The Smell of Digital Zombies | Medea Vox

In this Medea Vox episode, scholars Simon Niedenthal and Michelle Westerlaken talk about our sense of smell. Can practicing smelling things delay dementia? Why is it so hard to use odors in video games? And what do zombies really smell like?

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Michelle Westerlaken is PhD candidate in interaction and game design. Simon Niedenthal is associate professor in interaction design. Both are doing research and teaching at Malmö University.

From the intro:

Believe it or not, but in the 1960s you could smell what was happening in a film. At least if you went to a theatre where they had Smell-O-Vision. The technology never took off and in the early 2000s, Smell-O-Vision was listed in the “Top 100 Worst Ideas of All Time”.

Our sense of smell has been – and still is – largely ignored while we enjoy different forms of media. Playing video games, for example, is considered an immersive activity that engages many of our senses. Except, what happens with our noses when we play digital games? Nothing!

In this Medea Vox episode, we discuss what digital zombies smell like, how our sense of smell compares to that of other mammals, and other questions that are researched in the academic field of digital olfaction research.

Two quotes on what Simon Niedenthal’s research project Nosewise explores:

Smell is the first sense to disappear when people start to experience dementia. We’re looking to see whether that connection goes the other way. That is, if we practice and become better at smelling things, will that have positive influence on our cognitive capabilities?

We’re also looking at children and food acceptance. Oftentimes children are unwilling to try new kinds of foods. It can become stressful around the dinner table. We’re trying to see if it’s possible to prime children to be more open to new foods by smelling different kinds of foods.

Show Notes

Featured Image: Edvard Munch’s The Smell of Death (1895) from Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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