Neoteny is an exploration of the cross sensory relationship between body posture, movement and the environmental context using bio-sensing.
In this project I aim to create a wearable that would raise awareness of our mind and body, which looks at design as a tool to question the ownership we have of our body.
Our emotions, body postures and movements strongly tie together. That’s something that we can’t hide but at the same time we often ignore it.
I am very interested in exploring a new language for our mind to re-learn to understand our body again.
Odours have the hidden influence on our behaviour and subconscious as smell is a process through which we directly interact with the environment. They play a very subtle role in communicating information about the environment to us (Herz and Engen 1996). The olfactory system is known to evoke immediate emotional responses as it has direct connections to the limbic system without being gated through the thalamus. (Gottfried 2010). Furthermore, emotional judgements are highly dependent on individuals’ personal learning history (Ayabe-Kanamura et al. 1998).
This experimental wearable device is designed with the aim to establish new associations with muscle memory as a new training paradigm for the body. This piece is designed to be worn around the neck with the intention to produce personalised scent bubbles surrounding oneself, and a set of muscle sensors that attach onto shoulder (deltoids) and thigh (quadriceps).
It is designed to be portable and comfortable so that the user could wear the device and move around their everyday environment. The aim is to make the wearer think about how wearable for the body may alter perceptions of our body through day to day activities and retrain our mind to listen to our body again.
I wore it myself for a period of time while working on my desk to understand the effect it has on my body and how I react to it after the wearable was removed.
This project starts out as an experiment to question the effect of the wearable on myself and how much it has affected my daily movements and postures. Six different scents were used in the wearable (essential oils that help with concentration levels: Ylang Ylang, Grapefruit, Lemongrass, Blood Orange, Tea Tree, Spearmint). Each was associated with different muscle tension levels.
I was more aware of my own body postures and movements but at the same time being indirectly ‘forced’ by the wearable to learn the language of smell. Which then raised this question whether the device is in control or am I?
Every body is unique and everyone has their individual identities and therefore I am envisioning this to be a new statement accessories, a personalised wearable device for individuals.
For further development of the project, I’d like to extract smells from Chinese medicine that has effects on our muscle tensions and therefore create new smells and associate them respectively onto different muscle tension levels and run the experiment again. Furthermore, I’d like to introduce more blending options and explore smaller mechanism in the upcoming iteration.
As it was discussed throughout this post, the idea of Neoteny has suggested a few possibilities in future on how it might alter our perceptions. A series of speculative narrative on a future of how neoteny could form a symbiotic relationship with the user’s body will be explored.
Ayabe-Kanamura, S., Schicker, I., Laska, M., Hudson, R., Distel, H., Kobayakawa, T. and Saito, S. (1998). Differences in Perception of Everyday Odors: a Japanese-German Cross-cultural Study. Chemical Senses, 23(1), pp.31-38.
Gottfried, J. (2010). Central mechanisms of odour object perception. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11(9), pp.628-641.
Herz, R., Schankler, C. and Beland, S. (2004). Olfaction, Emotion and Associative Learning: Effects on Motivated Behavior. Motivation and Emotion, 28(4), pp.363-383.
Kastner, A., Flohr, E., Pauli, P. and Wieser, M. (2015). A Scent of Anxiety: Olfactory Context Conditioning and its Influence on Social Cues. Chemical Senses, p.bjv067