Aesthetic Experience: Perceive

How does your project engage the senses? What meanings will your audience perceive based on their sensory experience?

It is generally accepted that the ancient Greeks supplied the original notion of the aesthetic, from the verb aisthanomai (I perceive) and the noun aisthetike (sense perception). The Greek aesthetic originally encompassed perception through the senses. We find this definition useful. (Interestingly however, the Greeks were not concerned with the knowledge gained from sensory perception outright; they were also interested in codifying that knowledge into a hierarchy of the senses. That is not our agenda.)

When some people talk about the aesthetic, often they are talking about how something looks. But it's more than that. When we say "aesthetics," we have something else in mind besides the philosophy of beauty or fine art (which by the way, has fallen out of favor in the last 20 years or so as being belletristic, superficial, or worse).

When we speak of aesthetics, we are talking about lived sensory experience and the meanings that can be made through that experience We need to keep a rich, flexible, human-centered definition of the aesthetic because people tend to connect a wide array of meanings to their aesthetic (sensory-based) experience. We need to understand the aesthetic as a concept that can account for all of those possibilities of sensory meaning-making.

An aesthetically engaging project called “Sound City” allows the user to explore the sights and sounds of cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Stockholm through maps, interactive stereo sound, and 360-degree panoramic images.

Screenshot from Sound City, December 15, 2014.

Another similar project titled “Night Walk” allows the user to “walk” the streets of Marseilles, France, to “explore the sounds, streets, and soul of the city.” Digital stories like these rely on aesthetic, sensory-based experience to create meaning and value for the user.