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Me, Myscent: the scent of an algorithm

The digital traces we leave behind on the web become olfactory in the collaboration between Maison Tonatto and Alan Advantage

To each his own perfume. Based on essences never tested before: character, emotions, desires. Essences first captured then blended following the “digital traces” that each of us leaves every day in our messages on social media, Google searches, online reading, shared stories. Blended by an algorithm into a recipe that has no precedent. The algorithm learns, studies, analyses, mixes.

A skilful investigator, it assigns a scent to each trace. The perfumer’s nose creates the final magic in a fragrance that reflects every individual’s unique and incomparable identity: “Me, Myscent”. The algorithm in question is the outcome of the encounter and collaboration between Diletta Tonatto – artistic director and CEO of the historic Maison Tonatto Profumi and a graduate in the sociology of smell from University College Cork in Ireland – and the experts at the tech consultancy firm Alan Advantage, with offices in Rome and Boston.

«Every time we use a smartphone or go online we reveal something about ourselves – explains Tonatto. The quantity of data that is created and stored at the global level is huge. But what does it mean for companies and organizations? and for people individually? How can we use the raw information that moves across the web every day? Thanks to the algorithm, the digital trace is transformed into an olfactory trace».

The algorithm processes five major characteristics and seven secondary values: «By analysing results and values and cross-referencing them, you can associate a precise essence to each personality trait, explains Tonatto. The various notes of fragrance, mixed in percentages calculated by the algorithm, create a unique scent. This is the first perfume extracted from big data and digital data.».

The first “Me, Myscent” was created for artist Michele Tiberio: it was the result of a year-long work effort in which photos, private messages, likes, pages visited, Instagram and Facebook profiles were analysed to achieve the final result. To celebrate the debut, Diletta Tonatto’s perfume was in turn reinterpreted in a ” perfume-book ” sculpture by Michele Tiberio in the exhibition at Re: Humanism Art Prize, the collective exhibition dedicated to the relationship between art and artificial intelligence, on display through May 11th at the AlbumArte space in Rome.

The senses don’t forget their history, at least smell doesn’t

«A provocative exercise to reclaim one’s identity», this is the message of the “work”, which inevitably raises serious issues: what is the boundary between public and private? How can we recognize ourselves in our digital identity? And in its scent?

«In perfume, Michele’s introversion is associated with oriental and synthetic notes, his dandy and hedonistic side corresponds to a harmony of tobacco, vetiver and whisky, while his feminine side is expressed in jasmine. A fragrance that is sometimes modern and sometimes ancestral», explains Tonatto. The result is a scent that is floral, spicy, green and antique all at the same time. « We are inevitably also the past, not just subjectively, but generationally as well».


translation by Olga Barmine

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