Multimedia, modalities and middle ages...

In the medieval society the church saw as her task to disseminate the bible to as much people as possible. However reading was the privilege of a small group . To serve the illiterates, bibles with pictures were constructed, almost similar to cartoon books.

When building churches the principles of pictures were practiced by using paintings, statues and stained glass. Music was used to arouse the emotions of people and let them participate more actively in the celebrations. For that reason organs were used, already from the early middle ages.
Using smells, like incense, completed a holistic approach to store the cognitions and emotions aroused by the celebrations. This approach was also called biblia pauperum: the bible for the poor people.

From recent neuropsychological research we know that the use of pictures, sound and smell is an enormous powerful tool to store learning events successfully. Everybody knows to recall a specific smell that reminds him/her suddenly to a lot of detailed events and emotions. When hearing favourite music, our brains produce dopamine, that makes us feel comfortable. The use of these multimodal aspects in the middle ages was, although intuitive, so powerful that modern multimedia developers still can learn a lot from it. Recent findings regarding (new)literacy confirms this.

During a visit to Braga (Portugal), guest lecturing at the Universidade do Minho, we discussed this phenomenon with Prof. Maria José Machado. She arranged a visit to the famous organs of the cathedral (Sé de Braga). Sitting high above the people, immersed in the technology of a three hundred years old instrument, knowing the neuropsychological impact of music on the learning of people, we felt humble and looked with relativism to our modern technological inventions regarding multimedia. Once again it demonstrated that our brains did not change significantly for 40.000 years….. enabling us to learn either open and free by ourselves (mathetic learning) or learn in a well prepared learning environment guided by teachers (as offered by the churches).

Labels: , , ,