Media, Senses and Sensibilities

In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), Marshall McLuhan proposed that media affect society not because of the content they carry but because of the characteristics of the medium itself. A key manifestation of this state of affairs is provided in his discussion of the relationship between media and senses: each media, argues McLuhan, “adds itself on to what we already are,” acting as “amputation” and “extension” of our senses and bodies, reshaping them into new technical forms and reshaping the ways in which individuals perceive the world.* Although McLuhan has been criticized for his lack of attention to questions of power, practice, uses and social context, his understanding of media as extensions of the senses remains crucial. It introduces the contemporary comprehension of media in their relationship to the senses.

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Media, Senses and Sensibilities addresses different debates about the impact of media practices and materialities on the changing nature and definition of the senses, as well as on the sensorial experiences of media and the organization of the senses. It addresses the political, cultural and artistic media interventions that explore the changing nature and definition of the senses. How do specific practices of media engage and affect our senses? What are the sensorial and polysensorial experiences solicited but never simply determined by media? What is the relationship between media, sense experiences, culture and society? How do new practices of mobile, locative and location-aware media organize our perception of time and space?

Media, Senses and Sensibilities is equally invested in the exploration of the emotional and affective dimensions of media experiences. It examines not only the role of emotions in the representational, connective and collocational practices of media and the embeddedness of emotionality in the materiality of media, but also the more recent development of affective computing. The emotionality and affectivity of media and mass-media interventions require that we address the following questions: how can an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the relationship between (mass)media and emotions help us address media information, media entertainment, media psychology, media participation and connection, political communication, and persuasion? How can it address emotion-related issues such as: the evolutionary functions of mediated emotions, media violence, media sexuality, media pleasure, fear-evoking media? How are new media (such as movement-based games) designed to promote specific affective experience (engagement, pleasure and meaning construction) in the user?

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