The Art of Digital Scent - People, Space and Time

  • Mei-Kei Lai Design Programme, School of Arts, Macao Polytechnic Institute, Macao
Keywords: Olfactory Art, Digital Olfaction, Olfactory Interface, Digital Art, Interactive Olfactory Art, Experience Design, Aesthetic, Scent, Odor.


The sense of smell is closely related with people across time and space. The aesthetic, affective and evocative aspects of smell are widely portrayed in art practices. Olfactory art has its unique expression that other modalities hardly have. Yet this aesthetic medium seems to be underestimated when it comes to the digital age. Current digital olfaction researches mainly focus on meeting tasks and solving problems. The aesthetic experience and the meaning behind are seldom discussed. This paper proposes a potential area where the people from digital art and digital olfaction can contribute together. This paper firstly gives an overview about the affective and evocative impacts of scent on people across time and space, reviewing how scent is treated as the aesthetic medium in the art form, then examining current usages of olfactory display, and lastly discussing the opportunities lying ahead. It provides the way to appreciate the world aesthetically through this affective and evocative medium.  

Author Biography

Mei-Kei Lai, Design Programme, School of Arts, Macao Polytechnic Institute, Macao
Mei-Kei Lai is a lecturer and Assistant Programme Coordinator of the Design Programme in the School of Arts at Macao Polytechnic Institute. She received her doctoral degree in Media Design from Keio University in Japan, and a postgraduate degree in Design for Interactive Media at Middlesex University in the United Kingdom. With a background in technology and design, her research interests concern olfactory interaction with digital art. Her works focus on exploring the possibilities of using smell as a medium to design playful user experience. The experiments include taking smell into the areas of gameplay, exhibition display and family bonding. Her works have been presented in the exhibitions and the conferences in Europe and Asia, such as HCI, SIGDOC, ISEA, Digital Olfaction Society World Congress and Microwave International New Media Arts Festival. She has also held Scent of Art workshop in Hong Kong and Singapore.


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