The photo I chose to post today, which is in contrast to the last one I posted on Instagram, is about what I am thinking of as retro-reality. In this photo I have my two feet firmly planted on the ground, I am sitting in front of an actual brick and mortar retail store and in my bag are recycled clothes. I am dressed in worn and old jeans, comfortable sneakers and a beat up trench. The photo has no filters and no retouching at all. I have little or no make-up on.
I have a subscription to a site that shares fashion campaigns and films as one of my sources of inspiration. Today as I was scrolling down I literally came across a campaign that made me want to recoil in horror. I was so distracted by this feeling I could not even concentrate on the clothes. They are wiped from my memory.
The cause of this emotional disruption was the pre-fall look book offered up from Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini. who decided to feature, alongside human models, the CGI (Computer Generated Image) influencer Noonoouri, who has 215,000 Instagram followers. Why are we having computer generated models and influencers when we still have not reached a point where real human women of every imaginable type are included and represented in fashion? Let’s finish one project before we start another here. If we can’t achieve true inclusion in real life how can we promote it through CGI’s? But this rationalization did not feel like a good fit with the feeling.
My extreme response puzzled me, I just could not physically bear to look at it and I am generally okay with technological advances. I had a professor during my doctoral studies who had written a book predicting and talking about how humans would part by part become robots over time and human functions would in fact be taken over. I myself have a piece of technology in my body that replaces an organic body part: my hip. I think of my professor frequently these days as I am watching commercials where robots do your vacuuming and your voice can ask another voice to start your laundry, turn on the oven or scare intruders away. I am both intrigued and horrified.
So as this disturbing feeling lingered I decided to start looking into it, starting with googling CGI and soon found the explanation. Almost 100 years ago, psychologists came up with something that they named “the uncanny”. This is what they called an experience that seems familiar yet foreign at the same time. Apparently this causes some kind of brain confusion which culminates in feelings of fear and/or repulsion. Not thought to be a real priority there was not much further study into this phenomenon until now when the many human things we are familiar with, like voices, gestures, appearance and behaviors are being replicated through animation and by robotic engineers.
Apparently, as my reaction shows, this has become problematic for those in this field and other fields wishing to use and evolve this kind of technology. Somewhere in-between humans and old-fashioned cartoons these new forms seem to evoke very uneasy feelings when they closer and closer to humanness and then fall into what is called an “uncanny valley”. Prior to that point as they become more human we like them. Scientists are currently working very hard on this problem because they want these forms to be pleasing to us. There are a few hypotheses out there to explain the valley but no real answers as of yet.
I have one of my own. Maybe it is a very primal survival instinct that species that are about to get extinct start having. Let’s ask the Amur Leopard.
So I am really, really curious what’s your reaction when you click on the lookbook?