Diving into the data and sensing the importance of senses

Diving into the data and sensing the importance of senses

Anne Mauritsen

Analysis, Fieldwork | English | Denmark

Anne Lundahl Mauritsen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aarhus University

As the RECOVIRA project proceeds, we are still in the process of analyzing the data in both Denmark and in the other participating countries. In our former Danish blogpost, we emphasized to clear trends in the data: First, that all the Danish religious communities we have visited have returned to meeting physically and second, that resources are highly conditional for how the groups adapt digitally. As we plan the articles we will write this spring, out interest in understanding the community aspect has only increased. What is it about community which is so hard to replicate online and which makes people go back to meeting face to face rather than digitally? To near an answer to this question, we will present just a few quotes from informants in the study. Interestingly, both informants in their quotes mention the importance of the senses:

 “I mean, the many, many smells are an important element. I have – on a regular Sunday – counted the many, between 8-12 nationalities at a regular Sunday service (…) The sensual, the sensual means something, I mean in my lecture this Sunday I will touch upon Grundtvig’s thesis of how we’re human first and then Christians, there is something about how being human opens for the sensual which then becomes an opening towards the divine”

“Well, if I should tie this up, then I would say that what is essential to me is the community where we look each other in the eyes and sense each other, it has been the smells, it can be different things, and that can never be replaced by digital, by a digital presence”

Clearly, to both informants the senses which come into play in the presence of other community members are an important part of feeling connected and clearly this is lacking in a digital service. It seems as if smelling each other and gaining eye contact are key factors in feeling part of the group, which could potentially have interesting explanations founded in theories from the fields of psychology and evolutionary biology as well as aesthetic studies. There is much more to unpack in terms of what constitutes community, but we have a strong feeling of this being an important starting point, which we will pursue over the next few months of analysis.

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