Rhetorics of Scent

Typically, the running I do is either on a treadmill at the gym, or during my indoor soccer class. I'm not too fond of running outdoors, but yesterday I ran the perimeter of the UTEP campus, as it was a Sunday and the gym was closed. As I trotted by the Village Inn on Mesa St., the smell of fry-grease and grilled food instantaneously brought me back 20 years to my very first job at the Hayward Fishery restaurant in Dublin, California. As a busboy, I would leave work literally drenched in that very smell...It's well known that there's a profound link between scent and memory, and as I continued making my way back to the office, I thought about scent as a persuasive component of potential communication events. I'm certain this is something that's already been studied from the perspective of marketing, for example, where a controlled environment like Bath and Body Works relies upon a variety of scents to entice customers. Just today, the Mental Floss Blog contained a post called "What's that New-Mac Smell." But I'm wondering whether this is something that people in Rhetoric have taken up in any significant way?

It's a curiosity to me--not something I see as a potential research area necessarily. Given our field's focus on the breadth of rhetorics--from the linguistic, to the visual, spatial, and aural--why not study specific rhetorical events where drawing upon one's sense of smell is a component of effective communication?

Moreover, as I ran I thought about everyware and ubiquitous computing, and the rapidly approaching capabilities for scent-based rhetorics, especially via embedded and mobile devices (what I'm thinking about here is the wifi/Bluetooth recognition of a given mobile device when a person enters a room, and a commensurate response by embedded devices in that room that release scents pleasing to said person). For scholars in rhetoric who have studied memory extensively (I'm certainly no expert in this area), this seems like a natural intersection. How will we arrange and deliver scent-based rhetorics to communicate effectively?


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