WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

We spend a LOT of time looking at screens these days. Televisions, smart phones, tablets, laptops, monitors, desktop computers, and other electronic stuff I'm sure I'm forgetting have become so ubiquitous that the human experience is starting to move towards sitting, stooped over, and passively absorbing information rather than, y'know, running or swimming or talking to people. Kyle McDonald's been thinking about that fact a lot, so he set up an art project on the subject over at People Staring at Computers. Here's a video about it with the most annoying music I've ever encountered on the internet:

 

Kyle went to the Apple store and rigged up the display devices to periodically snap a photo with their webcams, capturing whoever happened to be staring at the screen at that moment, then display said picture on the monitor so that person could see what they look like as they gaze, hypnotized, into the screen. It's the sort of thing that would be a mildly-amusing prank, if it weren't for the horribly depressing results.

Screen shot 2011-07-13 at 10.22.50 AM
"This is where the mugshots happen, right?"


What becomes all-too-readily apparent is that almost no one in these photos seems happy. Granted, they're staring at floor model computers while contemplating a major purchase or possibly just wasting time while their spouse finishes some shopping or something, but no one really seems to be enjoying themselves. Yes, it's not fair to judge them in this split-second where they've unwittingly had a photo taken. They had no time to prepare themselves, and it's not like they were engaged in a conversation, but it's easy to lose sight of how you look; not so much "how you look" as in, "oh crap, I can't believe my hair looks that stupid," but more along the lines of "how you look" as in "if I encountered you on the street looking like that, I would cross the street." Think I'm exaggerating? Go back to the video: the woman at 1:40 can't even bear to look at her own face when it pops up. 
 

Screen shot 2011-07-13 at 10.22.56 AM
"Excuse me, do you have the ti- Uh, nevermind."

Obviously we can't look at these people and say they're sociopaths just because they weren't smiling at the time, but we're social animals: we've developed incredible pattern recognition skills to recognize the most minute cues in our fellow manimals so we can know at all times just how they're feeling and where we stand in our social circle. Which is why most of us can at least plaster on a fake smile to get through the day, or scowl menacingly if we don't want to be bothered. 

Screen shot 2011-07-13 at 10.22.21 AM
No idea why people don't just strike up conversations with strangers any more.


So what's the big deal? It's just an interesting thing to keep in mind about all the things technology does. It's not just a panacea that gives and gives and only makes things easier and better. At some point you have to stop, look around at your fellow humans stooped over and scowling at little screens, filling spreadsheets or flinging birds at pigs, and realize this is not exactly living life to the fullest. Maybe you should take a walk or something. 

Screen shot 2011-07-13 at 10.21.51 AM
"Right after I finish inviting my 800 closest friends to Google+."


And Kyle McDonald makes a good point as well: this is what our machines see every time we interact with them. It doesn't matter so much right now, but it's possible that in my lifetime we'll see thinking, sentient computers that could rival the human brain in computational power and information storage. Do you think they're going to want to keep doing all our work if every time they look up they see your furrowed, disapproving glare? 

Screen shot 2011-07-13 at 10.33.04 AM
Our thoughts exactly, man-or-possibly-woman in the background.

 

Am I blowing the whole thing out of proportion? Is technology doing more harm than good? Let me know in the comments. Bonus points if you post a picture from your own webcam of what you look like while staring at your computer screen!

axphw1


quality posts: 12 Private Messages axphw1

It's because they're using Macs.

taternuggets


quality posts: 22 Private Messages taternuggets

Sums up my reasoning for never wanting to get a Kinect for my xbox.... because then it could see me.


Nothing follows.

carl669


quality posts: 27 Private Messages carl669

IFY - Kyle got a visit from the Secret Service:

http://hackaday.com/2011/07/08/g-mean-pay-kyle-mcdonald-a-visit/



Wife: Do you really need all this junk?
Me: At least I don't ask you if it makes me look fat.
--------------------------------------

zollars23


quality posts: 15 Private Messages zollars23

So, he went to all this trouble in the name of "art"? It's not art!

It's just chat roulette, but with fewer penises.

(V) (;,,;) (V) <---Zoidberg

{img]https://d3gqasl9vmjfd8.cloudfront.net/712b9375-5487-4897-baf4-2212baf8dbca.png[/img]

stellans


quality posts: 0 Private Messages stellans

Well, I thought it was interesting and no, I don't think you are particularly blowing it out of proportion so much as wasting time worrying about pretty much a non-issue. *shrug*

And here's a picture of me in front of my MacBook Pro (and yes, I'm several somebodies' grandmother; my oldest grandchild will start high school this fall):

jdorritie


quality posts: 3 Private Messages jdorritie

I'll be honest: You think that's bad? Try watching amateur webcam OMGOMGOMGPONIESOMG PONIES!. I don't ever even try to watch it anymore, but in previews of it on OMGOMGOMGPONIESOMG PONIES! sites, all the both of them do is stare soullessly at the computer as they have the most depressing sex ever.

ekummel


quality posts: 1 Private Messages ekummel

You're over-thinking it!
The reason the people don't look happy when walking into an Apple Store to purchase yet another expensive piece of Apple Junk that $Jobs has said that they need is because they truly *AREN'T* happy. Purchasing an Apple product is *NEVER* a happy moment. The Genius bar people make you feel stupid, the sales person talks down to you and the whole weight of the aura of the Mac Superiority complex comes crashing down upon you as you seriously begin to doubt the cult of mac. There is a true conundrum here that is not easily ignored.

matthew


quality posts: 20 Private Messages matthew

I bet no coal miner ever worried that he wasn't making sufficiently tender, caring eye contact with his pickaxe.

DennisG2010


quality posts: 20 Private Messages DennisG2010
ekummel wrote:You're over-thinking it!
The reason the people don't look happy when walking into an Apple Store to purchase yet another expensive piece of Apple Junk that $Jobs has said that they need is because they truly *AREN'T* happy. Purchasing an Apple product is *NEVER* a happy moment. The Genius bar people make you feel stupid, the sales person talks down to you and the whole weight of the aura of the Mac Superiority complex comes crashing down upon you as you seriously begin to doubt the cult of mac. There is a true conundrum here that is not easily ignored.



You've never even been to an Apple store, have you?
My experience has always been the polar opposite of what you describe.

mathuaerknedam


quality posts: 0 Private Messages mathuaerknedam

I *like* the music. What is it?

w00tgurl


quality posts: 26 Private Messages w00tgurl

it made me think, and i bet i look like that too unless i'm reading something funny. like lolpics posted during wootoffs.
but i don't look like that when i turn around from the monitor and talk with someone. i'm used to just looking through my monitor and onto the words or pics.
and that music makes me want to fix my tv reception. yikes!

btw, some of those people must've been tipped off. i see poses

Cat & Duck's Investigative Assistant
LONG LIVE WOOT CLUE 2012! r.i.p. you are miseed

hayesjc


quality posts: 3 Private Messages hayesjc

You reeled me in with the line "is technology doing more harm than good." I sat behind four 15-16 year old girls @ a Washington Nationals game last week. They each checked their facebook & texting screens every 3-4 minutes, never finding any messages, and paying no attention to the game or even the spectacle of interesting people around us; all they were interested in was the next post.

Was technology doing them any good? NO, it was distracting them from living their lives in the moment and interacting with the people they came to the game with. It was dumbing them down, not educating and uplifting them, or even making their lives easier.

Of course, what do I know? I am posting on a thread in a blog post attached to a sales website.......

annieflies


quality posts: 12 Private Messages annieflies

my gravatar has always been me looking at the screen. fingers up for privacy, lol.

oops, pardon me, i wooted

wisesage


quality posts: 3 Private Messages wisesage

Did we look at books any differently? How about math homework? These are the blank stares of people who are deep in thought. The reason we do this is BECAUSE there is no one to interact with. Do we smile while reading instructions on how to fill out our taxes? If you do, you need help. This isn't the result of technology ruining society (although I'm not saying it hasn't), this is the result of our brain's communication centers shutting down to give the analytical centers more oomph.

sometimes i like to put on the cape and scream like a monkey.

Milkman1225


quality posts: 1 Private Messages Milkman1225
wisesage wrote: Do we smile while reading instructions on how to fill out our taxes? If you do, you need help.



Yep I need help...

ElanorRigby


quality posts: 14 Private Messages ElanorRigby

I had to quit because the music was making blood come out of my ears. That's not a good look for me.

Even on a cloudy day, I'll keep my eyes fixed on the sun...

llandar


quality posts: 32 Private Messages llandar
hayesjc wrote:You reeled me in with the line "is technology doing more harm than good." I sat behind four 15-16 year old girls @ a Washington Nationals game last week. They each checked their facebook & texting screens every 3-4 minutes, never finding any messages, and paying no attention to the game or even the spectacle of interesting people around us; all they were interested in was the next post.



It could depend on perspective: those girls might say technology saved them from the boredom of sitting through a baseball game someone dragged them to.

runjenarun


quality posts: 0 Private Messages runjenarun

I wish McDonald had a few more lulz in him. He could have used the webcam's animated borders.

Esoteric07


quality posts: 3 Private Messages Esoteric07

darn must have missed the video because its been both deleted from vimeo, and his site (at least for me) is down.

ArtWorksMetal


quality posts: 5 Private Messages ArtWorksMetal
Esoteric07 wrote:darn must have missed the video because its been both deleted from vimeo, and his site (at least for me) is down.



Yeah, me too. I guess at the advice of his (their) lawyers. Now that he's on J. Edgar Hoovers' radar.

Asceticism is for those that can't afford Hedonism.

alexanderjd


quality posts: 1 Private Messages alexanderjd

Well, if my computer could see me now, it would know I'm smiling and laughing... at the gumpy faces other people make.

Hey, that would be an interesting variation of the theme: Have people read a story or look at a picture designed to elicit a specific reaction (a sad story, a funny picture, etc) and take the picture then.

Or one better ... have it take a pic whenever someone types "lol" to see if they're actually laughing out loud, or if they're lying liars! (I bet there's not a single honest ROFL'er out there!)