readers and robots

I never imagined that I would be in the WIRED magazine office anytime soon. I never thought that I would be rolling around with an iPad for a head but this is just what I ended up doing as I read “My Life as a Robot.” I thought about Johnson’s pseudoworld mentality, that the magazine creates a whole new place separate from reality—except that this is reality. WIRED really does use a robot to connect far away employees to the office. But, prior to reading Emily Dreyfuss’s article, this world was certainly not real for me. Dreyfuss brought it to life, however, through her journal format. She, like the reader, is also new to being a robot so that getting her up-to-the-minute reactions make the reader feel as though we are seeing the world through her eyes—or webcam: “The figure leans down and puts a hand out to shake. Helpless, I move the EmBot from side to side using the arrow keys in what I hope translates as a gesture of excitement, rather than malfunction.” Additionally, Dreyfuss’s inclusion of Instagram pictures and videos that show her robot self in motion allow readers access to a previously unimaginable reality. In a world where people can have robot doubles, of course magazine readers would be given a video feed to accompany their reading. WIRED is WIRED for a reason.

So, while Dreyfuss’s article illustrates the real world, its introduction to a newer, shinier, more efficient (with its flaws, of course) version of that real world also reads as a culturally influential statement. Her initial video humorously reads as instruction, like a “how to act if your coworker is also a robot.” Maybe one day we might find ourselves in this situation. Much like magazines “help us choose our kitchen colors and Christmas trees, raise our children and our standards, save our marriages and our money,” (114) they also instruct us how to treat a robot kindly. I couldn’t find a perfect heading in Johnson to describe this type of instruction, like a social acceptability scale, but we all know that magazines teach us to aspire to levels of culture. Johnson does talk about aspirations in symbolic meaning, so maybe that applies. Seeing Dreyfuss’s life as a robot perhaps makes us wonder at the possibility in a “coming to a workspace near you” sort of way.

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