All the Reasons to Map a City's Smells
Next week, artist Kate McLean will lead "smellwalks" through London, inviting participants to guess at mysterious scents and sniff strangers (with their consent.)
McLean is an artist, but her work is part of a data science project that could have implications for real estate and virtual reality tech. At GoodCityLife.org, researchers track keywords on social media to create digital "smellscapes"—color-coded maps marked red for emissions, green for nature, and so on.
And, if home values reflect "the positivity of the environment," smell-mapping could even affect real estate. One researcher hopes to work with cities on "interventions" in places with low-scoring smells, especially if those odors correspond to potential health risks. In part for that reason, the project measures a place's smell against people's perceptions of it, ranking places' "Likeability". For instance:
The Bayshore Freeway in San Francisco, for example, predominantly smells of emissions, according to the data … The emotion most commonly affiliated with the freeway is "sadness."