Summer project: How to make a cyanometer

written by Anna Harris

Maastricht-To celebrate the paperback release of A Sensory Education, we are sharing here a project that could also make a wonderful summer craft activity with kids. Enjoy!

How to make a Cyanometer


  • Paint cards from a hardware store
  • Pens
  • Scissors
  • A compass
  • A sturdy piece of cardboard
  • Glue
  • White stickers
  • Blue-tack (or white-tack)
  • A music player to play Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.


  1. Put music on, suggested listening being Kind of Blue. In 1959, jazz trumpeter Miles Davis assembled his ideal sextet. Using simple musical scales, instead of the complex harmonic progressions of their contemporaries, they attempted, in five mesmeric tracks, to redefine an art form and capture the essence of all that was blue.
  2. Take a compass and draw two circles on the sturdy card, one of approximately 30cm diameter and the other of approximately 20cm diameter. If you don’t have a compass you can use dinner plates and saucers.
  3. Fold the 40 colour sample cards in half and glue halves together, then cut in half again.
  4. Put white stickers at the bottom of each colour card.
  5. Arrange the sample cards in a circle, using blue-tack to hold into place so that the correct spacing can be achieved (10 cards should fit in one quarter).
  6. Glue the cards in place.
  7. Number the white stickers from 1-40 with a marker.
  8. Take outside and measure the blueness of the sky.

From January to June this year Anna hosted an Honours seminar for five students in the Faculty which revisited the garden as a learning space. Questions framing initial discussions included:

  • How do European ideas of the scientific garden compare to other parts of the world?
  • How might scientific gardens move away from being sites of exploitation and bioprospecting of indigenous knowledges to sites of learning with/from indigenous peoples?
  • How might working in/with gardens as students help reimagine future worlds in the Anthropocene? Might it lead to new kinds of multispecies collaboration?
  • Can gardens cultivate new ways of noticing? How might we integrate these insights into our digital lives?
  • Can gardens become sites for dealing creatively in PBL learning at Maastricht University with the wicked and wild problems of the world?

We met online and in gardens, reading and talking together, sharing sensory impressions of our favourite gardens, and prompts for each other to rethink them. The students soon took ownership and leadership of the project, organising a Faculty Garden Day where they conducted ethnographic research and interviews among students and staff, while gardening. They used their reading and insights to write a report, urging the Faculty to listen more to students, and to have student-led design in realising the potential of the new Faculty garden. The seminar has led to new ideas and collaborations which bring together the findings from the Making Clinical Sense project, the sociomateriality of learning especially, and how this may relate to learning in gardens. Stay tuned and please get in touch if this also connects with your own interests, projects and concerns.


The public exhibition is accompanied by a book in Dutch and English, (published by Verloren, Hilversum, edited by Karin Bijsterveld and with pictures by Eric Bleize), which collects the short essays ton the objects. You can order the book here, or read it here.


SensesSquared is funded through the Erasmus+ Cooperation partnerships. It’s full title is “SensesSquared: Becoming through the senses: towards artistic ways of being in the world”, and it is led by Hans Van Regenmortel from Musica Impulscentrum voor Muziek vzw (BE). The project explores sensory interventions in teaching in primary schools in Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

Senses-Based Learning is funded through the NRO Comenius grants, and the PI for that project is Emilie Sitzia, and includes Ilse van Lieshout from Marres and Joost Dijkstra from Maastricht University as the other co-applicants. This project will look at how training the senses can be given a more prominent role in higher education and how you can assess students in this field. Eventually it will lead to an online platform and set up an actual physical space (the Sensory Learning Lab).

Called “Sensing Art, Training the Body”, the collection contains cahiers from various sensory exhibitions between 2017 and 2021, and two essays, including one by Anna reflecting on the Training the Senses lecture series (of which Making Clinical Sense took part several years ago). The book is available from the Marres online and physical shop with five different covers.



The articulation of learning goals, processes and outcomes related to health humanities teaching currently lacks comparability of curricula and outcomes, and requires synthesis to provide a basis for developing a curriculum and evaluation framework for health humanities teaching and learning. This scoping review sought to answer how and why the health humanities are used in health professions education. It also sought to explore how health humanities curricula are evaluated and whether the programme evaluation aligns with the desired learning outcomes.


A focused scoping review of qualitative and mixed-methods studies that included the influence of integrated health humanities curricula in pre-registration health professions education with programme evaluate of outcomes was completed. Studies of students not enrolled in a pre-registration course, with only ad-hoc health humanities learning experiences that were not assessed or evaluated were excluded. Four databases were searched (CINAHL), (ERIC), PubMed, and Medline.


The search over a 5 year period, identified 8621 publications. Title and abstract screening, followed by full-text screening, resulted in 24 articles selected for inclusion. Learning outcomes, learning activities and evaluation data were extracted from each included publication.


Reported health humanities curricula focused on developing students’ capacity for perspective, reflexivity, self- reflection and person-centred approaches to communication. However, the learning outcomes were not consistently described, identifying a limited capacity to compare health humanities curricula across programmes. A set of clearly stated generic capabilities or outcomes from learning in health humanities would be a helpful next step for benchmarking, clarification and comparison of evaluation strategy.

Session Abstract
The operation room lights shine brightly in four surgical theatres. The team is connected remotely, streaming live for this Making and Doing session. This is a simultaneous surgical experiment being performed. The machines are beeping, and the atmosphere is tense. “Scalpel!”. Four multicoloured gloves in four different screens pick up sharp instruments – wait, are they kitchen knives? “Swabs!” Are they dishtowels? The surgery continues, virtually, synchronically, the screens focus on the body part being operated on. Until the bizarre last step, when the surgeons put down their instruments and pick up a knife and fork…and diagnose the edible bodies in front of them by taste. These are no ordinary STS scholars nor ordinary surgeons. This is the work of the Citizen Surgery Collective, an interdisciplinary practice-based research group consisting of artists, critical posthumanists and anthropologists. Our work concerns surgical literacy, sensory skills acquisition, simulation, and the relationship between other-than-human bodies and food. In the spirit of the conference theme ‘good relations’ with its exploration of practices and methods for unequal worlds, our work aims to democratise and redistribute surgical skills, discuss asymmetric interspecies power relations at the dinner table, and develop methods for collaborative remote practices.

Here is the full abstract of Anna’s article:

How to render sensory memory? In this article, I speculate on the possibilities of textural methods which attend closely to textile forms, specifically embroidery, as a way to explore this enduring question in multimodal research. To open up concerns about bodily relations between humans, as well as the more-than-human bodies we share worlds with, this article focuses on sensory memory fragments of encounters with the microbial conglomerations of sourdough bread starter. I offer three bubbling, sour-sweet texts: 1) an archived auto-ethnographic account of learning how to make a sourdough starter; 2) a social-media inspired piece on the sticky home archives of quarantine; and 3) a future speculative citizen science project. These fragments co-exist with microbes I have embroidered on ancient linens. From the tangy strings of sourdough histories, and the tangled threads in cloth I draw concrete methodological suggestions for new directions in textural research projects, such as material fieldnotes and crafted data. In doing so, I join other authors in this special issue in the call for multimodal forms of ethnographic storytelling about sensory memory, in this case one that attends not only to messy entanglements with bodies but also their textural, material, layered histories extending into the depth of their surfaces.

Here is a full abstract describing the special issue:

This issue brings together 10 anthropologists who investigate the potential of multimodality and the role of sensing, as situated social practice, in the complex working of memory. Through video, images, texts and sound—and through collage, installations, embroidery, and drawing—we invite the audience of Multimodality & Society to consider: What are some of the complex relationships between memory and the senses? How does multimodality help us approach the study of remembering and forgetting? This introduction frames our work into current debates in multimodal and sensory anthropology, discusses our approaches to memory, and draws some of the common themes that connect our contributions. Collectively, we investigate memory as sensate, emplaced, and affective, and existing in a complex relation with temporality and practices of forgetting. We are particularly interested in the links between multi-sensory approaches and the possibilities offered by multimodality. We argue that the latter can help us think of sensate memory, and vice versa, studying remembering and forgetting as multisensory can demonstrate some of the potential of multimodal scholarship.

Making Measuring Bodies, abstract

Medicine is often criticized in science and technology studies (STS) for its dominating measuring practices. To date, the focus has been on two areas of “metric work”: health-care workers and metric infrastructures. In this article, I step back into the training of clinicians, which is important for understanding more about how practices of measurement are developed. I draw on ethnographic fieldwork in a Dutch medical school to look at how a ubiquitous and mundane tool––measuring tapes––is embodied by medical students as they learn to coordinate their sensory knowledge. In doing so, they create their own bodies as the standard or measure of things. Unpacking educational practices concerning this object, I suggest that tracing the making of measuring bodies offers new insights into medical metric work. This also speaks to the growing interest in STS in sensory science, where the body is fashioned as a measuring instrument. Specifically, two interrelated contributions build on and deepen STS scholarship: first, the article shows that learning is an embodied process of inner-scaffold making; second, it suggests that the numerical objectification of sensory knowing is not a calibration to “objectivity machines” but rather to oscillations between bodies and objects that involve sensory-numerical work.


The anonymous reviewers were generous with their time and comments and suggested wonderful ways and literatures to expand and articulate my argument. Thanks to Katie Vann and Edward Hackett at Science, Technology, & Human Values for refining this even further and for suggestions for future work. I am grateful to Ike Kamphof, Andy McDowell, and John Nott who shared comments on much earlier and rougher drafts and Candida Sanchez Burmester for her intellectual and administrative input. Thanks also to the organizers and participants of the 4S 2020 online/Prague panel “Health, care (dis)abilities” for their comments and questions. As ever, I am grateful to the generosity of those I work with in my field sites, for their time and critical ideas, and for the collegial support of the rest of the Making Clinical Sense team. Finally, gratitude for my husband who shared parenting during our various pandemic lockdowns, which meant I could carve out time to write and revise.

Salad ingredients:

Pomegranate – like jaundice

Strawberries & raspberries – scarlet fever

Bananas – suturing and toenail resection practice

Peaches – pediatric examination

Grapes – robotic surgery practice

Oranges – cervical dilation lessons, skin biopsy and injection practice

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Summer project: How to make a cyanometer

by Anna Harris
August 4, 2022

Learning in gardens

by Anna Harris
July 9, 2022

Library exhibition and essay on stethoscope

by Anna Harris
December 22, 2021