The future of internet is multisensory. Following the Internet of Things, the Internet of Senses, as it is called, is expected to create, based on 6G technology, virtual and actual universes that feel so natural it is hard to distinguish them from the real world. In the meantime, while we are waiting for this development to be realised and accessible at all levels of education, Universities of Applied Sciences, like Laurea, further develop open learning spaces that can translate onsite multisensory experiences to online ones while promoting also the more humane values of sense of community, togetherness and genuine dialogue. Laurea’s Multisensory Space is one of such methods, presently tested also online in the Erasmus+ project DISC.
The notion of the Internet of Things, as described by Ericsson in their consumer trend 2030 report, might still feel for many of us like a science fiction -based new reality. After all, it could mean that as our brain is the future User Interface (UI), we can reach destinations just by thinking of them, modify our voice and digitally alter the taste of our food. If we want, we can feel at any time the wonderful smell of newly cut grass, and our cell phones will also provide us with touch-based information. As we enter from virtual reality to merged reality, we will have access to virtual shopping centers and effective multi-professional training simulations, and in some of the scenarios we may even carry brain implants that give us almost unlimited possibilities to control our surroundings. As wonderful as the future technological development may be, still, the most important question for us humans is how we can use also multisensory technology so that it brings us closer to each other and inspires community development, sharing and overall well-being.
The Multisensory Space at Laurea Tikkurila campus
The Multisensory Space at Laurea Tikkurila has all these multisensory elements onsite, in a dedicated campus-based open learning space that makes it possible for all the visitors to experience varied sights, soundscapes, aromas, tastes and touch. In this Space, one can visit other cultures, eras and realities. One can see how life unfolds in another country, what the sounds and sights are that one encounters or what the traditional foods, items and dresses are, forming the core of the culture in question. The Space has also a mobile version, a tent that can easily be integrated as part of any organisational activities. The less expensive technology of the Multisensory Space is there to support what is most important, the encounters and dialogue that take place between the people building the Multisensory Space together and the people visiting the Space. As a method of social work, the Multisensory Space method prides in its ability to facilitate intercultural learning, peace promotion, community empowerment and holistic wellbeing.
Next steps in the Erasmus+ project DISC
Lately, this method has been further developed European-wide in the Erasmus+ project DISC, with Laurea’s University and non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners from Belgium, Spain, Italy, and Slovenia. This 3-year project aims at enhancing digital skills of people with a migratory background, thus empowering them and supporting their integration as well as giving them tools for active citizenship. The DISC project promotes two best practices, Laurea’s Multisensory Space and the SMART PLUS self-assessment tool created by the Spanish partner INCOMA.
Due to the challenging COVID 19 -situation, as the personal contacts and onsite events have been limited in many countries, the project has recognised both a need and a possibility to see how the Multisensory Space method could be translated online. As part of the DISC educational activities and in preparation for European-wide teacher training, Laurea organized an online test for all the partners in Canvas learning management system in September 2021, piloting the teacher training modules. These modules consist of the following themes: Cultural diversity and diversity management, interculturality, digital inclusion, the Multisensory Space methodology, and the SMART PLUS self-assessment tool.
To demonstrate the Multisensory Space methodology in practice, the pilot training included a co-creation Padlet that was created to facilitate online testing of Multisensory approach. The Padlet instructions were the following: For our practice today: choose a nature place where you can relax (how does it look like, sound, smell, feel etc.), share your multisensory stories and choose one story or theme to work further. Imagine the story/description as multisensory as possible. Describe the theme with pictures, sounds, and stories. How did it look like? What were the sounds? How about scents or smells? Flavours?
The DISC project participants who had also piloted the Multisensory Space method onsite in their own universities and organisations got a chance to test how they could explain this method to their teacher and other colleagues even when there was no onsite Space available. The participants had altogether one hour time to work in Zoom with their online Multisensory Space, including method introduction part and final shared discussions that were each 15 minutes long. The working steps of the pair work were the following: First, for 10 minutes individual multisensory reminiscence on a nature place, and then working in Zoom break-out rooms as pairs for about 20 minutes, sharing own multisensory stories in dialogue. The pair chose one story or theme to work further, imagining the story/description as multisensory as possible. The chosen theme was described with pictures, sounds, and stories in Padlet. How did it look like? What were the sounds? How about scents or smells? Flavours?
The participants added their pictures, video clips and online soundscapes to Padlet to share their memories using a multisensory approach. These stories of favorite place reminiscence were then shared with all the participants. Despite the lack of onsite facilitation, the experience was for all the participants very multisensory. Most importantly, sharing these multisensory stories created a comfortable atmosphere of reminiscing, story sharing and increased closeness. Even in its online and to certain extent limited version, the core of the Multisensory Space method, namely that of story-sharing, intercultural community promotion and emphatic and safe dialogue, was realised.
Maybe one day we all can share our multisensory memories using our brains as an user interface, but for now the Multisensory Space method gives us a great variety of possibilities to meet each other onsite or online and promote intercultural learning, community development and genuine dialogue.