Over the course of the Fall 2016 semester, me and four other film studies students at WSU collaborated and curated films that best represent our university theme, “Our Digital Humanity.” We all worked together to organize a student film festival in order to present “Modern Times” (dir. Charlie Chaplin), “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World” (dir. Werner Herzog), “Her” (dir. Spike Jonze), “Cyber Seniors” (dir. Saffron Cassaday) and “Videodrome” (dir. David Cronenberg). Film curation and organizing a film festival was a busy but rewarding experience. It was a challenge to introduce the film “Her” knowing that, as the host, I have only so much information and thoughts to share before I play the feature film.

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Spike Jonze’s 2013 science fiction drama film “Her” involves a lonely, middle-aged writer, Theodore, who forms a relationship with his IOS (Intelligent Operating System). This film explores and enhances our awareness that we depend on technology to meet not only our emotional needs but also our social needs, thus defining what “our digital humanity” entails.

Opening the film, Theodore uses technology to write letters to someone as if they were to a lover. He does not hand write the letters but simply verbalizes his words in front of the computer. Keeping in mind this film takes place in the not-too-distant future, what if reality did come down to people throwing out the pen and paper? We do this now by typing on our laptops or smartphones through voice command but by eliminating the very act of physically writing in a journal is, to me, frightening.

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Not only does he have the will to talk to technology, but technology is able to communicate with him as a human would. His phone’s email operator is able to read off received emails and who they were from. Throughout the film, Theodore is seen walking around the city while hearing these messages, showing his high dependence on daily technology that goes everywhere with him. Although the modern world of technology has not advanced our phones to read and comprehend every word that is sent to us, it has continued to advance our need to purchase the latest version of the iPad or a gaming system.

I believe one of the key points to take away from this film is that technology has affected our ability to communicate and socialize with others. Theodore is an introvert and has gone through a prolonged divorce, all the while hiding in his home playing an interactive video game and responding to requests for sex over the phone. Samantha, his IOS, is able to meet Theodore’s emotional needs in human conversation (through her voice) but his childhood friend, Amy, is the one that fills his social need through physical and verbal communication. I think there is a lot to consider here. The idea that technology acts as a medium for us to communicate with others socially, whether it’s through Facebook or phone, limits us to how socially capable we are; technology is a medium in which people can escape from the pressures of the physical world.

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Our digital humanity has been defined by what “Her” reveals – how and why the world is driven daily by technology. It shows that technology has become central to our daily lives. Advances will change the way we communicate socially, whether it’s through electronic letters or video messages. It shows our high dependence on multiple forms of technology, from daily emails to voice mails to listen to later. It gives us a way to escape from the physical world and reality. I often forget how much I depend on technology to communicate with others in my daily life.

-Brittney Bluhm

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