RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN OBJECTS

Post 53 –by Gautam Shah

(Lecture series: Space Perception -Article-VIII of 15)

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Perceivers establish several orders of relationships with objects referenced in a space. The objects are sensed as real things, recollections, and intriguing mix of both. The real things, also include physical objects and the perceivers themselves. Both are sensed due the environment. Recollections, as remembrances and dreams, derive from the experiences, and are not dependent on the actual environmental conditions or the presence of physical objects. The real things and recollections often get mixed up due to sensorial and psychical aberrations.

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The Relationships between objects in space is seen in many references.

[1]   Objects and the environment form the process of space perception.

The objects and the environment affect each other, and these form the process of space perception. For all humans, affectations are nearly universal, with minor differences due to the physiological conditions (age, sickness, deficiencies, psychical, etc.) and quality of past experiences. Recollections are the impressions of past experiences, but in parts. Recollections occur on cues from the expectations. Expectations and recollections add a new flavour to the space perception.

Our experiences consist of happenings between, 1-real things, 2-real things and metaphysical entities, and 3 between metaphysical entities.

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Experiences of First type (between real things) are existential and so manipulable. These are objects that we shift around with sensorial and functional interest. We highlight them by their position (fore-side, backside), comparative placement (near, away, distanced, up, down), controlling the exposure in the space-time (hiding, partially covering, narrowing the window of experience, static, mobile), or by allowing or curtailing the effects of the environment.

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Experiences of Second type (between real things and metaphysical entities) occur when certain spatial arrangements and environmental conditions trigger the past associations. Metaphysical entities are already imminent at personal level, but the situational conditions reinforce the experience. Metaphysical elements like, fresh air, moisture, temperature, sound reverberation, absence of background noise, odours, reminds, not only of the past experiences but their associations. Typically sanctimonious spaces, unkept and abandoned spaces carry a personal meaning, and so are sensed with a subjective interest.

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Experiences of Third type (between metaphysical entities) are derivative like, recollections or dreams. These entities have no body and so fuzzy definitions. But the metaphysical elements, can alter the cognition of physical elements. These elements without the body cannot be shifted around and are difficult to recollect in different context. It can be used as theme for new insights into perception. The content is incisive but has limited relevance. The dreams, even if one can recall, have fragile and perishable content.

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[2]   The recognition of relationships distinguishes ‘groups’.

The groups are classes of relationships, between objects and between objects and perceivers. The objects or the perceivers, though not in the reference frame, get included. Non existent things come from the remembrances. The relationships are realized across time and space.

Star formations or constellations were recognized as relationships, where the individual elements were separated in depth (distance) by many light years, each individual element shifting, and yet these were observed as consistent patterns by people across the earth and ages.

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[3]   Objects have relationships among themselves, and with us (the perceivers).

The relationships are of comparisons, contradictions and for equalization. There are some common relationships such as of size, scale, proximity, change, purpose. The objects are perceived in front or back of others, and so relationships emerge due to characteristic nearness or remoteness in time and space. Objects are perceived to be similar, if different in scale, orientation, slightly deformed (stretched, contracted, warped) or state of completeness. Objects have features that are partly distinct or familiar due to recollections of the past, and so perceivers grasp them easily, immediately or distinctly. The capacity to refurbish perception is subjective, and so the composite value of a frame or sequence remains relevant only to the person and the context.

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[4]   Objects are perceived as group, because their position, orientation, shape, size, sensorial qualities, etc. reflect a pattern.

The pattern relates to geometry, spatial scaling or repetitions. The positions of real objects allow recognition of the geometry that is axial or spatial in nature. Usually such a process is difficult, due the effort and time required, but most perceivers have an innate sense of recognizing such patterns. Objects that are distanced from each other may not constitute a pattern, but an object sharply inscribed in memory may do so.

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[5]   A group implies that some degree of commonality and diversity exist.

Objects and other things have some commonality within their own classes or types. But we assign common meaning to many diverse things. It is difficult to understand why x and y belonging to different classes, mean same things. These could be a genetic carry-over or a cultural process. Diversity is distinctive and always limited, it translates that everything else is non-diverse or common.

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[6]   Using remembrances for characterizing groups in set of objects.

The conception of a nonexistent thing is not possible and so do their recollections. Remembrances cannot occur beyond the reality. So the degree of reality in a set of real objects becomes the only factor for group to emerge. Several recollections of (real) objects happen simultaneously, without any clue of their origin, relevance as of now or in any logical sequence.

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[7]   Objects forming a group and persisting in time have a common fate.

Real objects persist longer in time than recollections. With time, the group characteristics change, because late realizations aided by recollections change the perceptions about the group. In case of dynamic happenings, state of the group composition, moments earlier turn into a recollection But the immediacy of the past depicts the movement direction of the pattern. Such a common fate for all changing things is forbearing. It allows us to interpret the dynamic scenes through the changes in intensities, distances, overlapping, and sensorial aberrations. Objects persisting in time enliven the happening.

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URBAN SMELLS

Post 52 –by Gautam Shah

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(Lecture series: Space Perception -Article-VII of 15)

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‘Turn around a street corner and the smell changes because a new orientation has different visual and aural scale and airs movement. In many instances a different set of culture’ suggests itself. Cities offer “a rich melange of olfactory and other sensations”. Smell is an experience of living, and the nature, so represents a terrain-based location. Smell is an intangible property of tangible heritage.

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A city has neighbourhoods, each with distinctive smell. The smell has cultural significance for a place, but has no history to denote. The distinction is ethnological through cultural, religious and other practices. Odours have strong compartmentalizing factor for a society. We easily sense the ethnic groups with a different diet, but to distinguish members of our own tribe, we have to rely on other means such as visual (body) and aural (speech-diction) features. (After- Urban Smell-scapes: Understanding and Designing City Smell Environments By Victoria Henshaw)

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5th C BC Sophocles describes Thebes as ‘heavy with mingled burden of sounds and smells, of groans, hymns and incense.

Nero’s Rome was full of stench of refuse rotting by the wayside, the piercing fragrance of burning myrrh from the temples, a heavy aroma of foods being cooked in the street, sweet seductive scents of flowering gardens, the mal-odour of rotting fish, sharp smell of urine from public latrines, and incense trail of passing procession -Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell.

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On a typical day some 10,000 people would be present at Versailles estate. But there were hardly any toilets, not even for the aristocrats. And everyone, without exception to their position would occasionally ease themselves in courtyards, interior corners or under the stairs. Visitors complained about the awful stench that was omnipresent everywhere. Chamber pots overflowed and moisture seeped into the structure. It was visually a splendid palace, but a stinkiest one. Louis XIV put a new rule in place according to which the hallways were to be cleansed once every week. Orange trees’ cuttings were placed in vases to mask the smell.

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The City of Paris had terrible sanitary conditions. There was no system for management of solid wastes and night soil waste. Servants emptied the pots out of the windows. In a city where water pipes were laid to enliven fountains, but not carry the sewage. Solid waste of repairs or demolition of buildings was simply spread out on the streets or public lands. Cities’ streets were full of ground dirt of debris, mixed with night soil and blood from slaughterhouses. Dirt, dung, food, and filth mix rose to ankle-deep levels. At places ground floors were buried and became cellar floors. It soiled the clothes so badly that no soap could remove the stain or stink of it. Kings dictate to clean up the city, asked the commissioners to carry away the debris, and dump it in the river Seine. Things were no different across towns across the world and till 1900s.

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Place making has emerged as the central theme in Urban Design. It is ‘aimed at rediscovering, enhancing, protecting or creating locally significant place related meanings’. —Urban Smell scapes: Understanding and Designing City Smell Environments By Victoria Henshaw.

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Our urban smell environment once comprised of open sewers, open heaps of garbage, animal excreta, meat-fish shops, slaughterhouses and factories near residential areas, diesel vehicles and exotic foods. The smells were intimately linked with the density of population, social and economic conditions of the community, distribution and proportion of open spaces and orientation and patterns of street layout and climate of the place. For these reasons, it is common to see connections drawn between unpleasant smells (the definition of which is also contentious) and poverty and specific ethnicities. Urban geographical isolation of communities through political machinations has the basis in smells and related social and religious prejudices.

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The smell-based geography is more of visitors’ perception, local residents are smell habituated. Smell of a place is a unique brand for tourism. Other tangible heritage can be recorded and recreated, but smell of a place is variable and circumstantial, so unless the totality of living and environment are allowed to flourish, the smell will disappear.

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Japanese Ministry for the Environment through a survey listed 100 most important smells of Japan (including ancient woods, sea breeze, sake distilleries and a street lined with bookshops) This was a cultural legacy to be handed down to the children.

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The smell-knowledge of the past is odourless. We used to smell history in museums, but not in open to sky archeological sites. Museums, once allowed the smell of books, artefacts, because these were stored in open cases. It was realized that such smells emanate from the processes of decay, and so exhibits are now sealed in vacuum or gas.

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In built spaces, we were, once able to simultaneously experience exterior and interior olfactory environments. For many children of late 20th C the exteriors were for the experience of ‘unused or pristine spaces’. The exteriors are now becoming vastly inter-connected or continuous spaces with controlled environments. New built structures offer some ‘freshness’ of the unused spaces.

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The smell ‘habituation’ and smell personalization are aspects of occupation of interior spaces. New occupants change the interior furnishings and repaint the space to scour the effects of earlier occupation, and imprint it with odours of own lifestyles. The process is very similar to a conscious attempt of visual changes made to domesticate and personalize a home into a distinguished entity.

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Smell is gradually being eliminated from our Urban living, with factory cooked foods, ventilation through tall ducts, air-filtering devices, better environmental controls and planning of public spaces and streets, in consideration of natural air movements, use of non-fossil fuels, preference for neutral odours in all consumer goods.

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Smell neutral space of modern urban setting is not an exclusive process sensorial perception. Cities are losing the local spatial variations through equal architecture and equally bland environment. This is a continuing process. Night darkness of the middle ages towns were removed with street lighting as well as interior illumination through glazed windows and feebly lit architectural lanterns and steeples. Later the city noises of trams, trains and industry of late 19th C were removed. The cluttered city spaces have clean and well-articulated streets and public spaces. Sensorial subduing may regulate the tactility in living.

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SMELLS and SPACES

Post 51 –by Gautam Shah

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(Lecture series: Space Perception -Article-VI of 15)

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There are main two facets, each for Smell and Space. Both are real, and also manifest in recollections. For design considerations, visual, audio and tactile experiences can define a space. But smell alone cannot define a space. Smell, like the vision and hearing, is not a space scaling factor. A spatial experience arises from the shape, size and scale of a space, but its smell chiefly emerges from the environment of the space. The source is not part of what we perceive in a smell mechanism. A space through its configuration and openings allows concentration or dilution of smell forming elements. The smell generating elements are of two basic types: materials of space forming and habitation. The built spaces have smells of their own, whether it is an unused relic or inhabited entity.

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Sense of smell is related to spatial remembrances, but not as a single phenomenon. We recollect it, in association with other things like the visual and audio qualities of space. Once we smell something, the recollection of a particular situation or space is powerful. It is difficult to imagine smell of a place from representations like audio, photograph, video or description.

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Our spatial experiences with smells are substantially environmental. An actual space with the interlaced environment lets one to predict or recall comparable ‘smell-conditions’. A lay person, however, cannot separate out the space, environment and its smells. The role of some architectural components typically openings and volume are basic to the living with the smells. Smells change with environmental conditions, like it is more effective in dry and cool, but higher temperatures cause smells to feel more pronounced as it spreads further.

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Intensive engagement and temporal over-exposures to good or bad smells, are traumatic due to insufficiency of breathable air. Smells form dislike for the space-environment and cause loss of comfort, well being, concentration, productivity and appetite. The sense of smell is a basic element for comfort though influenced by experience, expectations, personality and situational factors.

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Smells have a connection to feel good or bad aspect of a space. And this varies with the communities. In confined indoor spaces the concentrations of odours increase many times due to lack of fresh air for dilution. The sense of smell gets fatigued with such intense and continuous exposure. This is beginning of physiological and physiological side-effects. Sense of smell, however, can recover, if the stimulus is removed.

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The smell ‘habituation’ depends on physical conditions and memories of past exposures to similar situations. The sensitivity and ability to perceive smells are unique to each person, but the capacity to discriminate odours, reduce with exposure and age. The threshold before an odour becomes a nuisance, depends on the frequency, concentration, and duration of an odour. Memories of odours are significantly more intense and evocative, than those recalled by the visual or audio cues.

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Most memories that pertain to an odour come from the first decade of life, compared to verbal and visual memories which usually come from the 10th to 30th years of life’. ‘Odour-evoked memories are more emotional, associated with stronger feelings of being brought back in time, and have been thought of less often as compared to memories evoked by other cues’. (Willander, Johan & Larsson, Maria. (2006). Smell Your Way Back to Childhood: Autobiographical Odor Memory. Psychonomic bulletin & review. 13. 240-4. 10.3758/BF03193837.)

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Smell is a primal sense. It impacts relationships with people, liking for places, foods, and products. The sense of smell enables pleasure, can subconsciously warn of danger, help locate mates, find food, or detect predators.

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Of the common sensorial perceptions, Olfactory function directly relates to emotion and sense of well being. The emotions are, some universal, others culture specific but mostly associative. The smell is seamless, and if ‘neutral’ in effect, there is no acute need to trace its source. An incense in church, temple or mosque may add devotional fervour, but one infused in commercial and public places, is more subtle, masking with a less emotional content. Smell branding Commercial spaces include offices, trade-booths in exhibitions, fashion-shows, large format retail outlets, hotels, automobile showrooms, metro UG stations, passenger air crafts, etc. Smell branding of such spaces serve many different intentions like: familiarity, reliability, loyalty, memorability, consistent identity, productivity, promote sales, provide sense of well being, inculcate safety-security, thematic alignment, etc.

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Today, Hyatt Place’s signature scent can be found in almost 300 hotels across the U.S. The scent is such a proven brand asset that it has been codified as a brand standard that defines the company’s experience and brand personality”. -https://hbr.org/2018/04/inside-the-invisible-but-influential-world-of-scent-branding.

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Studies show that humans can distinguish about one trillion odours. Smells are part of culture and belief systems. In spite of the vast ability to distinguish one smell from the other, it has not been possible to formally define that into some rational classes. Smell, like colour or texture has been difficult to describe characteristics. Colour and Texture are now codified, but sense of smell still evades the definition. We do not have any plausible vocabulary for different smells. We tend to identify the source of smell rather then its class, like eggy, meaty, floral, nutty. Aristotle classified odours in Seven categories: aromatic, fragrant, alliaceous (garlic), ambrosial (musky) hiricinous (goaty), repulsive, and nauseous.

“–there is a geography of places characterized by variety and meaning, and there is place-less geography, a labyrinth of endless similarities. –Ralph 1976-140 “.

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Japanese Government identified 100 locations with ‘good fragrances’, and the list includes: early morning markets, old books stores, grilled sweet-fish of the Gogasegawa river, and Nabu rice crackers of Morioka.

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The smell defies codification mainly due to lack of mechanics to measures it. The WHO defines the annoyance threshold for odour nuisance as being at a level where five percent of a specified population experience annoyance for two percent of the time. But this are personal or cultural references.

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English word Perfume literally means ‘to smoke through’ and that relates to fire and warm air. And so does the word incense derives from Latin incendere meaning ‘to burn. Perfume is a ‘mixture of fragrant essential oils or aroma compounds, fixatives and solvents’. Perfume and its evaporation process is metaphorically compared with music, as having three sets of notes rendered out in time. The Top note offers the introductory impression, such as mint, lavender and coriander. The head note arrives before the diffusion of the top note and masks the often unpleasant initial impression of the head note. These smells include seawater, sandalwood and jasmine. The base note, after nearly 30 minutes of the application brings in depth and solidity to the experience of a perfume. Examples of base notes include tobacco, amber and musk.

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Perfumes were used primarily by the wealthy to mask body odours resulting from infrequent bathing and lack of urinals in large estates (Versailles Palace) in 16th and 17th C. The smells were sought to be suppressed with cuttings of Orange trees. Fruits of citrus plants (Latin =Hesperidium), provide fresh, fleeting and effervescent fragrances. The Hesperides are nature nymphs in Greek mythology. By extension, the garden they tended also was known by that name. Other scents derive from: flowers, greens (freshly crumpled leaves, cut grasses), spices, foods and beverages, wood and mosses, resins and balsams and animal smells.

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