What is «senscaping»?

Senscaping is the process of designing experiences with a strategic awareness towards the multisensory dimension of human, space and activity. That means acknowledging which sensory factors may influence the desired impact of any given experience. In other words, by senscaping, you’re

creating an «experience landscape», suited for all the senses

A coherent example of wholesome «senscaping» are all the intentional, coordinated actions going into designing and co-creating a gastronomic experience; from the interior decoration, the choise of background music, the room acoustics, the room lighting, the tastes, temperatures and textures of the food and drinks, the tone and movements of the waiters, the temperature in the room, the comfort and stability of the seating arrangement etc.

Any change in your senscape may change desired outcome of the intended customer experience, e.g.:

  • an increase in volume of the music
  • a decrease in the volume of the waiter’s voice
  • an instability of a chair or the table itself
  • a different material of the chair fabric
  • an increase in the temperature of the meal served
  • a change in colour or darkness of the restaurant lighting
  • a change in the smell from the kitchen (or restrooms)… everything matters…

Our way of processing stimuli is the catalyst of every experience we have in life

Consciously, or unconsciously, we base ALL of our life choices and actions on the way we sense ourselves… and ourselves in the world around us. Therefore, Sensory Academy claims senses are a primary driver for any kind of action, and thus, any kind of consumer experience.

What does this mean in real life?

Sensory drivers behind consumer choice and behaviour

Well, take the purchase of a scarf, for instance. You buy a scarf because you need to feel pleasantly warm and not feel cold. Because you sensing (or remembering the sensation of) the temperature on your skin is a driver for action. Fashion and social cues might influence your choice as well, but I bet you wouldn’t wear a scarf in 45 degrees celcius. Unless it was to bring you shade (and again, functionally sensory comfort)

You may choose the green scarf over the red one, because the colour has an emotionel impact on you, based on previous sensory experience involving the red or green colour. Estethically (thus visually), you may simply like the red one more, and feel it enhances your skin complexion.

Your choice of colour therefore is a sensory motivated choice as well. (Visual) colour stimuli imprint themselves to memory and emotion, through the sensory processing.

And another thing: Are you by any chance one of those people, removing that itchy clothing brand from the neck of your shirt?

You may then choose a silk scarf over the icelandic wool scarf, because the tactile feel of the silky one, to the sensitive skin of your throat, tells you to. Avoiding discomfort being another (sensory motivated) driver for choise in action.

… So you may choose the silk scarf….Or you may in fact prefer the icelandic wool because it’s way too cold outside for you to really find the silk one beneficial. Achieving comfort, avoiding discomfort…

And the same goes for that coffee with a danish pastry you buy, because the nice aroma oozing from the coffeeshop drags you into the cafe, the sound of cozy ambienze music relaxes your stressed head, and the postural support of the comfortable chairs make you stay a while longer… These are all sensory drivers… If you prefer your coffee or pastry with a hint of cinnamon flavour, it might be because the odour of the cinnamon induces warm emotions in you with memories of many a cozy christmas evening with your childhood family.

Our sensory nervous system is designed to keep us alive and functioning

Yeah… it sounds a bit pretentious. But our senses actually are that impactfull. Every experience we have in life, is determined by the way our nervous system processes sensory impressions (stimuli). Stimuli from our surroundings, as well as from inside our own bodies, are countless. Billions of stimuli everyday. Constantly.

The plasticity of our brains

Unbelievably comprehensive networks in our brains process all stimuli to protect us from danger. Secure our survival. We share the ability to develop and utilize sensory capabilities with all other biological entities, from mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects to plants. Deep within our brainstem, and throughout the whole nervous system extending to the most outer skin, stimuli are gathered and assesed to be filtered; Do they need to be onward-distributed for some sort of response, or can they be dismissed and inhibited?

This sensory assesment is a perpetual process linked to nucelar and synaptic networks located not only in our brainstem, but throughout our entire bodily being. And mind you! This takes place constantly! Billions of signals are simultaneously being processed for us to generate thoughts and emotion and execute action. It’s been like that for as long as we’ve existed as human beings with nervous systems. Developing with a brain in constant development, trying to adapt to the perpetually developing circumstances.

Plasticity is the most important word when talking about the brain. It’s basically the principle of «use it or lose it»…. and come to think of it… why would the nervous system not develop and adapt in a perpetual process, just like everything else?

Adequate or inadequate, that’s the question

The way these neural networks process all of the signals, by filtering them, inhibiting some and distributing the rest, will determine how we experience everything. What we think and feel about it. And how we respond to all that we’re exposed to. Without this sensory processing (or with dysfunctional processing), chaos can occur. We would ultimately end up completely helpless, without ability to interprete and comprehend (inter)action. Or to produce response by prioritizing and initiating adequate action.
Without the capacity and ability of our respirational breathing system to assess whether we are trying to breathe in air or water, we would drown. Simple as that. In fact, we would not survive, without some form of sensory processing. Our sensory systems are what keep us alive, conscious and (well)functioning. Adequate sensory processing is what keeps us capacitated, competent and content.

Remember what covid19 released when people lost their sense of smell and taste?…it’s can be very hard to experience sensory dysfunction occur…

From five senses to eight systems…

To this day, many people still relate to the conventional, but very limited, view of us having «five senses». And yes, we do have «five senses». Vision, hearing, taste, smelt and touch.

Today we can, however, categorize the sensory domain of our neurological functions into eight (8) sensory systems, each governing its own «roam» with different functional groups of sensory stimuli, relating the the same sensory modality.

Example: Vision. This sensory system governs processing of different visual stimuli, relating to eg. light, shade, colour, contrast, contour, movement and depth.

Our comprehension of the sensory nervous system relies on our capacity for pattern recognition. So this way of categorizing is a bit artificial. This is only one of several possible ways of structuring our sensory functions, in order to enhance our own ability to cognitively comprehend the infinitely complex neurological system that is our brain and nerves.

Our nervous system is exceptionally powerful, yet our brains may not be adequately developed for the amount of stimuli we’re constantly exposed to in this modern world… so the poor system tends to keep us alert, constantly… and in some cases, it floods.

Hyperactivation – Constant alertness in contemporary society

Your nervous system can wear itself out from having to multitask.

High level of neural arousal over time – alertness – will cause your bodily functions to be in sympatic activity, rather than parasympatic. Sympatic activity causes your body to be highly reactive, as oppose to parasympatic which will initiate functions related to rest and reproduction. Reactiveness causes changes in hormonal levels, metabolisme etc.

Fight, flight or freeze

Having to not only be aware of danger, but also to relate to a fast paced lifestyle, will take their toll on your body and mind. And even change the pace with which your telomeres in the brain age. By fast paced, I mean the intense exposure to information and stimuli you’re exposed to, from around the world and in your immediate vecinity… especially in cities.

The outer world will leave its impressions same as your inner world will, because we’re also experiencing changed patterns of mobility and physical activity. These are all stimuli to which your nervous system will adapt.

If stimuli become too intense, too repetitive or too comprehensive… they can become «stressors». Stressors will put a strain on your nervous system to the point where the functionality of body and mind will be affected. Your attention span will diminish. You’ll be «all over the place» rather than one. And in the future, rather than here and now. Maybe, your patience will also diminish, you’ll ultimately be triggered by the tiniest things, and react aggressively… or not at all…

If stimuli stop occurring, for example if your lifestyle becomes more physically inactive, your nervous system will adapt, eventually by reducing physical and cognitive capacities… also referred to with the saying: «Use it, or lose it»…

Most people will, sooner or later, sense the protests of a «worn out» or «sleeping» nervous system.

Emotions & thoughts

Our emotions and thoughts can be understood as «biproducts» of our sensory processing and sensorymotor response, occurring in the spectrum between the point of us prossesing the stimuli and the point of responding to them.

Fear is example of an emotion occurring as a «biproduct» of the brain registering that we’re too close to the edge, as thoughts are generated, while we process the visual stimuli of the abyss, and the tactile stimuli of the strong winds…

The emotional reactions to stressors can, over time, become inconvenient, and manifest as anger or sadness.

Knowledge is power

Understanding the dynamics of the nervous system and the way our sensory systems impact our experiences, our thoughts and emotions as well as our (re)actions and interactions, will enhance your ability to navigate this world and manage your ressources in a present state of being, while also caring for your physiological needs.

At Sensory Academy we believe in the power of practical education. In understanding these dynamics by experience as well as scientifically, so that we can use that knowledge to decrease dissatisfaction and increase thriving.