Panel: Interart / Intersensorium. On the Interrelation of Media and the Senses
Synesthesia has received much attention in science, art and in particular in the overlapping fields of digital art and intermedia in the last decades. Artists and scientists in these fields share a common interest in human perception. In the arts, synesthesia refers to a range of phenomena of simultaneous perception of two or more stimuli as one gestalt experience. In neuroscience, synesthesia is more strictly defined as the elicitation of perceptual experiences in the absence of the normal sensory stimulation. About one in twenty-three persons has a type of ‘neurological’ synesthesia. Over 60 types have been reported, and people differ in intensity of the experience. The most common type of synesthesia is colored weekdays, while the type of perceiving colored letters and numbers is most studied by scientists, and the type of colored sound and music is most explored by artists. The neuroscientific definition of synesthesia limits the number of so-called ‘synesthetes’ to 4% in the population. This number contrasts with the large amount of people who are interested in art forms that present synesthetic experiences to the public. This raises questions like: is synesthesia genetically fixed at birth? Or is there a range of types of synesthetic perceptions in which a genetical disposition for synesthesia can be developed? How wide is that range? How do biological, social and cultural factors interact in this process? How do people develop different synesthetic sensibilities? Slightly different from the current neuroscientific view on ‘neurological synesthesia’, I will propose a view on synesthesia that also includes social and cultural interactions, which I assume will account better for individual differences in the awareness of synesthesia.
- Cretien van Campen is scientific researcher, author and editor in social science and fine arts. He is affliated as a senior researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research and moderator of Synesthetics Netherlands, the web community of synesthetes in the Netherlands. He is editor of the Leonardo online bibliography Synesthesia in Art and Science. His latest book is The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science (MIT Press 2007). He has published in the fields of the senses, perception & art and health, happines & well-being.