Wednesday, March 24, 2010

S03 - blog post #7

Upon seeing Kelly Dobson’s work today in class, I had to wonder to what extent her work is really meant to be used and to what extent it exists simply to call into question traditional assumptions about human/machine relations. This question was most obvious to me in the context of her Scream Body. When she described it, she mentioned how screaming is not construed as socially acceptable in many situations, so the Scream Body helps to circumvent societal norms and allow one to scream any time, any place. Looking at the clunky bag that comprised the Scream Body, though, I can’t help but be skeptical. Is it really going to draw fewer stares if you are wearing a huge bag on your chest all day and periodically putting your mouth up to it as opposed to screaming in public? I would feel more socially uncomfortable wearing the Scream Body all day than simply screaming when I am in a secluded enough location.

In addition, other works of hers seemed to complicate, rather than simplify, the action that they carried out. Blendie, for example, requires much more human exertion than a traditional blender. While it may be true that a Blendie user will feel more in sync with his machine, I must ask at what cost. Technology serves to facilitate all of the various processes that would take too long for a human to complete without them (or which can simply be completed more quickly using the technology). I could walk to the library and look up information in print form, but Google has made it more efficient to find the same information from my room. I personally don’t feel the need to become attuned to the various machines that I use throughout my day. Rather than the gap between RL and VR in which meaning is made, the gap between human and machine seems less about meaning and more about convenience. While exploring this gap may be the goal of a program like Second Life, there is no equivalent program that has the explicit purpose of looking at the gap between human and machine; the gap in Second Life allows users to project versions of themselves and explore their identities, while the gap between me and a blender doesn’t serve any exploratory purpose in my life.

I did find it interesting to consider the question of temporality in terms of her work, though. For example, the Omo (the breathing machine) grows steadily more in sync with a certain person as it spends more time with that person. If new media is supposed to make us in some way crave the ever-permanent present, though, why would an object with such a clearly temporal structure be desirable? Shouldn’t we want something more automatically in sync with us, something that immediately becomes a part of our present rather than taking time to adjust to it?

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