15 Weird Postures Forced Upon Us By Technology

Curious Rituals is a fascinating design study that illustrates all of the strange ways we bend our bodies (and our psyches) for the technology we hold so dear.

We pull a smartphone from our pocket, and it seems to squeeze perfectly well into our life. It fits in our hand. It works on a table. But is the smartphone accommodating us, or are we accommodating the smartphone?


That’s the crux of Curious Rituals, an ebook from the Art Center College of Design (by Nicolas Nova, Katherine Miyake, Nancy Kwon, and Walton Chiu) that illustrates the odd, often inhuman gestures that technology has convinced us all to adopt, and the way these practices impact our social lives. It features moves like the Halfway Courtesy–checking out a grocery store, you remove a single earbud to express some level of attention to the clerk–and the Periscope–at a concert, you lift your phone above the crowd to take a photo. Glance around the room, and you’ll see that these glowing periscopes have entirely reshaped the aesthetic of the event.

“It’s actually a chicken-and-egg situation where both the design of the object and the way we look in public influence the gesture,” researcher Nicolas Nova explains, and he would know. Over five years of studying gesture interfaces at Near Future Laboratory, Nova began to notice trends–”common threads”–in how people postured themselves in response to everything from laptops to VR goggles. So he spent two months at the Media Design Practice department of the Art Center College of Design to explore the topic further.

This study culminated in a free ebook illustrated by Katherine Miyake. And despite its source in academia, the project is anything but esoteric: This catalog of digital/social gestures is so spot-on, it’s almost painful to read through. Just wait until you reach the part where someone is feigning to kill time on their cellphone when surrounded by strangers.

So try to enjoy the gallery above knowing that, for however weird you’ve been acting since getting that iPhone, well, at least you’re not alone.

Download the book (PDF), and see the blog here.

[Hat tip: Core77]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.