Chemoreception is used to change the perception of the individual user and not a group. In addition, the way the chemical effects will vary from person to person. As such, it is not a very well controlled method of affecting the senses, so this adds to the ethical component that chemoreception is not a great method for the designer to provide a narrative. However, what is interesting is the sense of chemoreception will alter the perspective of the user, sometimes dramatically, depending on the substance. In this way, as a viewer it could be an excellent way to change the experience of the senses. But, it must be understood that there is not a central story or intent, as we have tried to explore with the other senses.
As stated, the designer should not explore chemoreception as a mode to provide a sense experience. However, it is a moral issue about whether to encourage or allow the individual to explore with the use of chemicals. In a liberal, free space, it would be an interesting variation that would allow a very dynamic installation. However, this is cultural, and many would other groups would not be open to such exploration. As such, the offer to allow this should be weighed.
When, how much, and what type of substance to allow in the installation is another problem, since the individual is in control of providing the sense use. Use at the wrong time, of too much, or of the wrong type can create problems with the design intent and chaos or awkward interactions can result. Can we rely on the laws of the local, state, and federal governments to proscribe the substances? Are we at fault if individuals misuse chemicals? Again, it is likely best to not partake in this sense for experiential changes. But, if the sense is used, then there should be a controlled, safe environment for the individuals to interact with the space and installation.
The use of chemoreception can affect the individual in several ways. First, the use of chemicals can alter the way the user experiences the senses. The senses will have a different reaction without a substance than with the substance. Using a chemical might heighten, deaden, or change the senses, and it is crucial that the designer keeps this in mind, unless there is a complete loss of control on the experience.
Second, the use of chemicals can alter the way the brain takes in and processes the experience. The user may not remember or remember differently the experience in a previous use. Furthermore, the brain may take the input in a novel way. This will affect the overall experience because it will change the information to be acted upon.
Next, the chemicals can change the way the brain interprets and uses the input. The brain affected by chemicals will create different results from the input than a brain that is without the substance. In this way, the chemical can change the output vastly, and the user may or may not be in control of how the experience is analyzed and evaluated.
Finally, the use of substances can alter the way the body is able to act upon the output from the brain’s analysis and interpretation. The body might under- or over-react to the ideas and notions the brain produces, and the results could be extremely different than a body’s reaction without the use of chemicals. In this way, there are four ways the use of chemicals can affect the way we experience a space or installation.
The use of chemoreception is not a strong solution for a designer and the designer’s intent, however it is extremely strong for the individual to have an altered understanding of reality. In fact, it is possible to not even require a design for the individual to have a new experience, and arguably, it would be better to not have a design.
If the user is looking for a new experience and would like control or actual lack of control of the sensory understanding, then chemoreception is a fine way to use the senses. However, care in which substances, when to use, and how much to use is crucial for a good experience.
What other senses are like this? Nociception, hunger, and thirst are somewhat similar in that they cannot be experienced the same way by others. In addition, the experience of the senses is extremely personal and can only be understood by others through the use of similar chemicals, though the interaction will really be different.