Arnold Berleant: Aesthetic sensibility (n.d)
Developing aesthetic sensibilities
“By sensibility I mean perceptual awareness that is developed,
guided, and focused. It is more than simple sensation, more than
sense perception. Perhaps one can consider it educated sensation. It
requires the perceptual knowledge and skills that we are continually
enhancing in and through our encounters and activities. Aesthetic
sensibility develops and uses this capacity at the deliberate center of
conscious experience.
Highly recommendable reading:
Fieldwork for next time
Observing aesthetics
In pairs, select a place where you can observe people and some
activities for an hour or so.
Use your aesthetic sensibilities; make careful notes about different
kinds of aesthetic phenomena you encounter.
Where do these phenomena come from? When was their time?
Can you discern the evolutionary aspect in them?
Does it make sense to think so?
Idea of the exercise
Why observation?
• To develop a deeper, empirical relation to what we’ve read
• To become more aware of our aesthetic sensibilities,
to discern this part of our perception and use it more consciously
• To share our data, compare our findings and maybe to find common
nominators in our reflections about evolutionary aesthetics
Variety of approaches
Observation as method
Means of gathering qualitative data in social sciences, esp. anthropology
Makes sense to observe natural behaviour, unchanged by researchers actions or
the research environment
Family of approaches
– Complete observer
 behind the mirror
– Observer as participant  hanging around
– Participant as observer  doing what the others do
– Complete participant
 going undercover
Gold, R. (1958). "Roles in sociological field observation.” Social Forces, 36, 217–213
Photography and video help to overcome the typically fleeting nature of
observation and make it easier to communicate analysis
Some notes of being fair
Research ethics in observation
You can always write private field notes about anything
 make sure the individuals in the setting cannot be identified when you use your notes as research
data, if you don’t have a written contract with them
 there are public roles, that have a reduced field of privacy
You can photograph and record video in a public setting
 restaurants, schools, museums or a shops are often understood as a private settings
 be considerate and ask permission if not sure
Children are under special protection in all research
you would need to have a permission from parents / institution (school etc.)
You can do covert observation in semi-public settings (for instance a hobby group), but would need to
afterwards inform the people participating about your research
risk of refusal and losing data
In depth about visual ethnography:
Some tips
Observation in practice
Select any situation, that
• you and your pair find interesting
• you can easily enter together or take turns observing (public, semi-public)
It can be useful to individually document your initial thoughts and expectations after
reading the book chapter, so you can notice the possible change in your thinking
Take notes in the situation, or if you participate in the activities, immediately after.
Photograph, collect video in the setting if possible.
Differentiate between what you perceive (data) and what you think about it (analysis).
You can also reflect on how you feel about observing.
Compare notes with your pair and discuss similarities, differences.
Create an engaging presentation!