Visual representations of smell are one of the core themes of our presence on Instagram: Wheel, circle, and pie have recently appeared as recurring and influential visual metaphors. The fragrance wheel created by Michael Edwards is perhaps the most prominent example these days. But the history of visualizations demonstrates that this is only one example out of many.  The visual metaphor of the circle or the wheel has been used to classify urine smells. The colour, smell, and even taste of urine was used to both identify particular illnesses and provide patient prognoses, from Hippocrates to the Victorian era. The practice, called uroscopy or uromancy, was, according to the Doctor’s Review, “once the number-one way to diagnose disease — and predict the future”.

Sensory and scent-marketing highlight how the sense of smell affects our everyday purchasing decisions. Accordingly, one expects an abundance of scented products in contemporary consumer culture. Yet, we can also witness an increasing awareness of multiple chemical sensitivities that might promote an opposite trend. This is the commercial context of a recent thesis submitted in the BBA International Program at Bern University of Applied Sciences by Jennifer Zwyer and supervised by Claus Noppeney: How prevalent is the sense of smell in today’s consumer culture? How prevalent are scented products on the shelf in supermarkets today? How openly is the olfactory status communicated to the consumer? Verbally? Visually?

 

In today’s experience economy the service sector faces severe challenges: Services are simultaneously produced and consumed, and above all in most cases intangible. Forward looking companies increasingly use services for creating experiences that are stimulating for the customer: the more senses an experience engages, the more effective and memorable it can be.

In the context of upcoming research on the sense of smell in contemporary art practice, Ashraf Osman recently conducted interviews with two key players in the realm: Brian Goeltzenleuchter, an artist based in San Diego, CA, and Robert Blackson, a curator based in Philadelphia, PA. The interviews focused on the norms, processes, and institutions that promote or hinder the use of the sense of smell in art.

New Materialism is a growing movement rooted in neo-disciplines such as gender studies or science & technology studies. It challenges contemporary discourse as Karen Barad points out: “Language matters. Discourse matters. Culture matters. There is an important sense in which the only thing that does not seem to matter anymore is matter.”

“Interdisciplinarity” is the common theme of three videos Bern University of Applied Sciences recently posted on YouTube. One of the videos features scent culture and related research projects based at Bern University of the Arts and the Business School, two departments at Bern University of Applied Sciences. So far, the interdisciplinary approach has brought together professionals from diverse disciplines including social science, media art, visual communication, management research, psychology and curating. 

The common slogan “dress for success” underlines the wide-held view that what you wear matters in everyday life. It originates in Erving Goffman’s studies on the social world as a stage. Accordingly, individuals interact as performers. In the context of management and organization studies this mode of interaction has later been labeled as “impression management”. It is obvious that workplace attire is used to manage the impressions of others. Studies show that women are more interested in clothing and experience more “appearance labor” when compared to men.*