Cathy Cruz Marrero was texting while walking in the Berkshire Mall in Reading, Pennsylvania, when she tumbled headfirst into a water fountain, getting completely drenched. Her pratfall was caught by the mall’s surveillance video and then posted on YouTube, where it has been viewed almost 2 million times.
“At such times the person’s face clearly is something that is not lodged in or on his body, but rather something that is diffusely located in the flow of events in the encounter ….” Erving Goffman, “On Face-Work,” Interaction Ritual, p. 7.
I am in a phone meeting with a Hollywood producer. He’s just completed an animation sequence with one of the world’s famous actors. Although the finished work was superb, we’re worried the actor’s animated face isn’t looking real.
“Of all the objects in the world, the human body has a peculiar status: it is not only possessed by the person who has it, it also possesses and constitutes him. Our body is quite different from all the other things we claim as our own… Although we speak of our bodies as premises that we live in, it is a special form of tenancy: our body is where we can always be contacted, but our continued presence in it is more than a radical form of being a stick-in-the-mud. Our body is not, in short, something we have, it is a large part of what we actually are .…” Jonathan Miller, The Body in Question
More people around the globe own a mobile phone than own a toothbrush. By the end of 2012 connected devices will outnumber humans on planet earth. It’s is an ideal time to ask: how do these tools change the oldest way we have always communicated—by telling stories? As an introduction to this evolving narration, here is the Preface from my recently published book The Tool That Tells the Story.
For a century we went to the movies. Now we’re going into them.
Condition One is an embeddable immersive video player that allows you to experience previously recorded video as though you are there as the video is happening. No longer content with some producer’s notion of plot and character; the notions now are all ours. With an iPad app we become a gadgeted auteur: My Life, the Rockumentary.
“I think in pictures. Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures. Language-based thinkers often find this phenomenon difficult to understand ….”
Temple Grandin, Thinking in Pictures
We are undergoing a profound revolution in how we live in the world because we are experiencing revolutionary changes in how we see the world. Google Goggles and Glasses (Project Glass) are two remarkable products that are part of a long history of informing the mind’s eye. The tools we use to see the world are never passive: they quickly become mirrors to see ourselves and expand our metalives.
“The imaginary universe is a place of astonishing richness and diversity: here are worlds created to satisfy an urgent desire for perfection, immaculate utopias such as Christianopolis or Victoria that hardly breathe; others, like Narnia or Wonderland, brought to life to find a home for magic, where the impossible does not clash with its surroundings; yet others, like Dream Kingdom, built to satisfy travellers bored with reality ….”
– Alberto Manguel, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
Now was once an unconsidered state. It was undistinguished as air, valueless as belly lint. Now was whatever you were doing at the moment, whatever was happening around you or somewhere else at a given instant. It was an adverb, not a place like Cleveland.
“That means that in the next few years (maybe much sooner), any camera that sees you will know who you are. You are your face, and your face is public. If not today, then very, very soon.” — Aaron Saenz
Your face is currently under renovation. You won’t see the change in a mirror, but looking around closely you may catch a glimpse of what’s happening. No longer merely the canvas where you express who you are, your face is now what semiotics terms a sign. What once was ‘yours’ exclusively today is “something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity.” This sign, your face, now functions as an interface—“a point of interaction between components … [in] both hardware and software.”
In Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 prescient masterpiece, Persona, a thin young boy awakens in a hospital. He pulls a single, ill-fitting sheet over him and turns restlessly, tellingly, taking up his eyeglasses to read a book. Then, by deliberate contrast, he reaches to the camera lens. Next he walks over to blurry images of the faces of an actress (Liv Ullmann) and a nurse (Bibi Andersson) and his hand traces those images as though to understand them, to see if they are as real as they seem. The faces of the two women merge as the boy reaches out, trying to comprehend what he’s seeing.
“The question of proprioception, our sense of our bodily outline, will soon emerge as the key psychological issue confronting the new generation of technologically aware people.” – Derrick de Kerckhove
From Galen’s early explorations of human anatomy to the Blakeslees’ recent survey of body maps, humans have steadily wondered where the body ends and the world begins. In our own neatly skinned consciousness capsule, we travel embodied through time and space. Pathology—witness Oliver Sacks’ patient who didn’t recognize his clothes or even his own face and sang through eating and getting dressed in order to navigate the simplest routines—can make the body a stranger. But perhaps stranger still is that now our extrasensory expeditions are taking us, as e.e. cummings framed it, somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond.