Awakening the Senses through Technology

Interactive Public Sound Art: David Birchfield, Kelly Phillips, Assegid Kidané
Visual and Acoustic Space: Marshall McLuhan

                                                                                                                                                                 By Young Ju Cho

The rapid advance of technologies gives limitless convenience to human life and brings different ways of human perception. It also provides us with a variety of media for communications and interactions. According to McLuhan, he predicted that the development of technology would change whole our society by allowing us to use other senses such as touch, sound, and smell, rather than only visual sense which we had heavily relied on for a long time due to an advance of the print media. I think the time McLuhan mentioned has just arrived now. 

Another revolutionary emergence includes the internet and smart phones which give us countless benefits and convenience, but there are also many negative consequences, such as breach of privacy and theft of person information, and insecurity. However,through the McLuhan’s theory, I can expect the future in which imaginary ideas come true through a variety of media rather than concerning about the negative effects of the new media. There are many studies to find the way to use all the senses for restoring the value of human emotion in many areas. I think it is all the same reason why we are learning about sounds and trying to find the connection to the design. 

Interactive public art in Tampa looks a very interesting project that matches well with McLuhan’s theory, which emphasized the role of the media. Audiences interact with the musical structures, which is installed in bus stops, by moving their body as a tool. Through this playful interaction and engaging one another, people can be more active instead of stay a bench for waiting a bus. Also, they have a chance to communicate during the time of engaging and interacting. The use of the musical structures was limited in bad weather, but it was overcome and continued to function by application of technology like using solar energy and battery. The musical structure was inspired by the metaphor of water using blue background, and ripples from a disturbance in the water, which may lead more interest to people living in the desert areas. Like this musical structure, public art leads the active participation of the audience to become one of the elements that directly completed the artwork, not just passively accept information in the project. In addition, it helps the audience wake up all the senses and makes sensory experience unforgettable for a long time.

Development of the media during the past few decades is beyond imagination with new forms which resulted in even change of society. One of examples is the electronic media such as virtual reality and artificial space which become common in our daily life. Before long, I think we will see another change in society. Probably, we can control the information in the future just by simple actions, like looking at an object or moving head. Also, the information will be delivered through combined and diverse senses rather than simple visual or auditory senses. Our capability of controlling complicated media may lead to the expansion of countless human experiences through these physical interactions. 

At this point, it is needed to think if the new things are always good while the old ones are bad, or vice versa. It is irony that we living with high technologies in the 21century consider that the primitive age was the ideal time in terms of using senses, but it is important to keep it in mind that the basic human values are not subject to the machine.

Then, what is the role of a designer in the modern society full of technologies and tools? I think that awakening the senses in a variety of ways and helping people to communicate by using the technologies beneficial to humanity are the most important role as a designer.