I am a regular patron of Dunkin Donuts. I like Starbucks, too, and don’t subscribe to the common belief that you can’t like both. I actually do like both. I frequent Dunkin Donuts often enough that I decided to put myself on a budget. This became easy with a rechargeable card that auto-refills monthly by debiting my account a predetermined amount. This balance is always available to me. When the app became available, I stopped using the physical card because this whole transaction of paying, debiting, and refilling my “card” happens in cyberspace; so much so that I now drive through and simply hold my phone out the car window while the cashier scans the device and, before my eyes, my balance decreases by my purchase amount. If I could describe this to myself 15 years ago, I am certain that version of me would be awed. If I were to visit my childhood and tell me about this, I would most definitely be incredulous.
There are a lot of these examples: my banking that never involves going to the bank or the travel plans I make without leaving my couch. You know all this because you do it, too. In scanning some of Evan Roth’s works, I found myself thinking about these mundane tasks, how extraordinary they are, and yet how completely un-extraordinary they have become as our insatiable thirst for the next convenience surfaces again and again at ever-decreasing intervals. “Slide to Unlock: Multi-Touch Painting Series” is intended to be the size of a wall, imposing. This seems appropriate. The “swipe” is room sized, isn’t it? This seemingly tiny gesture is all-important to our daily activities, both work and play. How many times a day do I perform this movement? As excerpted from the exhibition description:
“The monumentality of this image speaks to the enormous role touch screens and all they access play in shaping our daily existence.”
I cannot offer any more to the existing ruminations about the human cost of all this convenience. Like most people of my generation, I am entrenched in the convenience while simultaneously challenged by the consequence of constant contact. I live my days immersed in technology as both end user and administrator. My livelihood indeed depends on the constant change brought about by “progress.” The monumental swipe is ever-present for me. At this point in my life, though, that fingerprint is my own and I am fortunate. I recognize I am far less dependent on others to navigate me through the complex waters that are rapidly becoming our daily lives than most. At that point, whose print will it be?
Karen Warren is Wesleyan University’s Director of User and Technology Services.