The Power of Things

A characteristic of modernity has been the ubiquitous use of tools, and a characteristic of an effective modern individual is someone who can use these tools to their greatest potential. In contemporary society our homes, offices and the wider urban environment are awash with technological tools in the form of devices and gadgetry. They have been created with the prospect of making modern living easier to navigate and manage, as well as facilitating increased possibilities of communication. An interesting interpretation of these technical objects concerns not only the capabilities that they afford us but also the way that they shape our social interactions. The dichotomy that exists between humans and objects is embedded in the way in which we participate in our world. It is often seen to be a dichotomy of experience; between the experiencer and the thing experienced. The majority of our environment is composed of objects; hence most of our activities and relationships are performed through them. Mobile technology has revolutionised the way we keep in contact and the way we share information, many of us now feel the loss of an imagined limb when we lose our phone. The recent progress made in technological innovation has transported us from merely using tools and objects, to reaching a near state of immersion with them. We now form part of an ‘always on’ network, contactable 24/7, anywhere in the world (signal permitting), leading to the effective shrinking of the globe. Furthermore, mobile technology has now made us immediately accountable for our actions, if we are running late for a meeting we are expected to update our status whilst on the move. A new era of interactivity has transformed the passive consumption of media and use of technology into a very active relationship. People no longer just stare at screens; instead they are called upon to engage with the information in-front of them. There is a rich metaphysical tradition in the West to view objects not as inert but full of lively intensities. This interesting notion outlines that we possess a drive to seek alliances with objects, suggesting that there is an irresistible magnetism between things and ourselves. This leads us to think about the enchantment power of objects and our persistent attempts to both use them and ‘get to know’ them. The power of art is a good example of objects possessing the capacity to impress. It has been said that thing power works by exposing a porosity; we are susceptible to infusion with or by other ‘things’. Aside from technology, advances in biochemistry have recently revealed the multiple non-human contributions made to human behaviour. When any human acts, we never exercise exclusively human powers, but rather we express and reflect the combined powers of things within us (eg. chemicals, micro-bodies, foods, sounds). And so to delve further into the notion of the power of ‘things’ we can come to the conclusion that non-human objects may in-fact constitute our own perceived actions. This subscribes to the widely held opinion that many of us are now becoming addicted to the technology we use. Some people in the company of their friends, or at the family dinner table will check their phone every five minutes out of habit, and there is a strong belief that these kinds of behaviours are negatively impacting people’s interpersonal skills. But, on the flip-side, there is now a new agreement on social etiquette involving the technology that we use in our lives. Yes, it is an invaluable element for many of us, but it should never take centre stage above and beyond human interaction, if there are people present they both demand and deserve our attention. We can all reflect upon the items that we own and their implications upon the way we go about our daily business. The true modern individual must recognise the involvement of things by embracing the capabilities that technology has afforded us as well as realising the way it shapes our work and lives.

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