Beyond the Five Senses – Part 4 Dealing with Technology

Today we conclude our look at the senses, with a look at how understanding your senses can help you deal with technology in the digital world.

Links to the previous posts in this series, and a summary of the content:

  • Understand what a sense is and why senses are important, including to a person’s mental and physical well-being (click here)
  • Look at what we now know about the five main senses and what other senses there are and why they might matter (click here)
  • The importance of sensory engagement for people in the urban environment, particularly for children and their development (click here)

So how can knowing more about your senses help you in the modern world? Back in the first post in the series, we discussed that our senses are in fact just sensors feeding perceptions of the surrounding world to the brain. And this is exactly how a computer works too. A computer processor is isolated from the rest of the world and relies on plug-in devices to feed it information. A computer uses sensory devices such as a camera, a microphone, a mouse or a key board to collect data. Similarly, people use fingertips, ears and tastebuds to collect data about their surroundings.

Once you see these similarities, you can start to explore different ways to work in combination with your device. For example, often we squint at our screen trying to read small text. Value your eyes, and instead learn to adjust the size of the text on your screen. With practice you can do this as effortless as you squint. Use one of these shortcuts (if using a Windows PC):

  • Hold ‘Ctrl’ down and use ‘+’ or ‘-‘ to zoom (‘Ctrl’ + ‘0’ will return to normal size)
  • Hold ‘Ctrl’ down and scroll with your mouse
  • Hold ‘Windows’ key and  ‘+’ or ‘-‘ to zoom (this opens the Magnifier tool)

Another example is listening to your device instead of having to use your vision. Your computer only displays information on the screen because that is the default output. Set up your PC to read text to you. MS Word now has a reasonable Voice function. Your PC can read your text to you or you can dictate text (great for those that don’t touch type).

We don’t yet know the impact of all this device time on our bodies and minds. However it is reasonable to assume that we are designed to live how we were programmed in childhood. If you had a rich multi-sensory childhood roaming barefoot and perceiving all sorts of information about the world around you, living an urban and digital life now may impact on your well-being.

So, live life through all your senses. Don’t let your need to use devices constrain the quality of your life. Don’t fall into the trap of sight-dominance in a world abundant in screens. Meet people in person where all your senses get to enjoy the experience. Listen to a podcast instead of watching a video to give your sight (as well as eyes) a break.

Use all your senses to learn and recall information. In the Memory topic we looked at how environmental conditions when you create a memory can form part of the memory and even help you recall it. Students do better in an exam if they studied in the same room as where the exam is held. So, use your senses to help encoding and decoding to your memory. Use music or fragrance as a setting to learn and trigger recall of information.

Above all be curious about how you can use your senses to interact with your device, and don’t let yourself be conditioned into interacting with your computer in a particular way. These days there are lots of choices for interacting with your device, and it just takes a little bit of effort to successfully adapt to a better default to suit your mind and body.



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