Lecture by Dr. Ai Hisano
“Taste and Vision in History: The Transformation of “Aesthetics” and the Rise of Consumer Society”

The B’AI Global Forum is delighted to welcome Dr. Ai Hisano who has joined the University of Tokyo this spring. Dr. Hisano will be talking about her previous research and prospect as a member of the University of Tokyo’s “Excellent Young Researcher.”



Date, Venue, Language, etc


・Date:Friday, May 28, 2021, 18:00~19:30 (JST)

・Venue:Zoom Webinar(Registration required / No charge)


・Organizer:B’AI Global Forum, Institute for AI and Beyond at the University of Tokyo




LecturerAi Hisano


Associate Professor at the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies/Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, the University of Tokyo Excellent Young Researcher, and Co-Investigator of the B’AI Global Forum at the University of Tokyo. She specializes in the history of the senses, the history of technology, and business history with particular focus on the twentieth-century U.S. history. Her first book, Visualizing Taste: How Business Changed the Look of What You Eat (Harvard University Press, 2019) won the 2020 Hagley Prize in Business History (Business History Conference) and the 2020 Shimizu Hiroshi Book Award (Japanese Association for American Studies). She received a PhD in History from the Hagley Program in the History of Capitalism, Technology, and Culture at the University of Delaware. She served as a Newcomen Postdoctoral Fellow in Business History at Harvard Business School (2016–17) and taught at the Graduate School of Economics at Kyoto University (2017–2021).


CommentatorShunji Yamanaka(Professor at the Institute of Industrial Science and the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies at the University of Tokyo)


ModeratorKaori Hayahi(Executive Vice President, Professor at the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, and Director of the B’AI Global Forum at the University of Tokyo)





17:45 Joining the Zoom Webinar

18:00 Opening Remarks(Kaori Hayashi)

18:10 Lecture(Ai Hisano)

18:45 Commentary (Shunji Yamanaka)

19:05 Discussion and Q&A(Moderator:Kaori Hayashi)

19:30 Closing Remarks



Abstract of the Lecture


Taste and Vision in History: The Transformation of “Aesthetics” and the Rise of Consumer Society


This talk explores the role of business in shaping Americans’ sensory experiences from the 1870s to the 1970s. It analyzes the development of visual appeal, particularly color, as a key driver of demand in the food industry. I argue that the color that Americans came to associate with certain foods was a result of complex—and colorful—processes, implemented by various agents, including farmers, food processors, dye manufacturers, scientists, advertising agents, and government officials. They co-created a “natural” color for food that was, in fact, a hybrid of nature and technology.


With rapid industrialization and the expansion of consumer markets from the late nineteenth century, it became not only possible but also necessary for consumer goods companies to develop products with sensually attractive features. In this new era of consumer capitalism, appealing to the senses and reinventing what consumers wanted became an important part of manufacturing and marketing practices to whet consumers’ appetites. But this was not just a new marketing strategy—more importantly it was a new way that business began reshaping how people perceived the world.


This talk examines a history of creating this new world of the senses through the lens of aesthetics from the late nineteenth century to today. I use the term “aesthetics” to refer to holistic human perception and sensation rather than simply the domain of art or appearance, following the original definition derived from the ancient Greek word Aisthesis. Aesthetics is not just about the way things look, but also about how people experience them. I argue that a new kind of aesthetics became not only an industry standard in product design and marketing, but also a social norm based on sensory characteristics of goods and of people.





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