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  • Smell Your Destiny:Web Interaction with the Fifth Sense
  • Sonya Rapoport, (artist) (bio)

Smell Your Destiny is a fishy tale that parodies the quest for success exhibited in the 21st-century cyber-personality. This article is adapted from the author's web project, where traits formerly considered undesirable and now considered desirable for achieving success are administered to the populace by means of aromatherapy. Play-on-word medications, derived from the names of actual pharmaceuticals, are prescribed in pill form for ingestion by fish that swim in community gene pools. The pills induce curative fish fragrances that are exuded by the fish into the environment. Trait changes occur when residents breathe in the fumes, which are prescribed to accommodate current societal values. URLs and links within the work provide access to virtual smelling sites.

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Article frontispiece. Collage of elements from interactive web art project Smell Your Destiny, 1994.

© Sonya Rapoport

My interactive web art project Smell Your Destiny (Fig. 1) [1] is a parody on the ever-changing values of society and the medicinal applications in vogue for modifying personality and behavior. While we now have biomedical procedures available for designing genetic building blocks, the participants in Smell Your Destiny have the opportunity to replace their own natural personality characteristics with traits that will help them achieve success. The viewer/participant can, by "inhaling" virtual fish smells, acquire desired personality traits prescribed to help them adapt to society's changing values. Smell Your Destiny focuses on traits that at one time were considered desirable or positive, but in contemporary cyber-society are now viewed as a sign of weakness or a drawback to attaining success. Just as we presently are able scientifically to determine a defective gene, so will we be able to identify and replace a trait that inhibits our prioritized goals. Network users are aware of the desires of the populace from the options offered by smelly spam e-mail messages. In the interactive World Wide Web of advertising, selling and buying, we can evaluate a potential cyber-personality.

Smell Your Destiny is a fishy tale, a story of personality traits that are exhaled by fish that swim in community gene pools. The fish ingest floating societal aspirations by feeding on trait pills prescribed by cyber-world consensus determined by the site activity of the "Smell for Success" products. Throughout history, personality traits have manifested the societal values of the era. A means for individuals to adapt to today's values is actualized in Smell Your Destiny. I felt that fish, long considered to be brain food, are the appropriate vehicle for this transaction. The tale of Smell Your Destiny utilizes the aromatherapeutical methodology of a gulped pill and the resulting exuded fragrance. Once gulped, the pill in turn is converted into ichthyological odiferous gases [2]. When the gases are exuded into the atmosphere and inhaled by the populace, the new, desirous traits become embedded in the psyches and personalities of the community members.

Listed in the Table of Contents of Smell Your Destiny is a Stink-Key Menu that when clicked gives participants the option of replacing their "weak" personality traits with traits expedient for the achievement of success. Blatant aggressiveness and obvious competitiveness were considered negative qualities at one time, especially in women. But now these traits are considered positive, desirable tools for achieving whatever the cyber-personality aspires to—in this case, success. To what extent will the ubiquitous obsession with success shape the cyber-personality and eventually its global community on the Internet? Smell Your Destiny provides a clue to this looming question through interactive selections on the Web. What is afloat is available for viewer evaluation as participants watch other participating players make choices.

To help one navigate through the Smellway, Smell Your Destiny provides a Table of Contents consisting of the Fishtory, the Stink-Key Menu, and the EndPage, which has a Quick-fix link. The Quick-fix provides an escape from the pressure for success by linking to a gallery of paintings of recreational fishing scenes [3].

The Fishtory

The Fishtory prepares the viewer with "historical" accounts of various community responses to...


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pp. 182-186
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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