the interpretation and signification of pain as a pleasant emotion and sensation in itself or as a pleasure catalyst, in contrast to the conventional understanding of pain as inherently negative and aversive. Finally, I frame this reflexive capacity to modulate sexual and sensual desire as characteristic of a greater process of increasing regulation and autocoersion of emotions and impulses, as proposed by sociologist Norbert Elias in the process of civilization.

Keywords: BDSM, pain, pleasure, erotic career


Making Imagination: Crafting knowledge across disciplines
Adam van Sertima, Milieux Institute, Concordia University

This paper argues for ‘making’ as generative heuristic methodology. Aesthetic objects, and the processes of crafting them parallels the methodologies of the sciences and the theorizations of the humanities (Mersch 2015). Merleau-Ponty and other phenomenologists note that we must observe anything, even abstracted “objective” data through the prism of our own embodiment. So to make as method/methodology opens the possibility for scholars in the Humanities, Social Sciences and STEM to use these practices as ways to develop original insights (Ratto 2013, Kaag 2014, Schulzke 2014). While ‘making’ answers calls from what is called “post-qualitative” research: That it address the researcher as already thrown into the research (Lather & St.Pierre 2013),so that the research object may evolve through the research process. Maker/making always already allowed spaces for rethinking the assumptions of given disciplinary methods by offering processes that demand a shifting and agile research methodology (Murfie 2014).

This paper is part of the roundtable entitled “Uncommon” Methods organized by Carolina Cambre, Education, Concordia University


Interrogating The Graphic Turn
Sabrina Scott, Science and Technology Studies, York University.

This paper critically interrogates the current ‘graphic turn’ in academia. Replacing a prior fascination with games, academia has turned towards graphic novels and comic books as a novel communicative methodology. Though graphic novels and artistic products are powerfully pedagogic in new ways and add a great deal to academic conversations, academics seeking to explore the medium are often ill prepared to engage with it. Drawing from my perspectives as both an academic and professional illustrator and graphic novelist, I discuss issues of ethics, labour, visibility, medium, and production often side stepped by those seeking to produce academic comics? What power dynamics are reproduced when tenured academics get undergraduate interns to illustrate their books for minimal pay? What happens when a medium whose power is in its visuality treats artists and illustrators as hired hands?

Keywords: sensory ethnography, graphic novels, practice-based research, comics, arts-based research


Renaissance Color across Media
Bruce R. Smith, Department of English and Dramatic Arts, University of Southern California

Since Newton’s experiment with prisms in 1666, color has been considered a matter of physics (light rays at frequencies between 700 and 420 nanometers) and physiology (stimulation of rods and cones in the retina). In this “naturalistic” take on color, as Oliver Sachs observes, “sensations are given an ‘absolute’ status corresponding to the ‘absolute’ status of physical stimuli: nothing is added, nothing is removed, in passing from the outer world to the inner world of each person or sentient being.” Sachs attacks this short-sighted view in reporting the experience of a patient – a painter – who had suffered a concussion and lost not only the ability to perceive color but to hear music in the way he had before. In the unexamined “naturalistic” understanding of color, reference to color in non-visual media – in musical sounds, for example, or in picture-painting with words – becomes “only a metaphor,” a “carrying over” of meaning from one domain of knowledge (where the meaning is presumed really to belong) to another (where the meaning is figuratively applied). Students of the senses have been largely complicit in dividing up sense experiences according to sense organs. During the two centuries preceding Newton, however, such assumptions are challenged by chromaticism in musical lines, coloratura singing, and the deployment of rhetorical colors in verbal texts. Cross-media examples inspired by Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso (1516) invite us to read color, hear color, and kinetically feel color in ways that confirm Galenic psychology’s faculty of “the common sense” beyond the usual five. In the process of pursuing these examples from Ariosto we discover that value (brightness) and saturation (intensity) were dimensions of Renaissance color just as important as hue – perhaps, indeed, more so.


Transparency and the made-up face: Artistry and deceit in the deployment of cosmetics
Sabrina Smofsky , Centre for Sensory Studies, Concordia University

One of the most enduring criticisms regarding makeup’s transformative powers, is the artificiality of a made-up face. The idea of makeup wearers as deceitful and untrustworthy has shaped the ways in which cosmetics are marketed, formulated, seen, and understood. Beauty authorities continually urge users to select foundations, or skin makeup, that covers flaws but appears undiscerning, and feels lightweight. In order to appease these tastes, makeup companies are continually competing for the next most traceless and weightless foundations. Skin makeup has been rendered further indistinguishable by the contemporary eye, which increasingly views the feminine made-up face as normal. Most notably, makeup users employ a language aligning cosmetic application with artistry, countering accusations of deception, and pulling the practice into an alignment with a sense of self. In this way, users argue the practice is more revealing than it is concealing.


The life histories of bicycles: Sensing neglected pasts and pedals
Aryana Soliz, Sociology & Anthropology, Concordia University

How can research methods help provide alternative interpretations of transportation histories, particularly in peri-urban areas ,which are often excluded in standard research accounts? Based on an ethnographic study of working-class cycling practices in the Mexican bajío, this presentation proposes a method of investigation, which combines ‘object interviews’ with life-historical research techniques. Tracing the life histories of three older bicycles that have passed through different generations of riders, this approach attends to the sensory significance of bicycle travel across generations, while taking seriously the shifting material conditions that enable and disable movement in different contexts as well as the textural changes in travel routes. Drawing from Maria Puig’s (2011) re-theorization of techno-science as a matter of care, I suggest that in contexts of widespread infrastructural exclusions, the bicycle pedal represents more than a simple overlooked object, but also merits analytic attention as a neglected activity. What can multi-temporal bicycle traces bring to the surface about processes of urbanization and contrasting transportation histories beyond dominant narratives of development?

This paper is part of the roundtable entitled “Uncommon” Methods organized by Carolina Cambre, Education, Concordia University


“We Are All Musicians”
Jesse Stewart, composer, percussionist, visual artist, researcher, and educator based in Ottawa

This paper will discuss the work of the organization “We Are All Musicians”, which was founded and directed by the author. “We Are All Musicians” has facilitated dozens of inclusive music-making experiences with people who have experienced barriers to making music, notably children and adults living in low income situations, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. Stewart’s work fosters inclusive and accessible music making through using adaptive musical technologies like the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI) and the SensAble Adaptive Musical Instrument (SAMI), which was co-developed by Stewart and Carleton University Biomedical Engineering faculty and students. Using these technologies in combination with more traditional musical instruments, the We Are All Musicians project aims to make music broadly accessible to participants of all musical, physical, and cognitive abilities. Stewart will discuss some of his experiences in co-creating music in—and across—diverse communities through the We Are All Musicians project, focusing in particular on the role of adaptive music technologies.

This paper is part of the Uncommon Music-Making roundtable organized by Lois Frankel of Carleton University


The Division of the Senses: Privation in Public Spaces
Thomas Tajo, World Access for the Blind

This paper examines how, in the visual culture of the West, touch or haptics is largely relegated to the private realm, and how this removal impacts social interaction. “Sight” is the social sense, it is culturally recognised and socially accepted, as the sense for normal forms of socialization and social interactions in public life and public space. This has the effect of circumscribing with whom, to what extent, and where one can engage in non-visual forms of socialization or social contact and social interaction. For instance, hugging and touching friends of the same sex beyond the act of greeting may be regarded as “inappropriate.” Touching strangers in public may even be regarded as a sexual advance or deemed assault. Thus, the cultural positioning of the senses informs our understanding of normal and acceptable forms of socialization or social interaction. We will examine specifically how this removal of touch from public life in western culture excludes blind people from full participation in society and also prevents them from accessing important cultural and scientific artefacts, such as are housed in public museums.

Keywords: Visual culture, socialization, private, public, senses.


FlashSonar or Echolocation Education: expanding the function of hearing and changing the meaning of blindness
Thomas Tajo, World Access for the Blind, and Daniel Tish, Founder, World Access for the Blind.

Sight is primarily associated with the function of gathering and processing near and extended spatial information which is largely used to support self-determined interaction with the environment through self-directed movement and navigation. By contrast, hearing is primarily associated with the function of gathering and processing sequential information which may typically be used to support self-determined communication through the self-directed use of music and language. Blindness or the lack of vision is traditionally characterized by a lack of capacity to access spatial information which, in turn, is presumed to result in a lack of capacity for self-determined interaction with the environment due to limitations in self-directed movement and navigation. However through a specific protocol of FlashSonar education developed by World Access for the Blind, the function of hearing can be expanded in blind people to carry out some of the functions normally associated with sight, that is to access and process near and extended spatial information to construct three-dimensional acoustic images of the environment. This perceptual education protocol results in a significant restoration in blind people of self-determined environmental interaction, movement, and navigational capacities normally attributed to vision – a new way to see. Thus by expanding the function of hearing to process spatial information to restore self-determined movement, we are not only changing the meaning of blindness and what it means to be blind, we are also recasting the meaning of vision and what it is to see.

Keywords: Echolocation, FlashSonar, change, sensory function, Blindness.


Liveness and the Senses in Arts Workshops on Chronic Pain
Jen Tarr, Department of Methodology, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

What role do the senses play in arts-based workshops around chronic pain? In a recent paper about our research on non-textual forms of chronic pain communication, we argued that arts workshops are a form of ‘live methods’ (Back & Puwar, 2012) which produce an unpredictable, imprographic space, where novel forms of communication can emerge (Tarr et al 2017). In this paper I will explore the specific role of the senses in relation to this live, unpredictable methodological space. While the arts practices of the workshops made use of visual, kinesthetic, and auditory modalities, proprioception, taste and smell were also important in creating spaces of comfort or discomfort. Catered breaks with food that was respectful of the restricted diets many people with pain follow in order to manage their condition, was a central part of creating a communal space in which participants felt included and understood. I will also consider arguments about pain as a sense in its own right (Eccleston 2015) and what incorporating pain within our understanding of the senses might add to sensory research.


Bodily Undoing: sensory, experimental workshops taking a somatic approach into virtual reality
Lisa May Thomas, Department of Drama, and Department of Computer Science at the University of Bristol.

This paper discusses a practice-as-research project that takes a dance perspective and approach to address the perceptual ‘gap’ which opens up between what is seen and what is felt by bodies entering into virtual environments which offer different visual and haptic information/layers, and offers insights into how bodies are dislocated and relocated in these environments through ways of seeing and acts of touch. I discuss my use of experimental somatic/movement-based workshops with practitioners (artists, and scholars who work with somatic practices within the field of dance). I will discuss my use of a series of tasks designed to enable participants to move through a series of layered and multi-sensory spaces and environments: these were 1) using vision to explore the physical lit space, 2) being in a dark collective space, 3) being blindfolded and witnessed, 4) being blindfolded and with the HMD, 5) being in the VR space, 6) experiencing the final layered space. The broad theme of the workshop was an exploration into ‘ways of seeing’ and the notion of ‘seeing’ as not something which pertains solely to the visual apparatus of the eyes, but as mediated through the body and thus through the technological apparatus of the HMDs of VR technology.

This paper is part of the panel entitled Innovative methodologies for exploring sensory digital environments organized by Carey Jewitt (University College London) and moderated by David Parisi (College of Charleston).

Keywords: virtual reality, somatic approach, dance, touch, sensory


The Educated Sensorium: University Disability Access Policy
Tanya Titchkosky, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto

Ways of perceiving inaccessibility reflect the cultural education of the sensorium; they reflect the dense weave of historical experiences that organize perception as well as the relations among the senses. This paper explores the education the sensorium must have had in order to manage disability inclusion in the way that it currently does within a University environment. My paper moves between the first statement on “The University and Accessibility for Disabled Persons” approved by the University of Toronto’s Board of Governors in 1981, and current ways the university environment’s exclusionary prowess is not felt by all and is not perceived by many. I unpack the 1981 statement, especially its detailed representations of exclusion, to reveal how the sensorium was educated while seeking future reverberations of this education found within people’s apperception of the university milieu today. The paper ends with an exploration of how touch and proprioception are educated so as to become alienation-incarnate. Making vision primary alongside alienated touch and insensitive forms of proprioception, a university-disciplined sensorium lends sense to the inclusion of the disabled figure as an excludable type within the university environment.

Keywords: Disability Studies; In(ex)clusion; education of the sensorium


Regulating digital tastes: the unicorn latte, Instagram food, and issues of authenticity
Emily Truman, Critical Food Communication & Health, Department of Communication, Media and Film, University of Calgary.

In April 2017, Starbucks released a limited-edition drink called the “Unicorn Frappuccino,” a pink and blue blended drink with mango syrup, sour blue drizzle, whipped cream, and powder topping. It generated news and social media coverage for its novelty, as well as a lawsuit from The End Brooklyn Café that had previously trademarked a pink and blue “unicorn latte” featuring healthy superfood ingredients. The café claimed that damage to their trademark stemmed from similarities in the drink names, appearances, and social media presence, specifically that both drinks were “made for Instagram”.

This example raises some intriguing questions about the concept of authenticity as it relates to food taste(s) in the context of social media and food marketing. “Instagram foods” are valued for their aesthetic appeal, and are the product of new practices, such as mobile photography, which Lev Manovich (2017) argues has contributed to the creation of a distinct image culture involving new subjects, aesthetic rules, and sharing practices. This paper examines the unicorn latte as “Instagram food” in order to explore the relationship between visuality, taste, artificiality and authenticity in our current image culture. Digital food cultures not only shape the creation of food products, they also challenge notions of taste and the role of food in everyday life.

Keywords: food, imagery, taste, visual regulation, Instagram


Habeas Corpus, accusation and the body
Matthew P. Unger, Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University

Law requires translations in order to make the mundane world legible to the legal sphere. This translation requires transposing an infinite landscape of ethical possibilities into a set number of categories, modes of speech, reasoning, and histories. The body represents both a particular challenge to this translation while illuminating the historical contingency of the contaminants that ineluctably and surreptitiously shape law’s responsiveness. This paper will examine the phenomenology of accusation as it pertains to the experience of the body in law. Historically, we see a discursive shift in the experience of accusation and the role of the body as our perspectives of fault have moved from an external experience of sin and transgression against the sovereign towards the discipling of self through biopolitics. One can see these transformations through the legal writ of Habeas Corpus. While we now understand this writ as a hallmark to the fairness of contemporary criminal justice, a closer examination of it reveals the contours of how accusation discloses contextual and shifting forms of legal possession and dispossession. If the writ, meaning ‘you may have the body’ reflects the capacity for liberty, it also naturalizes the complex forms of legal transcriptions that expresses a foundational dispossession within law that occurs at the moment of accusation. Indeed, the markings and tattoos that have become signatory of the experience of incarceration to the stigmatized self in society after accusation, marks the way that bodily and lived experience is disrupted (arrested) through accusation. Specifically, I ask what is left of the criminally accused subject/individual once [discourses/interpellations of] accusations no longer utter criminalization’s? Does accusation ever leave the body? What technologies remain in accusations’ wake? This paper then examines the dispositifs/apparatuses that act and interact upon the body of the accused (cf. body of the condemned Foucault) through different discourses.


The Chinese touch: how Chinese masseurs feel body and health
Valérie Vandenabeele, Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative (CNRS), France.

This paper is based on interviews with Chinese masseurs and deals with the way they consider the “sensory augmentation” they develop as they encounter patients. The protocol through which they diagnose the need of their patients mobilize their visual, olfactive and tactile sensibility. Their action is then conditioned by their assessment of what they touch and feel. How does this process make them think the functioning of the body: the imbrication between sensations and action in their own body, and their possibility to impulse changes in patients’ body and life? This presentation will be the occasion to discuss the continuities and the differences between a practice such as Chinese massage and Chinese traditional conceptions of body and health. It will aim at questioning how both these references can enrich the way we apprehend sensibility, body and health, and the way we attempt to ethnography tactile sensibility.

Keywords: tactile sensibility, Chinese massage, Chinese conceptions of body and health.


New Chemical Aesthetics: Synthetic Surfaces at the BASF Corporation (1880-1914)
Jessica Varner, History, Theory & Criticism, Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In his 1908 essay ‘Ornament and Crime,’ Adolf Loos rationalized preferences for “smooth objects” rather than ornamented surfaces in a move to reject the era’s popular historicism; yet, by focusing on decoration, Loos and others in modern architecture’s early debates neglected the political and social power of surfaces in the age of new chemical material production. Late 19th-century chemical corporations had to address how to market and sell the emerging invisible materials. Synchronous with Loos’ thesis, the German chemical firm Badische Anilin-und Soda- Fabrik (BASF) was one of the largest producers for architectural building materials — primarily in surface coatings and dyes—within the global materials market. Discussions at BASF led to the creation of a new Technische Färberai (TF) Department for material “sensorial engagement”. The department made new color and material sample books; rooms for seeing, touching, and smelling the 1,000+ dye variants; and found ways to sell invisible BASF building chemical products to a global audience. By looking at the early developments at BASF, specifically in the development of the Technische Färberai (TF) Department, this paper looks at how scientific and aesthetic factors within synthetic chemical development shifted material discussions as the BASF products moved from invisible to visibly ubiquitous in buildings and beyond.

Keywords: chemicals, aesthetics, corporations, architecture, science of the senses.


Too many senses makes no sense: Roman considerations on the senses in Oriental cults
Alexandre Vincent, Ancient History at Poitiers University, France

For centuries Latin authors have presented the cult of oriental deities as a model of otherness. Inebriation, ecstasy, loss of control, madness resulting sometimes in self-mutilation and even castration was described by Ovid or Apuleus, with a mix of horror and fascination as the perfect opposite of the seriousness of Roman public religion. The “Oriental cults” (Magna Mater, Attis, Dionysus mainly) were saturated by the senses: for example, processions would include bright colors, heady scents, dancing and a tremendous racket caused by tambourines, cymbals and specific wind instruments. In a twofold reflection, the paper will first question the existence of a “sensory community” during these cults. It will then try to assess how the intensification of the senses served the purpose of the authors and helped them in designing what they thought as the Roman sensory regime.

This paper is part of the panel entitle Regulating the Senses: Ancient Rituals and Sensorial Experience organized by Adeline Grand-Clément (University of Toulouse 2) and chaired by Alexis Avdeef (University of Poitiers)


The Unseen Observer: Exploring Displaced Information and How it Affects Blind Audiences During Audio Described Performances
Jessica Watkin, Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Toronto

This piece considers audio-described performances intended for blind audience members as an alternative and different experience to that of sighted audience members. Through an overview of the best practises for audio description globally and the rhythmic dimensions of each, and then building to explore two examples of contrasting sensorial experiences for the blind, I will engage with the dynamics of semiotics and practical theatre experience to explore how this “accessible” practise in the arts shifts the sensorial experience for listeners and ultimately if it is an appropriate practise or if blind audiences should challenge the confines of experiencing performance.

I explore questions such as: what is “too much” information? What are the implications of attempting to apply audio-description to “enhance” a performance for a blind audience member? Is there a dramaturgical aspect to audio-described performances that changes the nature and overall landscape of the performance?

This paper is part of the panel entitled The Experiential Life of Blindness: deconstructing sight and blindness in Western culture organized by Elizabeth Davis (OISE/UofT)

Keywords: Accessibility, Performance, Blindness, Audio Description, Semiotics, Disability


The American Religious Sounds Project
Isaac Weiner, Department of Comparative Studies, Ohio State University

I co-direct “The American Religious Sounds Project,” a collaborative initiative of Ohio State and Michigan State Universities to leverage opportunities afforded by the new digital environment to consider what religion sounds like in the United States. The project centers on (1) the construction of a unique sonic archive, documenting the diversity of everyday American religious life through newly produced field recordings, interviews, oral histories, and related materials; and (2) the development of a new digital platform and website, which draws on materials in our archive to engage users in telling new stories about religious diversity in the U.S. This multi-modal platform includes a searchable archive, database-driven visualizations, which invite users to explore, discover, and listen for surprising connections among our materials, and a curated gallery of multimedia exhibits, which allow for greater interpretation and contextualization. Future phases include plans for museum installations, traveling exhibits, and community-based workshops.

In this paper, I will introduce the Project and present our website, which we expect to launch in March 2018. I will solicit critical feedback and offer reflections of my own on the capabilities and limits of new digital methods for enhancing our research of the varied sonic cultures of American religious life.


Encountering Bodies and Belonging in Danse Folklorique Haitienne
Elizabeth M. White, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, Concordia University

This exploration of methods and methodologies from earlier fieldwork with a Montreal-based troupe de danse Haitenne Folklorique troubles past techniques in preparation for re-entry in the field in the next phases of the project. As a researcher committed to field- and community-based emergent methodologies and ethics of sharing and care, my work considers what dances and dancing are, and are doing, for the troupe de dance Folklorique I refer to as Racines. I attend to the interwoven embodied and social life of the dance troupe as practices, processes, and forms that articulate difference and nurture identities. Unscripted entry into and encounters in the field led me to embrace dancing, sharing time, and friendship as my main methodology and methods of research/learning/experiencing. Reflexive immersion into Racines’ philosophical, spiritual, social, and kinesthetic world enabled deep encounters with the ways in which dances and dancing work with tenacity and love to counter discriminatory and oppressive narratives. Vociferously representing and performing Folklorique Haitienne practices to themselves and local and international audiences offered, as well as generated, alternative ways of knowing ‘roots’ culture.

This paper is part of the roundtable entitled “Uncommon” Methods organized by Carolina Cambre, Education, Concordia University


Sensing Places through Vocal Sketching ( Workshop)
This Workshop is Organized by: Lois Frankel (Carleton University), Lucas Lacerda (Nureva, Ottawa), Elif Özcan (Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands)

Introduction: This workshop provides an opportunity for participants to experience and vocally sketch the psycho-social soundscapes of public places.

Background: According to Schafer (1977), soundscapes can be categorized into 3 layers: keynotes, signals, and soundmarks. In addition, Treasure (2013, 2014) presents 4 ways that sound affects people: physiologically, psychologically, cognitively, and behaviourally. Özcan and van Egmond (2008) describe the phases of sound design: problem analysis, conceptual design, embodiment design, and detailing. With this awareness, workshop participants will apply the concepts in a soundscape sensing and vocal sketching activity.

Workshop Activities: during this 3-hour workshop, approximately 20 participants will experience the following:

Part 1: Introduction, Context, and Hypothesis begins with a discussion/lecture about Soundscapes in more detail than above, focusing on the relationship between places and their sounds. We will present the hypothesis that places have their own natural sound “brands” and that they can be identified by their unique sound “brands”. We will explain how to identify, categorize, and reproduce sounds in preparation for Part 2 of the workshop.

Part 2: Soundscape Experience. Small teams will each choose a unique preselected location that they can walk to in 10 minutes, to identify, capture/record, and categorize its sounds. Each team will identify the significant sounds tied to their place, vocally reproducing them, in order to create a 30-second soundtag or “brand” for their place.

Part 3: Soundscape Performance and Debriefing. Teams will return to the workshop space and perform their soundtags for others to try to identify. Each team will have the opportunity to describe their sensory activities, ranging from listening, identifying, interpreting, reproducing, editing, to performing their location’s soundtag in relation to the day’s hypothesis. We will provide time for an overall debriefing.

Keywords: acoustic ecology, vocalization, vocal sketching, sonify places, design anthropology


“Uncommon” Methods (Roundtable)
This roundtable is organized and animated by Carolina Cambre, Education, Concordia University

Positioning ourselves as researchers who refuse to claim a place above the study in the sense of being in charge of thought and practice, we also necessarily resist an arrangement that begins with formalized, instrumental or empirical methodologies commonly used in social science inquiry where we “plug” data into a preexisting framework.

Our positions then, whether through making, objects, or dance, distinctly time resist the current trends in post-qualitative and post-humanist theorizing. Post-qualitative positions generally align themselves with posthumanist positions that have been already extensively critiqued for their inability to confront very human material troubles of violence, hatred, and exploitation, their inadequacy in addressing their own white Eurocentrisms ignoring the worlds of those who have never yet been allowed to become human (Shih 2002; Simon 2003; Wynter 2003; Gerrard, Rudolph, & Sriprakash 2017).

While we are wary of both weak theorizing within the emergent post-qualitative movement, and the distinctly problematic onto-epistemic commitments of post-humanist positions, we also recognize troubling mechanistic trends within qualitative research practiced in positivistic ways. For these reasons, we take our own positions somewhere in between where we refuse mastery over participants, data, and allow the meanings of the terms we use to be context and practice specific. As such our focus is processual and material. Deleuze (1968/1994) wrote; “something in the world forces us to think” (p. 139) and indicates by this that what happens in the process is not the result of intentions, or a programmatic systematicity. Together the papers in this panel enact/perform uncommon methods built in and through “encounters” through making, objects, and dancing. The quantity and richness of data in these kinds of study, means they demands slowness and time. Regardless, we position ourselves as researchers always aware that we, as instruments through which the investigation is carried out, are always already implicated and constrained in specific ways by inevitable biographic and affective responses to the interpretation process for both data and theory. Our strategy is to work reflexively and through multiple readings, and bodies to thicken the variety-validity of possible moments of traction with what we begin to learn. Cultivating an attitude of critical reflexivity throughout the process helped us gain a better understanding of our own discourses and assumptions and what might be embedded in them.


Uncommon Path: Using the senses as a gateway to consumer education in the craft food sector Roundtable
This roundatble is organized by Jordan LeBel, Marketing, and Karine Guillemette, School of Graduate Studies, Concordia University.

With growing interest, consumers have embraced local and artisanal foods, which typically benefit from a halo of positive mental associations often centering on these foods’ sensory attributes. To no surprise, the appreciation of such foods has involved a form of sensory seduction where taste, smell, and appearance have dominated their marketing as well as the consumption experience, thereby fueling consumers’ willingness to pay a price premium for these products. Could these foods’ sensory appeals serve as more than an attention-inducing form of differentiation to access consumers’ hearts and wallets? What if the senses were used to trigger or form the basis for a deeper appreciation of the artisanal know-how behind these foods and the ethical questions their production and commercialization raise? In this panel, researchers and practitioners will be invited to share their experience and expertise of sensory education (covering a broad spectrum of craft foods) to explore innovative ways of involving the senses in educating consumers and marketing craft foods. We propose to end the panel with a short tasting of craft bean-to-bar chocolates matched with tea and ice cider, to be guided by panelists to enhance the tasting experience and to trigger thoughtful and mindful appreciation.

Panelists include
Pauline Fernandez, Centre de recherche, Institut de Tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Québec. Jasmin Desharnais, co-proprietor of Camelia Sinensis Tea Shop, Montreal (TBC)
Marine Pouyfaucon, Croquarium, a non-profit organization that teaches sensory appreciation, from farm to fork, to children across Quebec via school gardens (TBC)
Nancy Graveline, Head, sensory evaluation service, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Research and Development Centre in St-Hyacinthe.
Jean-Jacques Berjot, General Manager, Barry-Callebaut Canada, the largest chocolate transformer in the world.



La théorie des ensembles          Artist: Sara Hanley

La théorie des ensembles is a solo performance unfolding in an intimate atmosphere where lines between the self, others, interiority and exteriority, nature and culture dissolve and are repeatedly reorganized.

The present work is the outcome of a series of research projects conducted in public spaces which focused on the distinctive quality of movement, states and connectivity generated by working in an open-air studio.

Maps of isolated or combined stimuli such as air flows, smells and conversations present in the various locations visited were unveiled through the body.

Back in the ‘neutral’ space of the studio, the artist, in collaboration with sound artist Éric Forget, attempts to keep alive and vibrant the multi-layered sensorial qualities of the body maps created in situ.

Keywords: Senses, Affect, Embodiment, Borders, Perception of the environment, Mapping


non//sense          Artists: Arthur Russel and the non//sense collective

non//sense invites conference attendees to interact with seven works by six artists to explore the uncommon senses of environments. This interactive micro-exhibit encourages spectators to embody altered apprehensions of amplification and suppression, presence and absence, imminence and ephemerality—sense and non-sense.

keywords: sensory communities, sonic interventions, haptic imaginations, sensibility


Inter-Intra          Artist: Arianna Garcia-Fialdini

Inter-Intra is a semi-interactive group of 10 wooden-sculptures combining wood-prints, ink, water-colour, tea, light and sound. The work is an artful experience in-process which is based on lived experiences of art education and migration through personal engagement with newly arrived and disenfranchised immigrant communities in Montreal, Quebec.

The sculptures serve as both frames for the drawings and shells that encase oral recordings of speakers reading out parts of a collective text in diverse languages. The narrated text is based on perceptions of migration, decision-making and identity.

This ongoing research creation project is intended to represent some of the many diverse cultures that share Montreal as a new home and living environment.

Keywords: art as research, lived experiences, migration, disenfranchised immigrant communities


La Chevelure          Artist: Jo Burzynska

La Chevelure is an exploratory, immersive audio-olfactory installation that charts a sensuous journey through the waves of ‘synesthetic symbolism’ in the Charles Baudelaire poem of the same name. In his poem from the mid-1800s, Baudelaire created a dense tangle of multisensory imagery to evoke the poem’s conceptual and emotional content using the central symbol of a lover’s head of hair. This wafts layers of exotic sensory symbolism through the poem’s inner and external worlds, much of which is evoked through scents and sounds. In this contemporary interpretation, the poem’s mental imagery, symbolism and conceptual elements are transposed to actual sounds and scents, and current understandings of crossmodal correspondences – the universal tendency of a sensory feature in one modality to be matched with one from another sensory modality – are applied and explored. Sensory interactions are harnessed to elicit states of mind, creating subconscious connections that provoke powerful conscious perceptual experiences.

Sound loop 12:20 & Scent

Keywords: crossmodal art, sound, perfume, multisensory, audio-olfactory art