For the purposes of this essay, I chose to the visual arts option and chose to concentrate on Marissa Morales’ drawing titled “Re-Boot”, which is a powerful drawing that plays upon the viewer’s emotions just as powerfully as it is a commentary on modern-day use of technology and our increasing dependence upon virtual communication. In this essay, I will argue that the drawing in question is a biting remark on society’s reliance upon technology by critiquing the 21st century’s relationship with up-to-scale technology that may inhibit our personal relationships with other fellow human beings. By dividing my essay into a description, analysis and response section, I will be able to showcase to what extent technology has taken over our lives and is slowly but surely ruining our mental and physical well-being.
The drawing depicts a young man dressed in a shirt and tie who seems to be injecting himself with a dose of heroin. In this case, however, the young man is injecting himself with his cell phone rather than with any kind of drug. The young man seems to be taking a break from work, given the fact that he is dressed business casual and is leaning against a public bathroom sink so as to better receive his injection. As such, it appears like he is in the middle of a lunchoffice break. With needle in mouth and phone in hand, the young man’s eyes are averted from the viewer. The young man appears to be totally immersed in his task, with which he seems to have no qualms. Charged at approximately 80%, the phone seems to be the central object of the picture, as I will demonstrate later on. Painted in sandy beiges and chocolate browns, the painting is not very colourful apart from the neon green “needle” that sticks out of the young man’s mouth.
The prominent Canadian sociologist Marshall McLuhan predicted the world’s unhealthy relationship with technology when he said: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” McLuhan’s interpretation is particularly well adapted to the drawing “Re-boot”, which demonstrates to what devastating effects human beings feel like they have to “recharge” or “reinvent” themselves by relying so constantly and so consistently on their phones, which have become a powerful tool whereby they live their lives on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), bank online, email friends and colleagues, or play games. Although using one’s phone may seem like a relatively innocent past time, “Re-boot” highlights to what extent phones hold their power over us human beings. Like any other addiction, our phones are increasingly taking over our lives as we try to juggle family and friends, school and career choices. The challenges in staying afloat above mass emails, press releases and other documents goes as far as the government, that is to say congress, as Colleen J. Shogan demonstrated in her article “Blackberries, Tweets and Youtube: Technology and the Future of Communicating with Congress.”
By taking in the picture, my Dionysian and Apollonian instincts were challenged. Whereas Apollo is the god of reason and of the rational realm, Dionysius is the god of chaos and of the irrational. Although this drawing is situated in a specific work context and seems to celebrate modern-day work ethics, it also calls into question the very validity of factors that weigh into an office context, which include phones, chargers, computers, etc. This drawing subtly but insistently critiques our use of modern technology by making us consider the alternative: what else could we be doing with our days? To what extent do we value technology and, in the process, reject values of inherent worth such as human relationships, face-to-face interaction, and communication in a group context? In conclusion, it is tempting to see how radically our society is increasingly dependent on virtual communication in order to function. By gazing at the picture, the viewer’s every-day habits are called into question. Should the viewer feel attacked or simply encouraged to change his or her ways? I think the picture evokes powerful emotions in the viewer because it addresses a pertinent, modern-day subject that has meaningful impact on its audience.
- Shogan, Colleen J. (2010). Blackberries, Tweets, and Youtube: Technology and the Future of Communicating with Congress. Political Science and Politics 43,2, 231-233.
- Wasson, Richard (1972). Marshall McLuhan and the Politics of Modernism. The Massachusetts Review 13,4, 567-580.
- Gow, Marcelyn and Karlsson, Ulrika (2008). Coming of Age: A Soft Monstrosity. Perspecta 40, 28-31.