Can atmospheres be measured?

November 28, 2012

On the 14th of April, 1856 Karl Marx did a speech, that referred to the ‘revolutionary atmosphere’ of crisis, danger and hope. Marx didn’t think that the audience “felt it”. The atmosphere that obtains in revolutions, wars, natural disasters are quit affective, and people might remember the exact atmosphere many years after.

Think about atmospheres in more common situations. When it suddenly starts raining, the minutes before an important match, when your family are gathered for Christmas, when the first flowers come into bloom in spring.  Moments of change, experiences of contrast, is perhaps where we notice and get affected by atmosphere the most.

“Atmospheres are perpetually forming and deforming , appearing and disappearing, as bodies enter into relation with one another. They are never finished, static or at a rest”.(p. 79, l. 23)

Some extent of atmosphere may exist in every situation, but if you are living in it and used to it, you might not pay attention to it. If a man of foreign country moved into your situation, he would “feel it” – the (different) atmosphere.

Is it possible to define, compare and measure atmospheres? Which atmospheres affect you? Which atmospheres affect different materials?

Atmospheres are singular, vague, unfinished, intangible, but essential. They affect variously. When the rain falls on my skin, it gets wet, and i might get under cover. When the rain falls on wood, it gets wet, another smell appears, and the humidity rises. Over time the atmosphere of weather makes wood change its appearance.

/Anne Mette

Readings: Ben Anderson, ‘Affective Atmospheres’, in Emotion, Space and Society 2, 2009, pp. 77-81.


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