“We look to technology for ways to be in a relationship and protect ourselves from them at the same time”

–Sherry Turkel, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

As I reflect on this statement, I consider how technology disconnects people. Physical barriers or distance prevent components of interaction, usually observed through multiple senses such as a smile, a nervous tapping, and vocal tone or cadence. Through texting these visual or audio cues are left to be deciphered otherwise or completely edited out. Using texting we can carefully construct what we say. Communicating face to face on the other hand presents a level of vulnerability. I question how this vulnerability improves our ability to empathize with our conversational partners. With the intervention of current technology, have we come to expect less from communicating with others?

The series Devices for a First Date was made with this question in mind. Each device in this series acts as a barrier between people who are attempting to get to know each other better through subtle physical contact, or other sensory experiences such as noticing someone’s odor. These objects fill the spaces in-between, exposing our vulnerabilities as they protect us from one another. This series is a metaphor for current trends in communication, and exacerbate common communication mediators such as phones computers and or tablets that utilize social media and texting for communication. The absurd nature of the work in this series asks viewers to consider how interactions such as these might become what we expect, even desire.

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