XI.1 January + February 2004
Page: 4
Digital Citation

Scents and sensibility

Steven Pemberton

back to top 

In his entertaining book From A to B and Back Again Andy Warhol claims that he never kept a diary, but instead wore a different perfume each day, for one day only. Whether it is true or not (and indeed whether there are even that many perfumes available) he had an interesting point: Smell can have a surprisingly deep effect on us. In comparison with other senses we get very little training with smell: A one year old baby is already being told about colors, seldom being told to compare smells. James Joyce talked about the ineluctable modality of the visable, how the visual tends to push out all other senses, and indeed if you put your senses in the order you would least like to lose them, then probably smell is at the end of the list, the one you could do without the most.

Within computer interfaces taste will be the last to be used, because of the intrusiveness of having to stick something into your mouth. Because of the ineluctability of the visual, visual interfaces were the first, when the audial was just a beep; audio interfaces followed, and we even have some tactile interfaces, like force feedback mice or chairs that vibrate when there is an explosion on the screen.

So what about smell? As Andy Warhol suggests, even when we are not consciously attending, smell can strongly affect us. Smell is often associated with strong feelings, good food, memories, danger, revulsion. So could smell have en effect on how we use computers? Who knows?

Only by trying will we discover if these are things we can do better with smell in the interface. In this issue there is an excellent overview of smell in the interface by Joseph "Jofish" Kaye that reports how far we are already, and how to do it yourself if you are interested.

Ten years of interactions: This issue marks the tenth anniversary of the first issue of interactions. In times when publications are taking large hits from the Internet, as people get more and more of their information online, interactions has grown and remained remarkably stable. It is a success story, even more when you realize that it is almost entirely created and produced by volunteers—yes, even me. So, a pause to reflect, and a round of applause for all the people who have put time and effort into creating and producing what is the most-read publication on human-computer interactions.

Steven Pemberton

back to top 

©2004 ACM  1072-5220/04/0100  $5.00

Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2004 ACM, Inc.

Post Comment

No Comments Found