The newest MoMA exhibit, ‘Talk to Me’ is a reflection of the ways in which technology will and already has shaped the 21st century. Exhibit curator, Paola Antonelli writes, ‘Talk to Me explores this new terrain, featuring a variety of designs that enhance communicative possibilities and embody a new balance between technology and people.’ (Talk to Me)
The objects and interactive displays fully capitulate the sort of interaction that this generation has come to expect in all aspects of our lives. Thus far, 21st-century culture is centered on interaction: ‘I communicate, therefore I am’ is the defining affirmation of contemporary existence.’ (Talk to Me) A prime example was the ways in which the audience was encouraged to interact with the exhibit. By simply pulling out my smartphone to read a QR code, I went from simply staring at exhibit pieces and reading insufficient captions, to exploring videos about the origins of those pieces and discovering how the many parts of the exhibit are interconnected. Being a Millennial, it was second nature to upload the links from the QR codes to my Facebook page and embed them in emails to friends.
Most of the exhibit pieces give a taste of the brilliant ways that we are designing technology to complement and improve daily living (Personal Health Assistant), but there is also the eerie underlying prospect that we will come to rely on these technologies to supplement human interaction (Devices for Mindless Communication). A recent study of cellphone use by TeleNav reveals that there is in fact a trend of developing human-like ties to smartphones, with 33% of the people polled willing to give up sex for a week instead of giving up their smartphones. While it is somewhat comforting that only 22% would give up brushing their teeth for a week, these results give insight into the puzzling relationships that people build with personal technology. Part of the reasoning may be that smartphones provide a life line to the rest of the world, allowing us to talk, text, play, interact, or look up information anywhere and anytime. Removing someone’s smartphone is like throwing them back into the Dark Ages.
Putting aside the excitement and reservations associated with the growing presence of technology, people have found so many creative ways of using technology to re-envision how we interact with the world, which is the primary purpose of the exhibit. In the everyday hustle-and-bustle of life, it is easy to forget how we impact one another and our surroundings, but the occasional reminders of these encounters can be refreshing (Hi, A Real Human Interface), enlightening (They Rule), sobering (Exit), or just plain delightful (Hand from Above).
Contributed by Ola Canty.