1a. A Sensory Future: Human Technology Interactions

In order to reframe our relationship with technology, designers have aimed to rethink the possibilities of information quality and how they become perceived once the senses become activated. In recent times, the responsiveness to the field of cognitive science and virtual reality studies has brought to attention the importance of these delicate haptic senses to the forefront of technology. This shared tangibility between human beings and their surroundings, as Kenya Hara states in his essay ‘Beyond Modernism’, is based on how humans ‘appreciate and cherish our communication with the world via our diverse sensory organs.’

In accordance with this view, the interrelated disciplines of design, technology and science are thus bound together on the same course. It is perhaps important to acknowledge this shift in the role of communications and design as mediators between the physical and the sensory (Stein 2015). Rather than solely relying on the power of a single ideal, it has become more essential to have design ‘permeate the five senses’ (Hara 2007). This concept shares seamless design qualities, whereby an abstract yet concrete state becomes active before its presence has been noticed and deconstructed (Kasunic 2015).

So when such technologies and information are speculated and imagined creatively, science fiction is able to­ present situations depicting the possible degrees of human interaction with technology, or even the lack thereof. ‘Be Right Back,’ from Charlie Broker’s dystopian satire Black Mirror, explores the impact of how new emerging technologies can invade and corrupt an intimate and domestic space. The plot concerns a grief-stricken widow, Martha, who struggles to reconnect with her deceased husband through a cloud-based service that attempts to recreate him using his social media history, even to the unsettling idea of tangibly transmuting into a full-body replicant. Not far from Spike Jonze’s emotionally fragile protagonist in Her, technology allows alleviation from immediate grief, however it similarly facilitates an entrapment to an ashen imitation of the past, making glaringly obvious technology’s failures in bridging the gap between intimacy and understanding.

 "Be Right Back" (2013) Black Mirror - Charlie Broker

More profoundly however, it exposes societies’ conservative attitudes that underlie both our relationship with and expectations of technology as well as our worst fears about its excesses. In contrary to previous generations, who were afraid of nuclear annihilation in the search for clean energy, or agricultural extinction as a result of malaria eradication, anxiety surrounding social stagnation now exists as a consequence of the apparent benevolence existing around current technologies. Fear is constantly present, in and of our being constrained to the ‘golden-ageist vision of the past’ and allowing it to ‘dominate our future’ (Swain 2013). Thus as individual’s within society, it is essential to release ourselves from the dissipations of the past, or perhaps including the past itself. Embrace and recognise the dynamism of the present, and indeed the future. As the world constantly shifts, an effort to unduly preserve it is irrational, as if to combat death with conserving the memories of the departed.


Be Right Back 2013, television program, Black Mirror, Channel 4, United Kingdom, 11 February.

Hara, K., 2007, ‘Beyond modernism,’ Designing Design, trans. Hohle, M. K. and Naito, Y., Lars Müller, Baden.

Her 2013, motion picture, Warner Brothers, California.

Kasunic, J., 2015, ‘Data, data, everywhere!,’ UTS Subject 85502, Lecture, UTS, Sydney, viewed 21 August 2015.

Stein, J. A., 2015, ‘Hybrid by nature: social and persuasive technologies,’ UTS Subject 85502, Lecture, UTS, Sydney, viewed 28 August 2015.

Swain, D. M., 2013, ‘What Black Mirror Episode Be Right Back Says About Us and Technology,’ Huffington Post, 12 February, viewed 7 August 2015, < http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/daniel-m-swain/what-be-right-back-says-about-us-_b_2665568.html >.

Related Readings

Kurzweil, R., 2006, ‘Reinventing humanity: the future of human-machine intelligence,’ The Futurist, 3 Februrary, viewed 7 August 2015, < http://www.kurzweilai.net/reinventing-humanity-the-future-of-human-machine-intelligence >.

Ahizzar, E., 2012, ‘Learning a new sense,’ Weizmann Institute of Science, 5 November, viewed 7 August 2015, < http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/learning-a-new-sense#.ULV4QYa2Cdk >.


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