Categories 21st Century Media Practice, Film Making

Sensory Experience

Sensory : Relating to sensation or the physical senses; transmitted or perceived by the senses:sensory input
Oxford Dictionary. 2015
Sensory is simple to explain. It is the emotion and feeling created through a medium, that uses our basic human senses. Such as sound, sight, touch, taste and smell. When I think about sensory in media, it is not solely on the narrative but all the layers that have been built up to the mise-en-scene. The sound and the visual submerges us, with our senses. The clever use of editing narrative and shot techniques is what gives us a concept of time and feeling. It gets most interesting when you break this down further, when looking at specific documentaries and ethnography films

We start off with the Man of Arran (R. J Flaherty. 1934). An ethnofiction film about a shark and fishing community on the Aran Island, that is located off the coast of Ireland. The film portrays a fabricated photogenic family, going about their daily lives, as people who live from the ocean. (Sequentially my lecturer informed me that they had actually stopped whale fishing many years before.)



Like most films made from that era, it was shot as a silent film. The sound effects and music are additional effects to the visuals, and there is a non linear fit to them within the film. Personally I found the sound in this film unsettling and over bearing. I struggled to correspond and relate to the piece. The fact as well that it was not in modern context could have also reflected this feeling.

The style that film is shot is also static. Replicating what Hollywood was doing, with static shots, due to equipment being bulking. Compared to the next film Leviathan (2012)


The film is ethnographic, art film based in New Bedford. USA. Dubbed as the Whaling City and acts as the background to Moby –Dick (H. Melville. 1851). It is made by British & French Directors.
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The directors and the crew of the boat equipped themselves GoPros, with additional ones being placed around the 80-ft boat.
Using settings such as the fish eye-lens and wide-angle shots, long takes and clever jump cut editing, it can simulate an aversion of sickness to the viewer. The sound completely submerges you and is raw, in comparison to the Man of Aran. It is what it is. It is taken from a point of view at times, you are that captain, it simulates boredom even.

I can imagine that yes being on a fishing boat in the Atlantic can be boring. It is mechanical, industrious, all consuming and vacuuming. But that’s the point. It doesn’t have specific rules that we are all accustomed too and institutionalised as well. Its designed to tap into our senses and make us feel a certain way, therefore sensory.

Leviathan is a film made by Lucien Castaing- Taylor & Verena Paravel who are founder of Harvard Interdisciplinary Sensory Ethnography Lab.

The sensory Ethnography Lab based at Harvard University is one of the case studies we have been asked to look at. On first instance it looks interesting, firstly for its research and secondly for the type of content that it supports.



I looked further at some of the projects that they support, probably the most interesting was “Manakamana”.


…”High above a jungle in Nepal, pilgrims make an ancient journey by cable car to worship Manakamana.”..

and that’s it. It’s you and the pilgrims making that journey in a cable car in the Himalayas. I don’t know if you meet MANAKAMANA and this is certainly a film I wish to explore further. No one cable car can surely be the same. And what is the interaction between the people hanging a few hundred feet above the jungle.
The future of sensory technologies is interesting to say the least outside of media, but actually are we seeing new medias forming and combining into one?

Lets talk about “Captology”- study of computers and persuasive technology is relatively new….” Captology focuses on the; design, research and analysis of interactive computing products created for purpose of changing peoples attitudes or behaviors. It describes the area where technology and persuasion overlap”… (Stanford University 2014)

And this is where multisensory human communication (MHC) comes into place. This TED-X talk discusses some of the theories and technology advancements in MHC.

Augmented realities being one of them, interestingly enough the first ever-augmented reality was the Walkman.

This video shows multisensory advancements created by a student in Japan. Whereby he has taken an every day umbrella and turned it into a sound reacting device.

Biggest challenge with MHC is taste and touch, how can this be communicated digitally and sensory? One technology dates back to the 60’s and the “Sensor-rama”.

This is well worth a watch and interesting to consider how media is changing. Why is this entire sensory media becoming more important today? Have we got that detached by our tangible reality that we need to project it, in a media world? Or is it actually about sharing these worlds, in a more experienced a emotional form.


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