Digital culture seems to epitomize a scentfree world. Information technologies are clean. The sense of smell seems to be the outsider of a digital world. Isn’t this part of the story we tell about progress and a postindustrial society?
When searching for “smell” and “information technology” the top results refer to innovative projects that aim at opening digital technologies to olfaction. Actually, the more we live in a digital world, the more extraordinary the sense of smell appears.
In this context the recent study “Smelling Machine History” by a group of Finland based digital culture scholars stands out:
Suominen, J., Silvast, A., & Harviainen, T. (2018). Smelling Machine History: Olfactory Experiences of Information Technology. Technology and Culture, 59(2), 313–337.
The study explores the hidden senses in the history of information technology and provide a multisensory portrait including some interesting excerpts from qualitative interviews:
“In the late 1980s I made my own joystick for the [Commodore] Amiga that then caused a small short circuit. I can mainly recall the faint broccoli-like burning smell. The stench was in fact so strong that I (luckily) managed to save the machine in time.” (Man, 26 years-old, 2003)