Human Technology Interaction

In the Salon article that Rachel mentioned in her previous post, Ellen Eullman says at the end of the interview in reference to the way humans treats machines that, “We’ve given these electronic records the aura of infallibility and truth.” Just because a technology becomes a part of our lives through the machine form, does not mean we should treat these machines as flawless and foolproof. I think that because new machine technologies increasingly appear in user friendly formats, we are blinded through design and interface of what actual code built the technology. And, as Katherine Hayles reminds us, we do not realize the origins of the technology until it breaks down:

“These banal events signify that the everyday human-machine communications integrating us into a world in which virtuality and actuality seamlessly merge have been disrupted; somewhere, somehow, the interfaces connecting human action, intention, and language with code have momentarily broken down” (Hayles 136).

Ultimately, humans create the code that runs the machine. Our interactions with a machine only operate previous code written by the programmer and instead of interacting with an infallible machine, we are actually interacting with a fellow human through our machine manipulation. If you visualize an interaction with a machine as an interaction with a fellow human, you are actually interacting with a human in the past. It is this aspect of the machine that creates many of the problems that we encounter. As users of machines grow and require new and advanced technologies, the technologies that are part of our lives remain stagnant, with software written in the past. Updates try to solve this problem, but alas, new additions may never keep up with our unnerving ability to create a list of new tasks and abilities we demand of our technologies.

Ellen Ullman, in her novel The Bug, reveals the underlying relationship that humans have with programmable code. As Levin’s life falls a part around him, literally with the earthquake and figuratively with his love life, we also see how human emotion and action affect the development and tracking of computational bugs. Even though Levin created the code in which the bug derived, he is unable to locate the place in the software that the bug originated in. Ullman tells the parallel story of Levin’s relationship with Joanna to show the complexity and depth behind the computer software. By intertwining stories of code with love, Ullman brings light to the life of computer programmers as well as insight into the inter-workings of software development. I am curious to see how these themes play out and resolve within the second half of the novel.

One response to “Human Technology Interaction