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4th November 2008 | Uncompleted

Global Quality Navigation System (GQS)

participative enhancement of aesthetic discovery

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Summary of proposal

The value of a Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine physical location on the surface of the planet is now undisputed. A somewhat analogous system is proposed here to facilitate location within the qualitative "space" defined by possible aesthetic and sensual experience.

Prior to the existence of GPS, it was indeed possible to determine position and to navigate the surface of the planet from there. This depended primarily on familiarity with a local environment and the use of maps relating that environment to neighbouring environments and to the surface of the planet as a whole.

It is indeed possible to navigate the qualitative sensual worlds of taste, sound, colour and smell with the aid of a range of conventional tools. These are primarily dependent on word-of-mouth and personal experience -- facilitated and manipulated by advertising -- making it challenging (and possibly costly and disappointing) to explore beyond a habitual sensual environment.

The approach described in what follows makes use of well-established, participative, web-based, open source, information management techniques to collect and organize aesthetic options for any to explore. The emphasis is on enabling access to richer experience, possibly combining several sense experiences. It is believed that such qualitative patterns will offer insights into new approaches to knowledge organization -- potentially of great significance for psycho-social organization in the emerging knowledge-based society.

Challenge: enabling qualitative experience and exploration

In each case below, the challenge is to enable people to identify new qualitative experiences beyond those with which they are already familiar -- but in such a way that there is higher probability that these will be appreciated and a reduction in the level of risk (and cost) typical of arbitrary choices.

The facility is seen as enabling exploring qualitative experiences as varied as the following:

Creation of a web-based facility

Summarizing the points made above, the proposed facility would:

Contrast to current web-based approaches

Precedents and possibilities of related approaches

Contrasts to related approaches :

Technical issues


Specific marketing implications: With respect to the cost of such exploration, it is assumed that people may be more prepared to explore more costly possibilities if the risk associated with arbitrary choices is reduced. On the other hand, people may value the possibility of identifying less costly qualitative experiences, especially when the possibilities normally presented to them through conventional marketing

Users: The development would be driven and rendered viable by:

Qualitative learning and development


Learning implications / Learning / Developmental pathways

Design (multi-sensual) / Sense configuration / Gestalts: integrative, multi-domain experiences

Single sense composites

Multi-sensual composites

Recipes; five tastes -- wine going with food

Creating atmosphere (natural magic):

Conceptual issues

Example: Potential contribution of symmetry and the mathematics of group theory

Symmetry and group theory, as explored by mathematics, derive initially from visual observations -- namely using the sense of vision. This has led to the recognition of the symmetry associated with forms such as the triangle, the square, the pentagon, the hexagon, etc. This understanding of symmetry in 2 dimensions has been extended into 3 dimensions through combining such forms into the tetrahedron, the cube, the octahedron, the icoshedron and the dodecahedron, to name only the Platonic polyhedra. Through group theory forms of symmetry have been explored in 4 dimensions and many more.

Whilst such forms are basic to patterns appreciated for their aesthetic qualities, most notably in architecture, they seem to be irrelevant to qualities that are appreciated in terms of the sense of sound, taste, smell, and touch. The point to be made in what follows can however be introduced through an aspect of vision, namely colour, through which the aesthetics of patterns may be distinguished.

Clearly it is possible to position 3 colours at the vertices of a triangle, or 4 at the vertices of a square, etc. Well chosen these may be appreciated as complementary, offering an aesthetic effect. The question is whether selections of colours offering an aesthetic benefit through their distribution onto more complex symmetrical forms in 2 dimensions or 3.

Generalizing from this case, consider use of the same approach to select and distribute:

The example given in each case are simple and rely to some degree on familiarity with the visual example by which they were introduced to give a sense of their complementarity through that symmetry. However, there is no reason why the argument should be limited to these simple cases. The qualitative descriptors used in the appreciation of wines (tastes) or perfumes (smells) are far more complex.

Group theory enables much more complex patterns of symmetry to be explored and distinguished by a suitasble notation system -- beyond the capacity for them to be visualized, for example. The questions to be explored are:

Following from the preoccupations of group theory, associated questions (of possibly quite different degrees of significance) might include:

These questions aside, to what degree can group theory contribute to qualitative experience of subtler aesthetic experiences, notably in a web environment?

Undigested notes:

Name possibilities




not a question of whether it it "right" in a logical consequential sense but whther it is "right" in an aesthetic sense -- engagin, mnemonic, recalling, remembering


David Abram. The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world. Vintage, 1997 [review] [review]

Marsilio Ficino.

S. Harnad. Categorical Perception. Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science [text]

Hermann Hesse. The Glass Bead Game. 1947

Anthony Judge:

Catherine McCormack. Extra Sensory Branding. Voyeur, October 2008, pp. 55-60 (describes sensory branding as a somewhat recent phenomenon in the world of marketing -- transcending traditional models of advertising in order to deliver multi-sensory, multi-dimensional experiences that communicate brand values on an experiential level, namely beyond sight and sound. Understood as a form of "neuromarketing", marketing specialists like Martin Lindstrom (Brand Sense: build powerful brands through touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound, 2005) argue that sensory experiences are real, difficult to fake, and therefore recognized as authentic. Simply defining a brand visually is seen as outdated. Sensory branding is about activating all the senses).

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