Smelly Maps: The Digital Life of Urban Smellscapes


  • Daniele Quercia University of Cambridge
  • Rossano Schifanella University of Turin
  • Luca Maria Aiello Yahoo Labs
  • Kate McLean Royal College of Art & CCCU



smellscape, smell, urban, maps, perceptions, Flickr, Twitter, Foursquare


Smell has a huge influence over how we perceive places. Despite its importance, smell has been crucially overlooked by urban planners and scientists alike, not least because it is difficult to record and analyze at scale. One of the authors of this paper has ventured out in the urban world and conducted ``smellwalks'' in a variety of cities: participants were exposed to a range of different smellscapes and asked to record their experiences. As a result, smell-related words have been collected and classified, creating the first dictionary for urban smell. Here we explore the possibility of using social media data to reliably map the smells of entire cities. To this end, for both Barcelona and London, we collect geo-referenced picture tags from Flickr and Instagram, and geo-referenced tweets from Twitter. We match those tags and tweets with the words in the smell dictionary. We find that smell-related words are best classified in ten categories. We also find that specific categories (e.g., industry, transport, cleaning) correlate with governmental air quality indicators, adding validity to our study.




How to Cite

Quercia, D., Schifanella, R., Aiello, L. M., & McLean, K. (2021). Smelly Maps: The Digital Life of Urban Smellscapes. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 9(1), 327-336.