Making Furniture Interactive

September 19, 2007

Thought on Iain Banks’s “Descendant”

Filed under: Readings,Ronit Slyper — Ronit @ 9:24 pm

So, a thought on this reading…

The thing about the story that really sticks in my mind, a few days after having read it, is the camera. The protagonist has all this advanced suit technology, yet derives the most comfort from a simple still camera. It’s intentionally discordant – the suit is/appears nearly human, but not human enough, and therefore provides an odd lack of comfort to the protagonist, who only interacts with it in formal, somewhat stilted dialog. The reader, too, is torn between distaste and empathy for the suit – the author varies our views of it, never letting us settle on one feeling. This strange mix of horror/kinship has been termed the uncanny valley, a phenomenon where objects that appear too humanlike assume an aura of zombie-ness that humans find discomfiting. Thus the camera, with its static, yet familiar, pictures, provides more comfort than the more advanced technology.

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