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Sensory Aesthetics: Social Sciences can Inform Aesthetics

Moin Rahman , Ira Jhangiani

Any modern, functional artifact ? the car, cellphone, camera, etc. ? can be viewed as a microcomputer-driven machine with its human-machine interface embodied in multiple mediums. They not only have to deliver a function(s) but should also fulfill the affective and aesthetic needs of the user through the many mediums (physical, virtual, aural, etc.) in which they are manifested. A construct called ?sensory aesthetics? has been conceived to investigate the processing of aesthetic information contained in such a functional artifact by its users. At an operational level, it postulates that the aesthetic information is filtered through a set of six concatenated, overlapping filters (deep structures, culture, ecology, behaviors, affordance and epoch). The filtering approach is rooted in the social and psychological sciences due to the fact that culture, context and cognitions are the primary drivers through which a group?s ? and by extension an individual?s ? aesthetic sense and needs are shaped. In the practice standpoint, information gleaned through the sensory aesthetics approach can be used to make informed decisions and shape the aesthetics of a product and its interface for a given context and users. Finally, the sensory aesthetics approach demonstrates that social science and art can partner in constructive ways in the product design process.


Sensory aesthetics, art, industrial design, product & interface design, culture, emotion, cognition