On Coffee and Transmission of Affect


Humans love coffee. We cherish its smell. We crave its taste. It inspires comfort and facilitates routine – it has become a physical manifestation of the morning. There is a reason the American coffee drinker will spend about 45 hours per year waiting in line for coffee and drink an average of 3.1 9oz cups a day (see graphic below). Our perceptual connections to coffee and the coffeehouse environments can be realized through the transmission of affect. Author Teresa Brennan states:

“the term ‘transmission of affect’ to capture a process that is social in origin but biological and physical in effect. The origin of transmitted affects is social in that these affects do not only arise within a particular person but also come from without. They come via an interaction with other people and an environment. But they have a physiological impact.”

For my media ecology, I chose to study the intersection of the social and material in coffee culture. Our relationship with this widely-consumed stimulant dates back to 14th century Turkey, where coffeehouses originated as traditional social and political centers. Today, cafes continue to operate as truly generative spaces. There is an undeniable aura of productivity, efficiency, and creativity associated with sipping a hot cup of coffee at a local cafe. The act itself is synonymous with intellectual labor. The “coffee break” is directly related to the daily work routine. Our society’s zealous obsession with productivity and work output also fuels coffee’s necessity and appeal. According to Brennan, “the atmosphere or environment literally gets into the individual. Physically and biologically, something is present that was not there before”. Both coffee and cafes have an inherent effect on the physical body. Coffee stimulates conscious mental associations and as well as “chemical entrainment”. Brennan explains that through unconscious-olfaction, “molecules that communicate chemical information signal and produce reactions by unnoticeable odor in many hormonal interactions”. We are biologically affected by coffee matter and socially affected by the coffee shop as an information exchange center. These two entities seek to form a liquid network of ideas, people, perspectives, and backgrounds that continues to authenticate coffee culture as a profound force in our everyday lives. Here is an eye-opening and beautifully edited video that showcases our powerful past, present, and future relationship with coffee.



~ by oliviachernoff on February 24, 2014.

One Response to “On Coffee and Transmission of Affect”

  1. AGHH that’s my boss. “I had a cup of coffee that changed my life”

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