Synesthesia is the mixing of senses – smelling music, seeing sounds as shapes, or perceiving colors as numbers. I’m doing some self-experimentation with it. No universe shattering surprises… just yet. But it’s a fun exercise.
This odd brain function not as uncommon as once thought: one in twenty persons might have synesthesia in one form or another. Artists are more prone to it. And probably it is just an overly strong occurrence of something we all use: abstraction, analogies and association. Everyone understands what is meant with “fuzzy feelings” or “having a blue day”.
Or how about those nice taste visualizations in Ratatouille?
I also found this short-movie interesting, that tries to visualize what synesthetes see. On the related blog they have more examples.
Another nice page is Carrie Firmans Synesthetic Library with little flash animations showing the shapes she sees for certain sounds. These are not completely random – a noise looks very similar to a TV static and the trumpet is literally a little yellow trumpet shape popping up. For me too a trumpet sound is at least yellow – just like the object usually. Which also fits to newer theories that synesthesia is mostly learned from real world child experiences.
There are some photos on Daniel Tammet’s blog, of how he sees numbers. He holds the European record for reciting PI, and describes the calculation more as flying over a landscape of numbers, shapes and colors. He also describes in his latest book, that he does not think he is unique – we all have these abilities, just have to learn to use it.
I guess the border to what is called real Synesthesia is gradual. I do not have unique colors for 10.000 numbers as Tammet does – but for low numbers I can tell very specifically which color they have. When scanning the old sketchbooks I came across one picture where I used numbers to color an image. So I filled it now on the PC with the corresponding hues.
The thing falls quite a bit of the image I have in my head, because the numbers I see are also describing the luminance. Number 10 is yellow – but bright like a light source. And since paper doesn’t glow, I can’t really put it in there. The 0 is more blueish and cold, but just as bright – a 3 on the other hand is a proper blue you can buy in paint tubes.
I was looking if there are some systems in the relations. But it does not go really nice around a color circle (which I guess would make the thing more practical). Here I tried to map the numbers on a color chart.
Unfortunately I don’t see a logical pattern.
There are also some areas underrepresented. Number 6 is a strong cadmium red, but dark warm reds are missing. Maybe connected: When painting I do have trouble with dark reds. It is hard for me to observe exactly what color is what. Orange is a much more comfy area – with 5 being orange. 4 and 6 are close-by. Maybe that’s why this web-page ended up orange, as do many of my pictures.
And when going above twenty, or into fractions, it doesn’t follow mathematical rules. While 15 is still a glowy orange (10 and 5), for 25 it is simply: green and orange. Just as 2.5 … so while the numbers do help me to remember colors from real world scenes, there will be no awesome endless PI calculations for me.
I also think we all have the same synesthesia, and I suppose some people aren’t aware of it, the don’t ‘look’ at that part of their mind.
It’s the focus you chose that makes the difference.
I kindof envision our brain like a universe, with gravity pulling the planets/data all over the place.
All this data our brain collects through our ‘intergalatic spaceports we call our senses, :P’ will spawn data,
which will try to cluster and form planets, and being planets it gives them more mass, thus more pull.
The more you feed a planet, the bigger it gets.
Now when I am self reflecting I find myself in a kindof spaceship, seeing this universe and I have to fly around, using energy to go where I aim to go to sometimes away from certain heavy planets.
But I can also destroy planets, or pull certain data from the Intergalactic portals to create new planets, this is kindof like an eco system, certain archetypes will have certain patterns, and so i kindof play sim city in my head.
But this is a very self involved way of being human, so most of the time when I am with people I GROW! :P and become this universe itself, me being more the me that I share with the rest of the world that you and I find ourselves in.
Anyways, the point being, ‘perspective’ will change everything, being in this, the point where you look from.
As much as a sound will sound like a dog, or winds in the forest make the tree’s talk, 12 can become blue.
Either by genetical or environmental influence, in the end I see it all as data, abstract data, which we give so called meaning by clustering the data.
‘Meaning’ to me being a kindof fashion, like someone running around naked shouting ‘aap kut thomas wortel!’ makes no sense, has no meaning to us.
This brain has gone out of style.
It’s a kindof glue we use to stick together. A social tool. As well as social connection with the physical universe. Like jumping off a cliff makes no sense if you want to live.
Well again some shouts from wanjaland, I have to get back to work now :)
Cool that you found it interesting. I’m often not so sure what will come out of it when I type it up.
As for we all having the same synesthesia: Brain scans have shown that there are certain connections in synesthetes that other people don’t have. Connections between areas that are far apart and usually not much connected. Sometimes it’s an result of a damage and one area of the brain affects a adjacent one. So there are actual big differences to an average guy.
I think you’re spot on with the idea of meaning. Guess though much of it is preprogrammed by our genes, and not as plastic as I wish it would be. Actually “meaning” seems to be a very human thing, especially left hemisphere thing… I’ll get to that in a later post I’m workin on :D