We shape our tools

and thereafter our tools shape us.” 

From the beginning of the research, it was not clear to me how the interaction with technology is changing our environments. Is it actually enhancing our human interactions and fulfilling our ultimate aspirations or is it creating mere representations of such interactions and actually isolating us from real interactions and experiences? Is this technologic revolution an evolutionary step or can we actually be walking backwards in our cognitive and emotional development?

The reality is that most technologies are a double-edged sword. The smartphone is no exception. It can increment productivity, as well as diminish it. It can be used to communicate more and better, as well as misinform. It can help us share moments from our lives with friends, and occasionally over-share.

To better understand this, I’ve decided to focus on smartphones and grassroots urban communities as two examples of human-technology interaction. By linking human-smartphones system (culture) and human-food system (nature) my aim was to provide critical insights and contrasting information in an attempt to create awareness, instigate discussion and ultimately provoke a reflection about ‘us’ and our environment.

I analyzed my research using multimodal analysis, more specifically by applying visual and abstract modality concepts - i.e. by comparing images that illustrate similar events in a different context.

A multimodal analysis is about expressing and constructing meaning out of social and historical representations within a particular context.

When we analyze the data collected, we notice a difference in the social behaviour between a low technologic environment (urban communities), and a high technologic environment (smartphones).

It’s reasonable to say that there is a stronger social interaction in the low technologic environment than in the high technologic environment. Also is noticeable the difference of ‘mood’ and atmosphere in both environments, having the urban communities (low tech/strong social interaction) a much more positive output; people chatting, laughing, smiling, hugging each other, relaxed postures, etc… Another detail that seems unnoticed is the importance of eye contact to develop social interactions, which is almost inexistent while using a smartphone. Eye contact is, in face-to-face interaction, a very strong aspect of communication interaction.

I believe that the way we are mediating our social interactions through technology is diminishing our human experience. As Debord proposes, the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.”

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