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Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Phenomenon is derived from the Greek word, phainomenon and the verb, phanein, which means "to show, shine, or appear". It originates from the 1570s but was first recorded in 1771, describing extraordinary occurrence.[1]  Ironically, the term first came to use when German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, used phenomenon only to contrast noumenon. The meaning of noumenon is to describe an event that is experienced without the use of any senses. Therefore, in order to describe the opposite of noumenon, Kant used phenomenon, which was used to describe individual moments of subjective, conscious experiences through use of the seven senses. [2] Alternatively, this term also derived from a Latin word meaning, “what kind”, and therefore, phenomena can depict many different forms and contexts such as: physical, social, popular, paranormal, natural, and much more.
In a physical context, phenomenon describes an event that is able to be observed. Regardless of how common a phenomenon may be or even if tools are used, any scientific experiments or studies that range from a small burning match to the orbits of planets are considered physical phenomena.  Phenomena can also describe extraordinary events that defy logic and remain subjects of curiosity. Other physical phenomena include natural phenomena such as the aurora borealis, thunderstorms, and natural disasters. [3]
Architecture is considered physical phenomena as well. For example, the tallest hotel in the world, located in Hong Kong, is a sixteen thousand feet physical phenomenon. [4] This contemporary architectural phenomenon is only one of many; another example of architectural phenomenon is indoor slides. These interactive experiences are located in multiple places around the world, such as the Technische Universitat in Munich, or the Corus Entertainment Head Quarters in Toronto. No longer are people able to be content to merely exist in a building but to be able to experience the building through interactive elements becomes an physically blended social phenomenon. [5]
A social phenomenon alone, however, is the interaction between responsive organisms. Social phenomenon includes any form of interactions that require subjects to respond to actions, such as love or friendship.[6] More recently, a social phenomenon has begun through the use of internet social networking. This act of interaction becomes a social phenomenon that no longer requires immediate response. This translates to another modern use of the term to describe popular phenomena. For any internet videos, images, or people that have become viral in a short period of time becomes a popular phenomenon. Overall, phenomenon is used to describe sensual experiences perceived with any of the seven senses.

[1] Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology, "Phenomenon." Accessed November 13, 2012. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=phenomenon.
[2] Kemerling, Garth. The Philosophy Pages, "Kant: Experience and Reality." Last modified 2011. Accessed November 13, 2012. http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/5g.htm.
[3] Mukhtar, Ahsan. ListPhobia, "10 Most Fascinating Natural Phenomena." Last modified 2009. Accessed November 15, 2012. http://listphobia.com/2009/12/29/10-most-fascinating-natural-phenomena/.
[4] Daily Mail Online, "Rooms with a (truly spectacular) view: At 1,600ft, the world's tallest hotel opens its doors in Hong Kong Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1371203/Worlds-tallest-hotel-opens-Hong-Kong.html
[5] Web Urbanist, "Stepping Out: 10 Stupendous Indoor Architectural Slides." Accessed November 13, 2012. http://weburbanist.com/2011/01/26/stepping-out-10-stupendous-indoor-architectural-slides/.
[6] Markey, John F. University of Minnesota, "A Redefinition of Social Phenomena: Giving a Basis for Comparative Sociology." Last modified 1926. Accessed November 13, 2012. http://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Markey/Marke

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