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Being Human – Week 3 #EDCMOOC

What is a human and what makes us human? – Well I’m just going to go with the biological definition and stick to “member of the race Homo Sapiens” – wikipedia has an excellent page on Human, well worth a look even if you’re not currently doubting your own existence, uniqueness or sameness to other creatures. I particularly like the description of symbolic communication and what thereby follows:

Humans are uniquely adept at utilizing systems of symbolic communication such as language and art for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization. Humans create complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups, from families and kinship networks to statesSocial interactions between humans have established an extremely wide variety of values,[9] social norms, and rituals, which together form the basis of human society. The human desire to understand and influence their environment, and explain and manipulate phenomena, has been the foundation for the development of science, philosophy, mythology, and religion. The scientific study of humans is the discipline of anthropology.

Film 1: Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert– this immidiately reminded me of the 1999 dystopian sci-fi movie The Thirteenth Floor depicting living in a “fake” computer generated world without knowing it, and breaking through to the other “real” side. A theme also explored in The Truman Show (1998) and The Matrix (1999). I never realized before that those movies were made at the same time – I wonder if there was a bit of extra fin-de-siecle dystopian angst going on just before the big Y2K 😉

Film 2: BT: heart to heart advert – British Telecoms Heart to Heart tries to advertise phone calls as more “real” than other conversations mediated by “screens”, however I’ll give them that it feels more “real” (whatever that means!) than a facebook chat – but as it’s only audio, there is plenty of missing information compared to a face-to-face conversation (Like visual clues: microexpressions, body language – it’s harder to tell on the phone if someone is lying or hiding something). So if we’re comparing conversations mediated by technology, Skype or other videoconferencing software definitely has an advantage in being closer to actual face-to-face communication. But BT might be counting on the ease and familiarity of the phone call, since that technology is much older. Aaaaaand then there’s that hint of sexual innuendo at the end (her caressing her stomach listening to his voice, being a bit breathless…) Which could be said to be playing on the lack of vision – just having a voice on the phone, means you have to imagine the rest, nudge nudge, know what I mean…
So while claiming this is the most “real” medium, it is in fact playing on the charm (?) of the confinements of the medium!

Film 3: World builder – Is displaying the same dystopian view of the digital as being inauthentic “unreal” and no matter how beautiful a world he builds for her, they can only almost connect. But not really. [Off-topic gender remark: Yet another telling of the tale: Man creates, Woman looks pretty and admires man’s creation.]

Film 4: They’re made out of meat – Another definition of humans: they’re made of meat. And also an example of the difficulty in understanding other species. If they’re not like us, we find it hard to understand or relate to them – that goes for interhuman realtions as well. We tend to get stuck on irrelevant superficial details like the color of someones skin, the language they speak or their customs. But what this movie underlines is that the medium (meat) is not the same as the content – our thoughts, communication, creativity etc. It is like defining a computer as the metals and plastic it is made from – which doesn’t tell the whole story of what it can do, where it came from or how it is used.

Published in Human Technology Learning


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