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Sensory Transformations and Transgenerational Environmental Relationships in Europe, 1950–2020

Project description

Exploring cultural transformations of the sensory across generations

People often experience societal and cultural transformations during their lifetime. Consequently, the values individuals hold and how they perceive their environment differ from generation to generation. It is vital that all society be able to sentiently connect with their environment, particularly in shared urban spaces. The ERC-funded SENSOTRA project will investigate the transformations of sensory environmental relationships in three European metropolises over a 70-year span. Using novel transgenerational and ethnographic methodologies, it aims to provide insights into cultural sustainability. Research outcomes may impact a range of interdisciplinary fields, such as tourism, environmental aesthetics, elderly care, youth culture and media history.


This project aims at producing new understandings of the changes in people’s sensory environmental relationships in three European cities during a particular period in history, 1950–2020. It will offer a focused window on cultural transformations of the sensory by introducing a new transgenerational methodology, ethnographic “sensobiography”. Why now? Firstly, innovative and thoroughly researched information about sensory environmental relationships is in great demand. If the findings are successful, their challenge to several conventional dichotomies will provide results whose interdisciplinary impact extends beyond cultural, sound, and music studies to areas of psychology, human geography, environmental aesthetics, and media history and theory. The research is urgent: at present we are still able to study people ethnographically who were born in the 1930s and 1940s,who therefore lived their early years without digital technologies. The moment is also ideally suited for studying generations born straight into the digital world, where there is a need to enable young and older people to maintain a many-faceted relationship with their environments. The project's three research strands are (1) transformations in mediations of sensory experience, (2) embodied remembering and senses, and (3) sensory commons. These strands will be studied via a research strategy linking individuals and groups to broader social, cultural, and political issues in the medium-sized European cities of Brighton (UK), Ljubljana (Slovenia), and Turku (Finland). Temporally and spatially tightly focused dynamic ethnography makes it possible to examine multiple modes of past and present sensory experiencing. The study of artists as “sensewitnesses” will become one of the pivotal endeavours. The project facilitates a significant step from earlier methodologies toward large-scale, multisensory, transgenerational investigation, providing significant insights into culture with a sustainable future.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 821 764,00
70211 KUOPIO

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Manner-Suomi Pohjois- ja Itä-Suomi Pohjois-Savo
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 821 764,00

Beneficiaries (2)