Automobility & Scent Culture: Another Market for Olfactory Nostalgia?

The olfactory dimension of automobility is the core theme of a recent essay by Claus Noppeney published in “Das Magazin” a weekly supplement to several Swiss newspapers. The essay covers the wider culture and ecology of the vehicle:  Is there a new business opportunity for olfactory nostalgia? At least there is reason to believe that  the smells and an entire ecology of objects & artifacts are going to be extinct within a generation. The essay links the core theme to some recent developments in the urban smellscape at Zurich and argues that the upcoming initiative Züri-autofrei also creates an opportunity  for a multisensory development of the city.

This essay is part of a larger interest in automobile sector as part of an aesthetic and experience economy. Our focus is on the sense of smell. Thus, we look at cars as “olfactory artifacts”: What cultural practices, objects, products, discourses can be identified that address the olfactory dimension of “automobility”? Thus, we focus on one product of today’s consumer culture and reveal a multiplicity of smelly references. Our studies demonstrate how different meanings, interpretations and functions of the smelly car have been negotiated since its creation in the 19th century.

Following the publication there have been some interesting follow up emails and discussions: What is the olfactory dimension of oldtimer festivals and culture? What role did the switch to unleaded gas play? Thanks a lot for feed back, contrarian views or other material! Thanks a lot also to Armin Chodzinski, Katie Puckrik, Klaus Singer, Caro Verbeek & Andreas Wilhelm for the helpful exchange when writing this essay.

But what is the link to this eccentric gentleman on the picture?

It is a portrait of Henry Cyril Paget, a memorable guy who died at the age of 29 in 1905. He was known for an eccentric lifestyle. And among many other aspects he also despised car exhaust fumes: Disgusting! But he even went a step beyond his affects and transformed the exhaust pipe of his car into a “perfume cannon”. Thus, he is truly the inventor of “open air” ambient scenting (or “macro-ambient scenting”). His car became the first air care device.

Here is a pdf of the essay (click on picture):

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