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

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SENSOTRA (Sensory Transformations and Transgenerational Environmental Relationships in Europe, 1950–2020)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2019-07-31

It can readily be observed simply by looking around or listening attentively in any large or middle-sized urban environment in Europe that people’s relationship to their immediate environment is different from ten years ago. In trains, at bus stops, in hotel lobbies, or in cafés it is hard to find anyone who is not fingering, looking at, or talking into their smartphones or other digital gadgets. The objective of SENSOTRA is to deal with this special moment in the sensory history of Europe.

The key aim of the project is to create a new understanding of the changes in people’s sensory environmental relationships in three European cities in the period 1950–2020. The research will offer a focused window on cultural transformations of the sensory through using grounded, transgenerational, ethnographic methodologies developed specifically for SENSOTRA.

Why now? Firstly, innovative, reliable, thoroughly researched information about sensory environmental relationships is currently in great demand for both scholarly and practical reasons. If the findings are successful, their challenge to several conventional dichotomies will produce important results impacting beyond the limits of the Principal Investigator's scholarly community in music, sound, and cultural studies, extending outwards to other research areas in particular fields of psychology, human geography, environmental aesthetics, and media history and theory. Secondly, the research is urgent, because at present we are still able to study people ethnographically who were born in the 1930s and 1940s and hence lived their early years without computers and other digital devices. In addition, the moment is also ideally suited for studying the sensory environmental relationships of generations born in the 1990s and early 2000s, that is, those who were born straight into the digital world. Thirdly, there is a pressing need to enable both young and older people to maintain a many-faceted relationship with their environments. It has been convincingly argued that attitudes, whether positive or negative, towards given environments will lead to crucial consequences in terms of cultural and ecological sustainability.

The project will answer the call of various scholarly communities for producing thoroughly and innovatively researched information about sensory environmental relationships. This is the first ethnographic project to undertake such a large-scale study of the topic in a changing Europe. The research team’s international contacts with researchers and institutions will transform into an active research network generating new, cooperative, international projects. The impact of the development of new methodologies, including ethnographic sensobiography, will extend far beyond the study of the past seven decades in three selected European cities (Ljubljana, Turku, Brighton) with genuine take away potential for interdisciplinary analysis of metropolitan and rural areas in Europe and in other parts of the world.

SENSOTRA will also have the potential to exert a major practical impact. The results achieved by SENSOTRA are likely to be extremely useful in creating possibilities for rich cultural, youth, elderly care, and tourism expertise related spin-off projects.
All of the research stages and events of the ERC AdG Grant 2015 SENSOTRA research have progressed according to the research plan. During the first period, we have (1) prepared, and (2) proceeded with the fieldwork, data gathering and encounters with participants in the first two of the researched cities: Ljubljana and Turku. The first months of the project, in line with the research plan, were spent preparing for the project: planning the personnel, fieldwork, publication politics, ethical procedures, and the online demonstrations pages. The SENSOTRA protocols workshop (10—12.5.2017 Joensuu); the Pre-seminar, four Key concepts workshops, and the joint Creole and SENSOTRA Summer School/Intensive Programme (3.7.2017—9.7.2017 Ljubljana and Piran); and the first Data-workshop (out of three) in Ljubljana in mid-October, were all organised according to the proposal. These productive meetings were attended by employed researchers and experts. Dissemination and communication events have been organised proactively, and there have been productive meetings of scholars, students, artists, stakeholders, media and interested public. Fieldwork in Ljubljana has been on-going since October. Fieldwork pilots have been prepared and carried out in Turku as well as in Brighton.

During the first period, the project team has been more productive than expected. Instead of five outputs, the team has produced eight scholarly peer-reviewed articles for respected qualitative research journals, handbooks, other books and scholarly journals. In addition, one-hour radio feature for YLE Finland was produced and sent one year earlier than planned (came out in October 2017).

Since the definite main focus in the empirical research of the first period has been, as planned, in Ljubljana, the following we will in the following part of the report mainly work performed in Slovenia. In May 2017 Sandi Abram, the doctoral student and project researcher placed in Ljubljana, and Blaž Bajič as the project researcher joined SENSOTRA's personnel. From May 2017 until July 2017 their tasks encompassed the organization and coordination of SENSOTRA pre-seminar and the joint Creole and SENSOTRA Summer School/Intensive Programme that took place in Ljubljana and Piran (Slovenia) from 3.7.2017 - 9.7.2017. The occasion represented a productive meeting of scholars, students, artist and other interested public, connecting an internationally based SENSOTRA team with CREOLE Joint-Master Degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology that is specializing in transnationalism, new identities, material culture and visual culture. For the purpose of a week-long pre-seminar and summer school several activities between May - July occurred and resulted in the following:

1) Public activities
1.1 Media: All main mass media were invited to SENSOTRA research pre-seminar via email (in sum 351 journalists). Specific journalist were invited personally, resulting in articles published online and in printed newspapers. All three Slovenian main newspapers (i.e. Delo , Dnevnik, Večer ) with the total circulation of approximately 84.000 copies reported about SENSOTRA and published interviews with the researcher team.
1.2 Stakeholders and gatekeepers: The pre-seminar represented an ideal opportunity to commence the networking with relevant potential local partners from the cultural, social, and non-governmental sector. Productive ties in terms of participant recruitment were built with individual artists, local community-based initiatives, cultural associations, and institutional gatekeepers (such as school representatives, retirement homes’ employees, artists, etc.).

2) Internal activities
2.1 Academic dissemination
With the attendance of students, professors, and researchers the pre-seminar and summer school brought together 12 universities (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Concordia University, Maynooth University, University Lyon II, University
It is already clear that our methodology has proven to open new paths in several disciplines, when it comes to the study of current sensory and environmental transformations.

The articles have already greatly enhanced the theoretical and methodological approach of the project, for instance, in relation to transgenerational methodology (2 articles). New links between our sensobiographic approach, and the concepts of atmosphere (1 article), aural and sensory commons and political economy (2 articles), everyday reality, and technology (2 articles) and fresh debates on sensory anthropology (1 article), have been created.
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