The new sensorium: embodied perception, extensions of humanity and digital communication
An international symposium, 20-21 April 2012, BIOS, Athens
Video recording of the symposium available: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/10854335
The Department of Communication, Media and Culture of Panteion University and its postgraduate programme in Cultural Management, in association with the Coach House Institute (CHI) and its McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology (MPCT) at the Faculty of Information (University of Toronto), organized a two-day symposium celebrating the joint centenaries of the Canadian founder of the Culture & Technology discipline, Marshall McLuhan, and his noted American co-worker and student, literary scholar Walter J. Ong.
Appreciating that no figure is more universally associated with the rise of media, information, and our transformation into a digital society, the University of Toronto’s McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology conceived and implemented McLuhan100 (http://mcluhan100.ca/) – a collaboration run in partnership with the City of Toronto Economic Development and Culture Division and Mozilla, comprising a dynamic series of events and legacy-animating projects that took place across the city and within Europe. This symposium, organised by the Department of Communication, Media and Culture of Panteion University in Athens, and its postgraduate programme in Cultural Management, was part of the McLuhan100 2011-2012 celebrations. It also celebrates the centenary from the birth of one of the most influential collaborators of McLuhan, Walter J. Ong, and aimed at becoming a springboard for cross-disciplinary debates, between leading Communications, Culture and Technology scholars, on how society, culture, and our understanding of the human condition both influence, and are influenced by, ongoing and impending technological developments.
As prefigured half a century ago by the prescient thought of Marshall McLuhan and his collaborators Edmund Carpenter and Walter J. Ong, digital communication and media have a major impact on the workings of human society and culture. They extend the boundaries of human perception and cognition, and produce intriguing new forms of social interaction and cultural practice. They problematize established theories of media ontology and epistemology, and invite multidisciplinary debate spanning across boundaries of humanities vs. sciences, and academic research vs. art. Far from being mere representational mechanisms, digital technologies emerge as essential elements of performative action, introducing an intriguing intellectual shift to McLuhan’s notion of media as message.
The reconfiguration of the senses is central to this dramatic shift. Technologically mediated practices, from academic research to cultural memory, artistic creativity and technological innovation, are increasingly shaped by embodied, multisensory and affective modes of interaction. Secondary orality and secondary visualism, interactivity and non-linearity, trademarks of the new media ecology, challenge established notions of literacy, authority and fixity, and invite a reconsideration of the workings of human creativity and cultural reception. The emergence of a new sensorium, shaped by electronic media and global digital networks, has a fundamental impact on our sense of place, the operation of shared myths and metaphors, and the poetics and politics of identity and alterity in a global village in flux.
The symposium brought together leading international theorists from Canada, the United States and Europe, in order to probe the nature and significance of fundamental changes in the human sensorium which shape and are shaped by technological mediation in a globalised world. Taking stock of the seminal insights of McLuhan, Ong and Carpenter, it sought to establish fruitful multidisciplinary dialogues with intellectual traditions as diverse as semiotics, memory studies, the phenomenology of perception, the new epistemologies of affect, the anthropology of material culture, and the philosophy of information and media, in order to account for the intriguing range of emerging socio-cultural practices based on technology-enhanced extensions of human experience, situated on embodiment, multisensoriality and affect.
“The new sensorium” was held in Athens, at BIOS-exploring urban culture, on 20-21 April 2012. It was based by keynote presentations by leading Greek and international scholars in communication, information, sociology, cultural studies and other disciplines. In the context of the symposium, Festival Miden presented video art projections curated by Gioula Papadopoulou and Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos. In toto, 100 participants attended physically the symposium, while more than 600 online web streaming sessions of its proceedings were recorded.
This website gradually collects the presentations of speakers, photographic documentation and other relevant resources.
Symposium organisers gratefully acknowledge the kind support of iSquare S.A., the official distributor of Apple products in Greece and Cyprus, and of the Forthnet group of companies, the leading private provider of broadband and subscription TV services in Greece.