Smellwalking Practices and Influences

Porteous advocated the smellwalk as a tool for exploring the smellscape in his seminal 1985 paper citing a Lynchean model as his inspiration for how a smellwalk might manifest. The soundscape studies/acoustic ecologies field is full of useful reference and provides a theoretical reference for the practice and its provenance.

Smellwalking methodology is integral to my practice; this “reflection” traces the influences and links as I developed it over a period of six years.

The range of disciplinary homes of practitioners is broad, within the arts and humanities: urban studies, architecture, art, design, philosophy, olfactory pedagogy, sensory geography, mobile methods. Connections that I have noted here reach out to mindfulness, play and anosmia. Reading the ‘map’ The graphic takes the form of a causal link diagram, with more than a nod to Barr, depicting the trajectory of my own reflection-in-practice and external influences. Longitudinal markers across the top indicate approximate geographic location, including degrees east or west of Greenwich and 3-letter IATA codes as city references (use of lower case letters denotes an imaginary coding). Nodes have hierarchical priority over the links; black text indicates a revelation or a change in practice and grey text indicates external influences and influencing of the smellwalks. Many arrows are uni-directional, this only indicates that, as Tufte says “the idea of causality is simplistic” and is not a representation of the complexity of the relationships. Critical smellwalks in my smellscape mapping practice are indicated with a larger typeface; they occur in bursts and are followed by periods of consolidation through series of individual walks. Time is indicated on the y-axis and it can be seen that the period between mid 2014 and later 2015 was most productive in terms of the number of walks and frequency. This led to a range of smellwalks suited to specific research questions and/or the number of people involved. The colour key, located at the bottom of the ‘map’, doubles as a summary of the findings.
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Date: 2016
Media & size: Digital print, 750mm x 1200mm

2019 – Show 2019, RCA, London, UK
2019 – PhD Viva, RCA, London, UK

Downloadable Resource: The Smellfie Kit A DIY smellwalk kits for individual and educational use developed by Dr Kate McLean
Published: 2019 – The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker, pub. Ebury Press