The following is a proposal I submitted today for a mini course! It was fun to write, it would be fun to work with students.
Title: Sniffing geography and mapping scent
Geography is scented and places are odoured. Smellscapes mark seasons, industries and neighbourhoods. Our noses detect danger, geographic features and environmental change. Scents can be politically charged, think of land-use and pig farmers or garbage dumps; the pulp and paper industry or chocolate factories. This mini course aims to awaken our forgotten sense of smell and sensorially immerse students into places by: introducing the characteristics of scent; expanding olfactory vocabularies; exploring the geography of smellscapes; showcasing smell technologies; featuring scented art; and learning basic olfactory cartographic techniques. Student research sniffers will ground their newly acquired scented knowledge by using their noses to collect smell impressions; annotate maps; calibrate and smell truth findings with peers and represent these in scented map projects.
Instructor: Tracey P. Lauriault - PhD Candidate and Researcher at the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre
Grades: 8-12, Ontario/Sec. 2-5 Quebec
Reference: Lauriault, T. P., & Lindgaard, L. (2006). Scented Cybercartography: Exploring Possibilities. Special Issue of Cartographica on Cybercartography, 41(1), 73-91.
Geography & Cartography Excerpt from the reference paper. 6.2 OLFACTORY GEOGRAPHY AND THE GEOGRAPHY OF SMELL
The following discussion sketches how olfaction is geographically conceptualized. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it illustrates methods that cartographers could adopt.
6.2.1 Olfaction and Places
Scents are geographically associative. Regions, countries, urban and rural areas, neighbourhoods, and households have characteristic smells. Household scents are intimate to each family but also represent cultural norms, habits, and rituals shared among a community (Dulau 1998). India is known for its aromatic oils and spices; Egyptian markets smell of cinnamon and dust (Staples 2004); urban areas yield whiffs of car exhaust, industrial districts broadcast the malodorous scents of pulp and paper factories, and neighbourhoods can be characterized by ethnic foods, while the countryside can boast of the sweet smells of farm manure, vegetation, and trees. Industrial sectors are associated with particular odours (e.g., coal burning, refineries, agro-food), and natural features such as hot springs and woodlands have their own signature scents. Other scents are associated with daily spiritual and cultural rituals (e.g., burning incense) (Dulau 1998; Classen 1993; and Nakbi 1985), are nomadic (e.g., scents of temporary food stalls) (Dulau 1998), or are connected to historical practices (e.g., aromatic trees in courtyards) (Lignon-Darmaillac 1998). Antarctica is characterized by an absence of smell, apart from odorous penguin colonies and human-introduced smells (e.g., diesel). Developing a database of place-specific and georeferenced scents with attributes and a calibrated case-study vocabulary is quite conceivable. These data could be mapped with annotations to become scented map attributes.
6.2.2 Olfaction and Time
Smells mark time. They evoke seasonal change like the funky smell of the spring thaw in Ottawa, orange blossoms in Grasse, mouldy leaves in autumn, and idling cars on cold winter days. Flowers are densely and successively planted for the perfume industry in Grasse: mimosa in January, jonquil in February, orange blossoms in April, and Jasmine between July and October; violets bloom almost year-round (Genders 1972, 207). For southern Tunisians, incense triangulates the time of lived experience, marking fasts, marriages, deaths, and everyday experiences (Nakbi 1985). Smells also indicate the time of day (e.g., rush-hour fumes). Empires transported perfumes, spices, teas, and flora from far-away lands. The ‘‘silk road opened up the Orient to the western world, but the scent road opened up the heart of Nature’’ (Ackerman 1990, 6). In Le Parfum, by Patrick Suskind (1985), the protagonist Grenouille is born without personal scent but with olfactory genius. His nose guides us through the densely populated working-class districts, fisheries, rivers, tanneries, caves, palatial parks, and perfumeries of eighteenth-century Paris. Alain Corbin (1986), in The Foul and the Fragrant, maps the social and cultural smellscapes of France, from 1750 to the late nineteenth century, ranging from the stench of urban Paris to its perfumed gardens, to the reek of the cemetery of the unfortunates captured in epidemiological maps, ending with advances in urban planning whereby cesspools are turned into sewer systems and paved roads protect citizens from earthly fumes. Smellscapes of the first half of the twentieth century included the smell of baking and laundry day. Modernization has sanitized some smellscapes and replaced them with new ones.
6.2.3 Olfaction and Climate
Odiferous plants adapt to their climates, appear seasonally, and attract insects that propagate them. Lavender, thyme, and dill grow in the north and cloves, vanilla, and star anise in the south (Pitte 1998). Seasonal smellscapes or climatic zones could be represented olfactorily in scented time lines, climatic zones, and land-cover maps. North, south, and equatorial maps could be accompanied by keynote-scented cues. The challenge will be to select the right associations.
6.2.4 Industry Smellscapes
Industries have seasonal, local, and global smellscapes. Perfumers in France were once co-located where the best roses were produced. Italy and Spain produced much of the essence of citrus, lavender water was produced in England, and Bulgaria produced flower perfumes (e.g., violets, jasmine, acacia, orange, and rose) (Genders 1972, 206). African states also produce odorous substances, such as marjoram, lavender, and thyme, while eucalyptus, rosemary, and dill are distilled in Tanzania (208). B. Dezert (1998) discusses changes in smellscape with changes in the agro-food industry. The case study examines factory production, landscape, and how what is grown and reared changes along with shifts in transportation routes and methods (i.e., both landscape and smellscape). Industries are also vulnerable to the whims of international finance (e.g., sugar and coffee prices, cheese and wine), and these smellscapes could be studied at different scales. Scented graphs can make visible the olfactory dimensions of environmental change (e.g., land-cover change) (Mainet-De´lair 1998). Maps of particular industries could include the locations of factories, distribution networks, and other scented elements of the industry (e.g., fields, distilleries). Counter-mapping could also apply smell to represent the industrial north as reeking, logging concessions as foul smelling, or biodiversity as aromatic. Olfaction could represent industrial change, qualify perspectives, and also critique.
6.2.5 Culture, Class, and Society
Smell is associated with culture and class. Smells may evoke historical, geographical, economic, or cultural associations, or ‘‘des zones olfactifs géographico culturels,’’ as the authors of Le Marketing Olfactif call them (Barbet and others 1999, 163). In urban areas, city wealth is inversely related to stench, industry, and refuse. Poverty is associated with the personal smells of peasants, the sweat and oil scent of fast-food workers, and the reek of slums (Corbin 1986; Porteous 1985; Pitte 1998; Largey and Watson 1972). By contrast, wealth is associated with a summer cottage surrounded by fresh air, scented gardens, and perfume. According to Graham Dann and Jens Steen Jacobsen, ‘‘such patterning of smell follows the medieval division of cities by crafts and guilds, as also the later ghettoization of cities according to immigrant communities’’ (2003, 11). Odour is also a marker of identity, otherness, and social structuring (Classen 1993). Scent is a hostile marker of racist stereotyping and social exclusion (Largey and Watson 1972; Le Gue´rer 1990). Scent preferences are associated with nationality, and International Flavor and Fragrances Inc. (IFF) has many smell experts on site (Ackerman 1990) who provide a sensory assessment of market niches. IFF recently completed a study of the geographic and demographic segmentation of China (IFF 2005a). Scent designers and manufacturers have already created scent kiosks combining scent and geography. For Expo 2000, a visitor information system displayed integrated scents characterizing each continent (Aerome 2005). Aerome also developed an audio-visual film presentation of environmental themes, accompanied by scents synchronized with scenes, for the United Nations. This project used scent broadcasting hardware and software linked with touch screens and PCs. Could political maps be territorially scented with the odours of official flowers? Could a spatial location analysis of poverty and dirty industries be scented? Who would stink? The economically marginalized, or the dirty industry that takes advantage of that context to locate its factory?
6.2.6 Ordering Territory
Humans order territory and space using their noses. People of the terroir and the growers of la vigne in France ‘‘have relied on olfaction not only to tell them where to plant different varietals, but also, perhaps more importantly, to build cognitive maps of these regions’’ (Press and Minta 2000, 180). The gout de terroir is the ensemble of savours, tastes, and aromas that can only belong to one grape varietal grown in one place (Press and Minta 2000, 180). The concept of terroir and the French appellation controle´e system are important because they offer a vital, living example of the critical role olfaction plays in ordering whole regions and land uses (Press and Minta 2000, 181). The Tukanoans mark their territory with smell (Classen 1993, 81), and when travelling, they continually sniff the air and remark on territorial and tribal odours (81). Odour is thus a marker of identity, territory, and intertribal relations (Classen 1993). Can boundaries and buffer zones be scented? Would these scents have to conform to the visual map’s lines?
6.2.7 Private and Public Space
Private and public spaces are olfactorily mediated. Henri Lefebvre tells us that ‘‘where an intimacy occurs between ‘subject’ and ‘Object,’ it must surely be smell and the places where they reside’’ (quoted in Rodaway 1994, 61). US public space is odourless in order to avoid susceptibility to emotions, while in Tunisia, people love to share the smell of jasmine bouquets to create small pockets of scented friendship and familiar spaces in the vast public arena (Claval 1998, 69). Robert Dulau (1998) studies the odours linked to domestic space and notes that front and back courtyards are transition zones between the public and the private where the smells of home and the broader community mix. These bounded scentscapes, he argues, connect inhabitants in a cultural, social, and habitual space where time and space are peppered with keynote scents. Dulau has also mapped what he calls the invisible scents of architecture of Tamil homes. These scents are intimate to each family, but they also represent cultural norms, habits, and rituals commonly shared among most villagers. Could affiliations that cross boundaries, unseen on a political map, be scented (e.g., the Kurds or the Naga)? Could private scents be blended to represent the unique scent of the collective?
6.2.8 Urban Planning
Urban planning is greatly influenced by olfaction, and research into air-quality sensing devices and related issues has dominated smell research in geography (Porteous 1985). Stinks, stenches, and miasmas are major issues for city governments. Citizens complain about smells, and officials attempt to measure, track, and assess their intensity while mediating the needs of both those who dislike an odour and those who create it (Hutchinson 2004). Hog farms are contentious, and engineers are training sniffers downwind to measure the severity of odours and assess how close farms can comfortably be built to residential areas (‘‘Manitoba: Engineer’’ 2004; ‘‘Hog Wild’’ 2005). Smell is also highly political, as discussed earlier with the Monterey example, and scientists employ a variety of models (e.g., dispersion and emission) to study the social welfare and health impact of scents on a community or to avoid future problems (Environmental Quality Board of Minnesota 1999). The same is true for factories and sewage treatment plants located away from dense residential areas. As discussed, planners are using electronic noses and trained sniffers/nasal rangers to collect scent data to inform urban and rural decision making (Jacobson and others 1998; Porteous 1985; Dulau and Pitte 1998). City planning committees could be enlivened with constituents broadcasting pig-farm, refinery, or factory smell-intensity maps. Alternatively, a spatial location analysis on the placement of aromatic vegetation in an urban setting could lead to a pleasant sensory urban planning.
6.3 OLFACTION IN CARTOGRAPHY
Geography is odoured. Scent as a theme is making its way into cartography, but there are only a few scented maps. A design competition produced the Twin Cities Odorama: A Smell Map of Minneodorous and Scent Paul (Figure 2). This two-sided poster map includes olfactory ‘‘experiences emanating from the intersections of people, enterprise, and physical environments’’ (Twin City Odorama Team 2003). The reader is taken on a synthetic tour where words, colours, and images evoke scents (although scents are not actually embedded in the paper map). Noxious smells have inspired earlier cartographers. Franc¸ois Emmanuel Fodere´ highlighted the social dimension of olfaction with his 1813 map of noxious smell thresholds, which contained places considered to be infectious threats, such as cemeteries, cesspools, and brothels (Corbin 1986). We can only imagine the noxiousness scale in the legend! To create Géographie des odeurs (Dulau and Pitte 1998), a group of geographers studied and visually mapped scents. Lucile Gresillon (1998), with a group of trained sniffers, mapped the odours of the historical pedestrian enclave ofSt-Séverin in France, while Dezert (1998) mapped the smells of industrial zones and Sophie Lignon-Darmaillac (1998) captured the location of the aromatic trees and plants in the ancient town of Seville in Spain. The Association Senteurs et Saveurs en Droˆme promises an olfactive experience and promotes the production of scented agriculture and the maintenance of terroir with their scented and gustatory route map (Figure 3) (Association Senteurs et Saveurs en Drome 2005). These few examples, combined with the previous geography discussion, demonstrate that it is possible to systematically use olfaction as a way to understand culture, daily ritual, social patterns, history, space, and place and to inform ways to conduct spatial location analysis or attract tourists. Invoking scents on a map is one thing; scenting maps is another matter altogether. Scented cartography is in its infancy. France Telecom, OlfaCom, le groupe SQLI, and Les Vins de Bourgogne created a fragrant interactive Web site, Balades olfactives, that provides information about the wine industry using audio narratives, music, sounds (e.g., cork popping), images, film, and smell (Figure 4). A small icon appears to indicate that a scent is available, and users require a scent diffuser to broadcast these scents in their homes. Thomson Travel Agencies in the United Kingdom, Remote Media, and Dale Air have developed the first multi-sensory travel pamphlet (Remote Media 2004). A short movie is shown in a virtual-reality headset device, synchronized with location-based scent. Users sit in a reclining chair, wear the headset, and take a sensory tour of Egypt. They can hear and see toes scrunching in the sand, smell a sea breeze, or experience a market smelling of ginger, cinnamon, and curry (Staples 2004). The virtual traveler is subjected to a poly-sensory experience of the market beyond the ‘‘tourist gaze’’ (Dann and Steen Jacobsen 2003).