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What it means to be human
by Michael Colton| Chicago, USA
Monday, 24 January 2011
tags: americas, art & design, categories, making sense, semiotics, technology
Ours is a culture in crisis where we’re struggling to figure out what it means to be human. We are deeply fixated in the virtual world and enviously in chase of the latest technology. At the same time we are experiencing an anxiety over the liquidation of self in a fluid, constantly innovating world.
Once we have logged and given away our noteworthy moments on Facebook and Twitter, we cease to retain them as a testament to our own heritage. As we prove our progress we appear just as much in need of a way to define ourselves in reverse— away from the oppressive filtration of ourselves into digitized experiences that can be uploaded and streamed instantly across time and space.
The proof of this conflict has been confirmed by the popularization of two opposing types of codes. On the one hand, there are those symbols that demonstrate our ideals about advancement into the promising future. Tech logos, for example, are as slippery and fluid in line quality and shape as our transient, efficient lives — void of details or adornments which might refer specifically to time period or place. As reassuring as they are of our relevance, we are equally comforted by signifiers of uninhibited, amateurish self-expression. They are awkwardly analog, irregular and imperfect in line quality and shape. The two stills from Microsoft's TV spots "People Ready" illustrate this well. This humble, bumbling style has emerged in an effort to monumentalize our real selves …free to live outside, mainstream expectations and the compulsion to move ahead feverishly.
Interestingly, these signifers frequently appear in advertisement for these same tech companies. Perhaps that have become the latest and most important trust marks of authenticity and heritage—the company’s silent promise that our humanity will not be lost in the adoption of the innovative product they’re offering.
© Michael Colton 2011