With the rapid development of technology in present day society, and the continual ease and accessibility of it; it has transformed from an initial entity of convenience as an appliance- considered focus, to an active portion of an individuals daily makeup- arguably both physically and metaphysically. As a nation, we are at a point in history where very few people have genuinely considered the new social realities created by technology and the impact of such realities for the individual and society. “They take us from an interaction that is based on the notion of technology as a tool that is separate from, and totally under the control of, the human mind to an understanding of embodied human subjectivity generated in and through an engagement with the technologies experienced in our everyday lives.” (Cranny-Francis 2013) While the original computer networks were never designed as a human communication medium, they have come to penetrate society for communication purposes in various forms- from mobile phones, to internet banking, hand-held computers to “intelligent” agents and voice-recognition at human-machine interfaces.
Metaphysical interaction between humans and technology exists via avenues such as social networking sites. Web-based virtual communities have been defined as social aggregations that emerge from the internet when people carry on public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” In this day and age with networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people are continually becoming involved in an abundant number of relationships through technology, but sometimes the quantity of these associations leaves people feeling qualitatively empty. Perhaps overcoming a sense of isolation is one of the greatest appeals of online communities and virtual worlds. The 2013 critically acclaimed Spike Jonze film ‘Her’ presents a futuristic take on modern-day relationships, following a man who falls in love with an operating system- a prime example of the metaphysical interaction that takes place between humans and technology based upon isolation and emotional dependence.
Conversely, human interaction with technology on a physical level has also come to a dependent style of relationship, particularly within avenues of medical research and the use of technology as a bodily aid e.g. prosthetics. Melbourne-based artist Stelarc experiments with the limitations and capabilities of the human body when fused with technological mediums. One of his most notable works was the ‘Ear on Arm’ project, that involved the artist getting an ear surgically inserted into his forearm that was internet enabled, making it a publicly accessible acoustical organ for people in other places.
Stelarc has explained his reasoning behind such works: “It manifests both a desire to deconstruct our evolutionary architecture and to integrate microminiaturized electronics inside the body. We have evolved soft internal organs to better operate and interact with the world. Now we can engineer additional and external organs to better function in the technological and media terrain we now inhabit.”
With future-envisioned examples such as these, one must question the future of humanity and technology and whether it is true that technology has taken over not only our physical, but metaphysical and psychological makeup. With technology continually advancing, one must consider where to draw the line, and place certain boundaries between humans and technologies to prevent this takeover from taking place.
Written by Harriet Wolstenholme
Cranny-Francis, A. 2013, Technology and Touch: The Biopolitics of Emerging Technologies, Palgrave Macmillan, Australia
Stelarc, 2014, Ear On Arm: Engineering Internet Organ, Stelarc.org, viewed 20th August 2014, http://stelarc.org/?catID=20242
Stahl, B, ed. 2007, Issues and Trends in Technology and Human Interaction, Idea Group Inc, Calgary, Canada