Unlike the undergraduate sessions of my degree, the structure of Honours centers around a single project. There are classes that will focus purely on the construction of this project (Honours Studio class), and others which directly or indirectly help to build my academic research ability, allowing me to write the thesis that will accompany my major work. The latter classes probably aren’t important to write about regularly (although the classes themselves are certainly important), so I will just focus on process updates for the Honours Studio class.
Being the first class of the year, we were asked to present our concepts. For me, this idea had been in the works for some time. In fact, well over a year now. So when thinking about something for that long, there’s always the risk of overcooking it. When I finally presented my concept, I leapt into descriptions of autism, sensory processing and multisensory rooms, before being pulled up and asked: what do I want to create?
Fair question really. So, project goals this year: the creation of several interactive sensory devices for children with autism to engage with. The reasons for me doing this project are quite varied, from my interest in human response to interactivity, to my perceived lack of accessibility for children with autism to sensory technology. For those keeping notes, this was the slide presentation to my lengthy ramble (names have been removed until the project is approved).
On presenting my concept, the biggest question that came up (and it was definitely presented as a question – not a criticism) is that of the aesthetics of my final work. The world of an art school is very different from other, more scientific research. Whilst the research paper of my Honours project is taken seriously, it is the physical output that is weighted with 75% of my final mark. My concept at this stage is clearly focused on a process, with the output being led by whatever form that process may take.
In retrospect, my response should have been; that the aesthetics of the final work are dictated by the child’s response to each device. One of my greatest problems when seeing a model such as the multisensory room, is that the creator of that room is dictating their own aesthetics upon the participant – they are bound by the decisions made during construction. Indeed, so will each participant be bound by whatever form my final device(s) take – however, my aesthetic choices will be based on responses to my process.
In fact, a quick look over at Wikipedia shows a link to Aesthetic Judgement (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), which defines aesthetics as the study of sensory or sensory-emotional values. This definition comes as close as any I’ve managed to sum up what my project is about: the aesthetics of experiential media.
The feedback on my concept was generally good (if a little bemused). There will be yet another – more personal – presentation in the next class, so the next step is to get confirmation on those I will be working with in the year ahead, and dig into what could be a lengthy ethics approval process.