“Breaking some of the illusions we have of ourselves can help us as a society.”
Why connect computers to the Rest of You?
In short, it can be used to identify, give context to and serve as a jumping off point for possible solutions to problems. It can provide insight to issues not usually given much attention or it can be used as leverage and create new ways to explore old problems. The rest of the post I explain my thoughts through “thesis glasses” as I am using ROY to explore ideas pertaining to my thesis.
The Problem: We suck at communicating (and it’s only getting worse)
In the last 20 years, with the advent of personal computers and smart phones our eyes are spent mostly gazing at screens- not at each other. In a relatively short amount of time, we have become increasingly inexperienced and unpracticed at the skill of nonverbal communication. Essentially we are bad at it. The average adult spends 8.5 hours staring at a screen. This leaves little time to engage in face to face communication and to exercise our nonverbal communication muscles. Our typical mode of communication now is mostly passive, mediated through screens- computers, cellphones and tablets.
Context: Screens are undoing 200,000 years of evolution
“Modern” humans as we know it are around 200,000 years old and although verbal communication is superior for conveying detail and analysis, nonverbal communication is the primary way we convey emotion and is the foundation upon which we build our interpersonal relationships. Nonverbal communication is a multi-channeled form; in essence there are many small cues of nonverbal communication that make up the whole of the message we send out.
One of the most noted forms is oculsesics, the study of the messages sent by the eye. It is nuanced and slight, registered by eye contact, gaze, pupil dilation, conjugate lateral eye movements and blinks. To others, it gives strong and authentic cues to another’s personality, true emotions and intent. It is a crucial communication channel in close relationships and in some cases perceptions of intimacy were a function of increased eye contact.
To communicate mostly through screens is to create a situation where the complex messages of communication (verbal and nonverbal) are largely filtered and reduced into simplfied signifiers (i.e. haha, omfg, , lol). These signifiers are reductive and ambiguous leaving us confused, anxious and unsure. No wonder we take solace in curating and consuming- it’s a clear, one way relationship that doesn’t leave us feeling like a mixed bag of taxed emotions.
Solution: Create an intervention
With the problem identified, the intent of my thesis is not to judge, berate or guilt others in a process that I find myself an often a complicit and willing participant in. It is also not a pie in the sky, fix the world solution. Instead, my goal is to identify a problem, give context to it and provide a solution- albeit a temporary one. It is a designed experience that uses playful procedures (inspired by Sureralist parlor games) to challenge and be a counterpoint the conventions of our typical modes of communication- one that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar with direct intimacy.