Interview with Dr Clare Jonas: Playful Academic Synaesthete

joyful science craftiness

Hi Clare, please tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi I’m a synaesthesia researcher who’s also a synaesthete. The coolest bit of my synaesthesia is that music makes shapes and textures appear for me. The synaesthesia I talk about is music-shape and music-texture, but there are many other different kinds out there.

I am a lecturer in the School of Psychology for the University of East London where I explore multisensory perception (including synaesthesia) and metaphorical and embodied cognition. I am also an advisor and creative consultant for BitterSuite and the Open Senses festival.

Cool and how did you get into researching it?

I’ve been working on research about synaesthesia and multisensory perception since 2007, when I started my PhD in psychology. Synaesthesia is obviously personally important to me as a synaesthete, but it’s also really fascinating for me to find out how other people experience the world.

What can people look forward to with your activity at the festival?

I’m leading Seeing Sound, Tasting Thought. Synaesthesia and The Brain’ at the Trampery (Open Senses Hub) on Saturday afternoon.

You’ll get a mix of discussions about the science behind synaesthesia and the senses and some activities that are designed to help you understand what the world is like for synaesthetes. We’re going to sculpt emotions in plasticine!

I’ll also be demonstrating a simple sensory experiment to people at King's Cross station on Sunday afternoon from 2pm and collecting money in aid of Sense UK

How would you describe it in three words?

Joyful science craftiness

Why do you think it’s important to discuss the senses?

I love talking with people about science and the senses! From a science perspective, it’s really important to learn how humans make sense of their perceptions because they are the filter through which we understand the world. From a personal perspective, I find engaging with my senses very soothing.

Why should visitors be intrigued and come to your workshop?

You’re going to learn so much about yourself and your senses, and you will have a whale of a time doing it. Also, I am extremely enthusiastic and fond of terrible jokes, so if you like either of those things you’re in for a treat.

Great! And what else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

I’m really looking forward to BitterSuite’s performance – I’ve been to many of their previous performances and always come away having experienced something new and thrilling. As an Austen fan, I’m also hoping to find the time to drop in to 'Pride, Prejudice and Perceptions' at the British Academy.

Where would you like to see the sensory area progress to in the future?

One of the things I think about a lot is the future of the senses. What new senses might humans evolve? What senses can we make for ourselves using machine interfaces? I’d love to see Open Senses explore this even more.

How would you like your work to develop in the future?

I’d really like to collaborate with an artist to make a workshop that’s about synaesthetic art as well as synaesthetic science. There are some artistic components to my existing workshop, but working with someone with expertise in that area would be wonderful.

Three words to describe how you feel about the festival?

Full of excitement!

Start your own conversation @OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017, this conversation initiated by Natasha Blok.