Enhancing Presence: Sensory Integration and Proprioception in Cinema

Eleftheria Astrinaki


Film theory and aesthetics have been influenced by recent research on perception in cognitive science and neuroscience, as well as in computing and new media technology. We need to approach film with this kind of research in mind and focus on the conscious processing of film, treating it as a kind of immersive perceptual event. My paper is divided in three parts. In the first part, I review the renewed interest in realism in film as expressed through the concept of presence. In the last two sections I focus on two areas in which recent scientific research in the mechanisms of perception can serve to enhance the sense of presence: sensory integration and proprioception. The integration of information coming from different modalities is a fundamental feature of cognition. Research has shown that visual stimulation is enhanced by auditory and olfactory stimulation, as well as by the kinesthetic sensation involved in proprioceiving these stimuli. My aim in this paper is to suggest that the cinema spectator should not be treated as a passive viewer, but as an active and embodied perceiver, called to experience a media event. The dominance of vision should be abandoned in favor of a percept that is multi-sensory. A better understanding of how we perceive of the actual world will enhance our understanding of the perception, creation and appreciation of the filmic world.

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