Homo sapiens are dead, long live the Homo cellular

Homo sapiens are dead, long live the Homo cellular

The last stop in my Design Biennial visits was the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. No doubt, as experts have pointed out, this museum was the most suitable venue for the ongoing Istanbul Design Biennial. 

I have been to many places and seen design from various historical perspectives from past to present, evaluating the designs in the biennial together with the accompanying book by Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley “Are We Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design.” 

Then I walked into a hall in the Archaeology Museum. I took a step into today from the past in a very appropriate style to the theme of the biennial, befitting its mood of questioning.

In that hall, all kinds of mobile phones of all colors are exhibited. You’d almost think you are in a mobile store. 

The most interesting part of the book is the section titled “Homo Cellular.” As I read about our situation, the situation that concerns us all, I felt a chill go down my spine.  

The writers believe that human biology and mind have gone through a major transformation with the invention of the cell phone in 1983. The cell phone has become part of us, completing our body and our brain. We take it with us even when we go to the bathroom. We do not put down our phones even for a second, most of us keep it by our bed as we sleep. 

In the book, there is a photo of a couple in bed, with the man keeping himself busy with the phone. 
We feel naked without a phone. 

According to the book, we use our phones 100 times a day on average. This is a frightening figure. If we did this in another field, the world would be a completely different place. 

South Korea has the highest figure in young cell phone users, using them for up to six hours a day. 
The exhibition contains a photograph of U.S. President Barack Obama taking a selfie. Selfies are seen as a major breakthrough in the history of self-portraits. 

Here is what the curators say about those who will visit the biennial in its final days: “Humans have always been radically reshaped by the designs they produce. The world of design keeps expanding. We live at a time where everything is designed, from our carefully crafted individual looks and online identities, to the surrounding galaxies of personal devices, new materials, interfaces, networks, systems, infrastructures, data, chemicals, organisms and genetic codes. The average day involves the experience of thousands of layers of design that reach outer space but also reach deep into our bodies and brains.

“Design is the most human thing about us. Design is what defines the human. It is the basis of social life, from the very first artefacts to the exponential expansion of human capability. But design also engineers inequalities and new forms of neglect. More people than ever compared to history are forcibly displaced by war, lawlessness, poverty and climate at the same time the human genome and the weather are being actively restructured. We can no longer reassure ourselves with the idea of ‘good design.’ Design itself needs to be redesigned.”

Clearly, human beings are themselves now defined together with the concept of design. 

You should definitely go and see the Istanbul Design Biennial in its final days.