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Literally, the word synesthesia means ‘joined sensation’ (Greek: syn = union + aisthesis = to perceive).

Synesthesia is a condition where the perception of an external object or experience, triggers a perceptual experience in additional sensory modalities. For example, the visual perception of an object may also trigger an auditory sensation, or the auditory perception of a sound may also trigger a tactual sensation.

At its most basic, synesthesia describes multi-sensory experience. Specifically, synesthesia describes the phenomenon of experiencing visual, auditory, tactual stimuli as inter-linked. For those with synesthetic sensitivity, a triangle is perceived not only as a shape but may simultaneously be experienced as a sound (eg. a bell) or a colour (eg. red).

Whether understood as a metaphor or as an actual (physical, intellectual) experience, synesthesia has many interesting implications for creativity as applied to artistic practice and to many other realms of human experience.

Canadian psychologists such as Phil Merikle (University of Waterloo) are key figures in the study of this phenomenon; we have been corresponding with Dr. Merikle and he has agreed to act as a consultant for this project.

We are interested in the possibility of replicating through new media, the experience of synesthesia for individuals who lack (or have lost) this sensitivity. We are also interested in exploring whether computer systems might function as perceptual rather than merely conceptual tools. In addition to extending human abilities, are computers also sensual transducers? A computer system itself, then, might be described as synesthetic media. When we focus on the ‘sensational’ possibilities of computer systems, can a case be made to describe computer systems as supporters of human creativity? What is the relationship between creativity, new media and synesthesia?

What is Synesthesia

" no two people agree, or hardly ever do so, as to the colour they associate with the same sound "

     --- Sir F.Galton
  ©2004 Nancy Paterson