Friday, February 13, 2009

Aesthetic significance and the sensorium of space

This is what I thought about when I woke up this morning. Aesthetic significance, as well as aspects of form, scale, fabric, setting etc, also covers the EXPERIENCE of being in a place - visual, acoustic, olfactory, the touch and taste.

In space, you would always be inside a spacecraft or inside a spacesuit. You take your environment with you, so touch, smell, sound, taste are unrelated to the outside. They remain more or less the same wherever you are. The only sense that could be drawn into apprehension of a spacecraft is sight. So the aesthetic significance of material culture in space is all about how things look.

Of course human sight takes in only a narrow portion of the wavelength, and spacecraft, one would imagine, may appear very differently in UV, IR, radio, etc etc, just like everything else in the universe.


  1. An interesting idea Dr Gorman. When I read your post I first thought about neural nanonics (from the Nights Dawn Trilogy), ie. the technology that allows something similar to 'computers' and their 'sensors' to be directly embedded within your mind, yet able to interact with the external environment. Like a whole bundle of NEW senses.

    Although just a sci fi concept, I thought 'Hang on, that means technology could shape our aesthetic experience'. Aesthetics is not something I have a clue in the world about, but it was kind of a mini-revelation. Maybe this is all old hat?

    None of this is relevant to your post of course, and I agree with your point about aesthetic experience in space being about sight. And it's a good one. But technological changes could significantly alter that experience. For me, that's also an interesting idea.

    I'm starting to get a better sense of why you write/think about space heritage issues - significant in itself yes indeed - but it really is also a unique way to think about heritage more broadly, particularly in terms of theory.

    That's my 2 cents for the evening! Thanks for the great blog!!

  2. Your thoughts bring another thing to mind: the difference between experiencing space on Earth, where we see images that are reconstructed and mediated by technology (cameras, telescopes, software etc), and experiencing space in space, where you can see stuff with your own eyes through windows. Another aspect of this that I haven't thought through well enough yet, but probably should!