Leanne Wijnsma (NL)

Smell of data

The sense of smell helped early humans to survive. But now that our hunting and gathering has moved to the digital environment, our noses can no longer warn us of the lurking dangers in the online wilderness. Smell of Data is a new scent created to instinctively alert internet users of data leaks on personal devices. The inspiration for this work is strongly guided by the development of the smell of gas: gas is a dangerous substance without a smell. Just as data has no smell. As recent privacy violation incidents show, data leaks can have serious consequences. That is why Wijnsma developed Smell of Data to warn Internet users of data leaks. She chose to use smell, because it’s directly hardwired to the brain and can call up action almost instantaneously.

Leanne Wijnsma is one of the three winners of the STRP Award for Creative Technology (ACT), a new European prize that encourages the merging of innovative powers. The jury sees Smell of Data as “a wonderfully layered and many-facetted project that brings together the digital and the sensorial in a surprising and meaningful way”.

Director Froukje Tan made a documentary about The Smell Of Data, which is premiering at STRP Biënnale 2017.