“Reconstructing Reality presents intentionally altered perspectives, exploring the possibilities within each moment to mean something new.”B. R. Hernández Baurichter
The following theme page is looking into the ways certain objects help users to (re)construct their reality in the time of this pandemic. (Re)constructing reality in that context refers to the act of changing the perception around us in order to cope with the harsh reality of a lockdown. To achieve this, people usually try to escape reality and change their perception of time and space by means of enjoyable activities, such as reading books, playing games, listening to music, doing workouts, or using scents to relax. These objects as well as the related sub-themes (coping with reality, perception vs reality, escaping) will be further explored on this page.
Look at this video by Donald Hoffman ‘Do we see reality as it is?‘ to further explore how our minds construct reality for us.
“It feels like we are taking a snapshot of our environment as it is. But in fact we are constructing everything we see. We don’t construct the whole world at once, we construct what we need at the moment. ”Donald Hoffman
Donald Hoffman, Do we see reality as it is? | TED Talk
Coping with Reality
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change“W. W. Dyer
During the pandemic, coping with reality became very complicated for many people. How could it be possible to feel good when the virus was spreading faster and faster and seeing loved ones was out of the question? As a kind of protective shield however, individuals managed to create new habits and certain objects became a key part of their daily lives. If Netflix seemed quite nice at the beginning of Covid time, new ways to relax, to keep busy but also to stay active were soon needed. Books and board games were good assets to distract oneself, escape for a few minutes and reconfigure the reality without always being on social media scrolling for news. In addition, going outside to run allowed some people to see something other than the four walls of their house or flat and get some fresh air. It was a way to see other landscapes, to make reality more pleasant but also to feel free. Other simple items helped to feel better and brought a bit of serenity into our home: a candle that gave off a sweet smell from outside or headphones that offered protection between private and professional lives. These objects, however innocuous they seemed at first, provided a change of scenery, a way of taking the reality in hands again and making it more bearable during these uncertain times.
Perception vs Reality
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”A. Huxley
How easy would it be to recreate reality during a pandemic? To (re)construct the world around us does not only mean to physically recreate it. It also implies altering the way we perceive reality so as to experience different ‘dimensions’ or, as already mentioned, to cope with it during consecutive lockdowns. The ‘key’ lies in the word ‘perception’, i.e. the way our mind experiences ‘reality’. In the 17th century, the Enlightenment thinker John Locke (1632-1704) conceptualized the human mind as a blank space ready to be shaped by our sensory experience. This idea was reformulated by modern science, which defends that our mind is more complicated than a tabula rasa. The actual meaning of the world we live in is created mainly by the way each one of us perceives it (Paulson, Hoffman, & O’Sullivan, 2019).
How does this actually happen? Have you ever wondered “how did time fly so fast”? The answer is the term ‘flow state’-the mental state of a person who is totally immersed and focused on an activity leading to a transformation in one’s sense of time (Csikszentmihalyi, Abuhamdeh, & Nakamura, 2014). The Harry Potter Book and the Catan Board Game help their users immerse themselves in the enjoyment of reading or creating, thus ‘losing’ their sense of real-time. People tend to immerse themselves in the objects’ phantasy reality as well, by mentally placing themselves in the book or board game’s era. Stankievech (2007) presents another ‘interplay’ between reality and perception: space. He regards headphones as a means of isolation and an extension of reality, while “the outside is re-created in a postulated sound field beyond the source of the small speakers pressed to the ears” (2007, p. 58).
Listening through headphones can “disorient” one’s sense of the real world, or rather, “supplement” reality (2007, p. 58). By listening to music with JBL Wireless Headphones or attending lectures with Earphones, users were able to create a different sense of the space around them.
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”A. Einstein
About a year ago a new reality was forced upon us due to the pandemic. People now spend most of their time at home, without much possibility to leave their own four walls all too often. Therefore the need to escape this new reality every now and then became very important. This process is called escapism by researchers and is a technique to flee from an unpleasant or boring aspect of life. In the state of escaping, a person is imagining more exciting but impossible activities (Cambridge Dictionary, 2021). Common ways to ‘escape’ are through imagination, reading or certain activities. The method of escapism can also be used to get away from a persistent feeling of depression or general sadness, something many people tend to feel during this pandemic where mental health-related issues are expected to rise as a result of it (Gavin et al., 2020). Therefore, escaping this reality is necessary for your mental wellbeing from time to time. Studies (Komarova & Avilov, 2009) showcased that especially scented candles can have a relaxing and positive effect on the general wellbeing. One of the only outdoor activities people were allowed to do during quarantine was running. This activity is not only beneficial for physical health, it also served as one of the few options to ‘escape’ your own home and the ‘new reality’ attached to it. Reading on the other hand was an activity, where one could escape to another world, without even leaving their own home. If you want to know more about the concept of Escapism and how it can be used during covid-19, visit the theme-page about Escapism.
During the pandemic, the need to cope with the harsh reality, led to people often (re)constructing the world around them in different ways in an attempt to make it more bearable and enjoyable. This reconfiguration of reality was a way to protect oneself, to take a break, but also to survive in these difficult times. All the objects below represent ways in which students from the MA program managed to escape their situation for a little while and, eventually, to find the hope that things will get better at some point. We hope to have manifested the positive impact of certain unexpectedly important objects on people’s well-being in this dystopian reality.
We are interested in your opinion!
The poll was created by the authors
Objects Associated with this Theme
Explore the narratives hidden behind each object and gain a deeper understanding of how they can act as coping mechanisms.
Carlson, L. (2020, April 27). 7 mental health coping tips for life in the time of COVID-19. The Conversation.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., Abuhamdeh, S., & Nakamura, J. (2014). Flow. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 227-238). Springer, Dordrecht.
Escapism. (2021, March 7). Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved from: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/escapism
Gavin, B., Lyne, J. & McNicholas, F. (2020). Mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 37, 156-158.
GogniFit. (n.d.). Spatial Perception. Retrieved from:
Hernandez Baurichter B.L. (n.d.). Reconstructing Reality. Retrieved from:
Komarova, I. A. & Avilov, O. V. (2009). Individual olfactory responses of students repeatedly exposed to essential oils. Voprosy Kurortologii, 2, 33–36.
Lotto, B. (2017). Deviate: The science of seeing differently. Hachette Books.
Paulson, S., Hoffman, D. D., & O’Sullivan, S. (2019). Reality is not as it seems. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1458(1), 44-64.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (n.d.). John Locke. Retrieved from:
Stankievech, C. (2007). From Stethoscopes to Headphones: An Acoustic Spatialization of Subjectivity. Leonardo Music Journal, 17, 55–59. https://doi.org/10.1162/lmj.2007.17.55
Weill Institute for Neurosciences. (2020). Emotional Well-being and Coping during COVID-19. https://psychiatry.ucsf.edu/copingresources/covid19