Project (2009-2011)

Enhancing the Human: Sensory Enhancement and the Materiality of the Senses, 1910–1970

This project concerned a history of perception through the eyes of soldiers, factory workers, and office clerks: the ways in which human perception was shaped, and scientifically modeled, through disciplines such as ergonomics, military psychology, and industrial physiology; and thus, through sites such as factories and war zones, through material things such as dials, cockpits, displays, and machines, as well as through pedagogical regimes of sensory instruction. On the one hand, this project was an attempt to re-embed the mechanistic conceptions of human perception that center on such notions as information processing, cybernetics, or man-machine interactions, into the largely uncharted historical terrains of applied physiology and psychology. On the other, it sought to reorient, on this basis, our understandings of the history of perception in the twentieth century—something usually approached through the lens of scientific and artistic avant-gardes—towards a history “from below.”