What is ScentTrail?
If the fundamental condition of our times is dislocation then scenttrail is the art of finding a path. Think of the junkiest junk yard or the most dense woods and look for the path. There is always a path. In there somewhere is a way home.
Scenttrail is more than seeing paths that seem hidden, it is act of cobbling a path from what appears as disparate pieces. See and take the second step even as that step's logic emerges. This is "guided navigation". Those that have come before prepare maps for the journey. This is search engine logic and it drives our lives. Once the turn-of-the-century Detroit factories created American context. Now search engine algorithms rule our fractured and quickly reconstructed journeys. ScentTrail is the infinite branching alternatives we take for granted. When moving from Google to any other site we look for signs that point back to our action (the click) and forward to new experience. Rapidly we evaluate where we land for scenttrail.
If the concept reminds you of dogs you are right. Dogs use smell as we now use visual alphabet and pattern recognition. Our "tree markings" come from paths we wear into dense interactive forests. In those woods are grails, the prizes we seek. Yes I just moved my working definition of scenttrail from dogs pissing on trees to man's quest for meaning. Stay with me. Everything is a quest and all quests are marked by dislocation and relocation. I hate words that end in "tion" because they seem complicated. It is easier to think of this idea as gain and loss. Quests are life's purpose and gain and loss form the language of quests.
Shepard Fairey's Quest
This brings me to one of my favorite artists - RISD graduate Shepard Fairey. Shepard created one of the greatest scenttrail stories of our time with his posters of Andre The Giant. Fairey's subversive planting of "Obey Giant" posters around communities such as Chapel Hill, North Carolina (where I used to live) years ago created scenttrail in that community and out to the giant's message. Location and community created by Fairey's guerrilla action become replaced by dislocation as community members search for meaning (i.e. they go on quests). This quest (or search) knits searchers together forming a new community (think Google) that is seen, like Mayan ruins, from the reputation and value of past residents. Like leaping off a moving train, we click off search engines to lose community again. We dislocate ourselves.
We throw ourselves down a hill. Scrambling to our feet we seek scenttrail. We ask questions. Am I where I expected to be? Should I stay or should I go? I quote The Clash on purpose. The Clash understand quests and language of gain and loss. Scenttrail is a confirming judgement. I am here and this is where I am supposed to be. When a landing page provides scenttrail I join this new quest and community. Think of this moment as "gain". One thing we know is gain will be followed by loss. While this dynamic has always been true, our ability to fool ourselves into some other reality used to last longer. Everything is compressed and sped up now. Even if the world was not dislocating naturally we've been trained to look for movement. We jerk from gain to loss and back again. Snap, snap, snap as we travel the world lost and found many times.
Scenttrail then is the art, and it is an art, of knitting gain and loss into meaningful and rewarding quests. Scenttrail is connection and glue holding disparate pieces together. Things that seem separate and apart become consistent, referential and related thanks to scenttrail. Fairey connects Andre to your life (gain). You search for Fairey's story using Andre as scenttrail (loss). You purchase an Obey Giant poster (there are three in my den), gain. Guests to your home ask you about your posters. Your guests now search using Giant as scenttrail (loss). You share Fairey's story creating a new mini-community (gain). Snap you form community. Snap you lose community moving to a quest. You jump off the train again. Snap you create new community. Scenttrail is this hidden purposeful navigation, the ultimate "guided navigation". Hope you find your scenttrail soon.
Shepard Fairey's Site is located at ObeyGiant.com
ScentTrail 2 defines the ScentTrail three-legged-stool.
Read more ScentTrails at ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
What is ScentTrail?