Research Topic

Embodied space and bodily self-consciousness in art and architecture

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About this Research Topic

Visual, visuo-motor, multisensory and topographical aspects of extra-personal space are processed in reference to the body. However, it remains an unanswered question how human perception of the environment, and in particular of the built environment, interacts with multisensory body-related processing to ...

Visual, visuo-motor, multisensory and topographical aspects of extra-personal space are processed in reference to the body. However, it remains an unanswered question how human perception of the environment, and in particular of the built environment, interacts with multisensory body-related processing to generate the feeling of bodily existence in a place. In architectural literature such relations have been a matter of debate since the Vitruvian text, claiming an impact of the architectonic interiors and form on the observer’s state of mind. Through a physical affinity with the body, material particles and shapes were thought to generate these interior states.

Recent work in cognitive neuroscience revealed that by manipulating multisensory body-related inputs (e.g. visuo-tactile, audio-tactile, cardio-visual, pneumo-visual) it is possible to alter different components of self-consciousness, such as self-location, peripersonal space, the sense of body ownership, and the first-person perspective. Such alterations also impact the body’s physiology (e.g. body temperature), sensory processing (of touch and pain for instance), and the experience of space, so that for instance estimations of distances and proportions of perceived spaces are systematically altered.


Here, we propose a Research Topic dedicated to the exploration of the mutual relationship between the multisensory perception of one’s own body and the architectonic environment. Among other questions we inquire whether and how the space of the beholder in architecture and the visual arts affects the experience of the bodily self. Do aesthetic features in the environment change the self and bodily self-consciousness? How do forms, spaces and interiors contribute to states of consciousness? How can the environment evoke bodily states in the observer based on different sensory modalities (i.e. visual, visuo-motor, haptic, tactile, vestibular etc.)? We also explore the other direction of the relationship between body and space. Do mechanisms of body ownership and self-location of the beholder contribute not only to the perception of a place, but also to the aesthetic experience? Is it possible to identify affective links between personal and extra-personal space based on mechanisms of multisensory integration? What are the neural correlates of architectonic perception?


These questions are of general interest and can only be solved in the perspective of collaboration between several disciplines. We therefore welcome authors from the fields of cognitive sciences, affective sciences, neurosciences, architecture, art and Virtual Reality to submit empirical scientific investigations on the mutual relationship between the built environment and human perception, including behaviour, brain imaging, patient observations, but also philosophical and artistic contributions in aesthetics, architecture, and design.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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