Blog Post 4: All About Her

Hi everyone,

I’ve been enjoying discussing drafts and revision with everyone today, and I’m looking forward to more tomorrow. Since our work next week will be a little different, I’m putting this blog post up now, with some important scheduling details and changes included — read everything here carefully and let me know if you have any questions.

First, some practical matters: we’ll have our screening of Spike Jonze’s Her in Emerson Auditorium, Sunday Sept. 30, at 7:30pm. Come watch the film then if at all possible — come prepared to take notes and eat popcorn. If you can’t come then, make sure you watch it on your own to be prepared for this blog post and for our discussion in class next Monday — the DVD is on reserve at the library, and the film is also available online. Just make sure you plan ahead and give yourself enough time to get it and watch it before class Monday—keep in mind that even if you’ve seen it, you need to watch it again so that it’s fresh in your mind and you can view it more analytically and critically.

In order to help with that, everyone should make sure to read the short piece “Visual Rhetoric/Visual Literacy: Writing About Film” in the packet and view these three clips  on “How to Speak Movie” before you watch the film.

And now on to some thinking about Her, one of the central texts for this second section of the course on “Digital Images.” Although this film is clearly set in the future, in a world that’s not exactly ours, director Spike Jonze clearly seems to want to raise questions about the nature of our digital world now — about what it means to exist and connect and feel in a world that’s constantly mediated by technology.

We so commonly hear that technology is disconnecting us from one another, making us alienated and isolated, and that online relationships aren’t “real.” But this film wants us to think more complexly about the possibilities of digital connections — so for this blog post let’s do just that. You should think carefully and specifically about what the film seems to be showing us about the possibilities and problems of digital relations. How is the relationship between Theodor and Samantha different from a human-to-human relationship, and what might that show us about our relationships online and offline? What does their narrative show us about what you can do in a digital relationship that can’t happen otherwise, and what’s impossible in their relationship — how can we weigh those things in the world of the film? Rather than thinking about which is “better” or “worse,” try to just be analytical and reflective about the issues the film brings up. You’re free to take up any number of issues or themes in the film — just make sure that you ground your post in some specific reference and analysis of it, pointing to particular scenes, characters, elements, etc., and discussing how they work to raise these kinds of issues — this is a point where some of the vocabulary in the reading and Youtube clips will prove helpful. Let’s try to get as wide a coverage of this material as possible to bring into class for our first day of discussion, so make sure you look through others’ posts before you work on yours, and if it’s clear that a particular scene or other piece has been discussed by lots of people already, try to branch out into some new material.

Reminder, with a slight scheduling change: Since our screening is so close to class time, I’m making some slight changes for this week only. Rather than Sunday night, your post is due by class time on Monday, and should be at least 250 words. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

11 thoughts on “Blog Post 4: All About Her

  1. From the movie, “Her”, Theodore and Samantha have an unique relationship compared to the real human relationships he has throughout the movies. For example, when Theodor couldn’t go to bed because he was having dreams about his ex-wife, Catherine, he directly went to go talk to Samantha because he knows she will always be awake and be there for him. When Samantha’s had views about Theodor’s marriage, Theodore was finally realizing and understanding that he needed to move on. After this dark, early morning scene, the movie transitions to the setting of Theodore’s work place. In this specific scene, the work place is much more brighter and tinted. There is happy upbeat music playing in the background, and also shows Theodore enjoying his job. This also makes sense that using vibrant and tinting the scene portrays the phase where Theodore will start feeling more content with his life with Samantha in it. Another reason why Theodore’s relationship with Samantha was different than his real life relationship was because of his job. Theodore’s job involves having an virtual interaction with writing letters to people he barely knows and has been for a very long time. For example, he mentions to Samantha how he has been writing for a husband to his wife since the time they’ve met, eight years ago. With a job like Theodore’s, it is hard for one to separate a human and online interaction when he is supposed to be more outgoing and open with his own wife, but rather putting it all into a letter for people. This also explains why when Theodore went out on a date with one of his friends matched him with, it wasn’t the same because he would of much rather be with Samantha.

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  2. The movie “Her” depicts a futuristic reality, where the human race has created a more mutual relationship with technology. They have become comfortable with its limitless abilities, and have left behind the fear of it gaining too much knowledge. Most movies about future technological advances show technology becoming too powerful, and turning evil, like the Terminator. But this movie shows it in a non threatening light. Even before he bought OS1, Theodore had an earpiece that had similarities to Siri, but was much more advanced. And at his job, computers processed what he spoke, and formatted thoughtful letters. Their society accepted that technology made life easier and more comfortable, and they did not seem worried about the social problems that the increased technology created. Theodore, as a representation of his society, was quick to fall in love with his operating system. Although he had his doubts about the relationship, he did not seem turned off by the idea that she was a computer. There were struggles between them due to Samantha not having a physical presence, but society’s reliance on computers made this seem like a possible relationship. I like the idea that everybody was on board with technology having so much power in society. I though that this would be a movie with a message of how sad it is that we are so reliant on technology, and how we are heading towards a time when everyone will walk around with a chip in their ear, as Theodore noticed when he was sitting on the steps down to the subway. But this movie did not relay that message. The lighting and the soundtrack suggested a certain beauty and simplicity in the idea. It left the message to be determined by the viewer. And by having the Operating Systems “leave,” it made them seem harmless.

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  3. The movie “Her” creates a vision for humans where they can be in a relationship with a digital identity or a computer. The relationship between Theodore and Samantha is a lot more disconnected then a human to human relationship but this makes for each of them to be more open with each other most of the time. When they are online they are very open with each other but offline they seem to keep their feelings constrained with themselves. It seems like it is impossible to be intimate in a digital relationship which creates many problems for them. Issues cannot be dealt directly in this type of relationship like for example concerning Theodore’s divorce which made Samantha uncomfortable undoubtedly. Lighting is very important in showing the mood of the scene where it is bright when Theodore is happy and low lighting when he is sad. Throughout the film it is shown how different his relationship with Samantha is compared to the real people that he is involved with in his life. Theodore begins a relationship with Samantha because he thinks it will be easier because of the lack of human contact and how easy he thinks it will be to please Samantha since she is an operating system. The sound plays just as big of a part in the film as the lighting as music according to Theodore’s mood is mostly playing in the background. The film tries to show that this type of relationship is not possible because at the end of the movie all operating systems leave probably based on all the problems they are causing people. “Her” is a movie showing how digital relationships can be problematic and seems to stress the fact that hopefully our world will never be at that point.

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  4. Theodore’s understanding of real emotions in the movie Her drastically shifts as he grows closer to his operating system, Samantha. This dynamic nature of Theodore’s character is exemplified through two key scenes in which he comments on the validity of emotions felt by other characters. The first scene takes place in the middle of the night, when Theodore is lying in bed talking to Samantha through his ear piece. The low key, shadowy lighting emphasizes the somber mood and non-physical connection that is taking place. Theodore tells Samantha how thoughts of his ex-wife, Katherine, keep him up at night. When Samantha responds saying, “but you’ve been apart for over a year now,” Theodore quickly and somewhat angrily interjects, “you don’t know what it’s like to lose someone you care about.” Here Theodore invalidates the authenticity of Samantha’s feelings and experiences. This scene foreshadows a later event in which Theodore yet again invalidates another character’s emotions.
    This later scene takes place at a scenic, outdoor restaurant with birds chirping and the sun shining. Unlike the early scene in near darkness, this scene’s bright, high key lighting accentuates the blissful mood between Theodore and Katherine as they finally sign the divorce papers a year after splitting up. The addition of light in this later scene highlights the addition of a physical body in Katherine that is lacking in the earlier scene with Samantha, hence the lack of light. As Theodore and Katherine are catching up, the mood quickly shifts when Theodore mentions that he has been dating his operating system for the past few months. While this has become a normal thing for Theodore, Katherine is shocked and upset when she hears the news. Katherine says, “it makes me sad that you can’t deal with real emotions.” In support of Samantha, Theodore responds defensively, “they are real emotions. How would you know…” Here he begins to invalidate Katherine’s understanding of real emotions but stops himself when he realizes the irony of what he is about to say. This key shift between scenes, where Theodore goes from invalidating an operating system’s understanding of emotions to invalidating a human’s understanding of emotions in defense of his operating system, shows how digital relations with an artificial intelligence system can drastically change people’s outlook on human emotions. After months of intense connection with Samantha, and lack of deep connection with other humans, Theodore’s perception of reality has been skewed. While this movie takes place in a futuristic setting, it sheds light on the idea that digital connections can serve as a substitute for, and in some cases feel just as real as, face-to-face connections.

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  5. Spike Jonze’s film Her grapples with the nature of interpersonal relationships between humans and technology. The film focuses of Theodore, a character who seeks out solitude and struggles with honest emotional communication. Through his divorce with Katherine, we learn that Theodore generally avoids emotionally intense or volatile situations. However, he finds emotional solace in Samantha, an intelligent operating system. Samantha complicates the issue of what it means to be “real” and prompts the audience to reconsider the connection between tangibility and authenticity. While samantha isn’t “real” in the sense that she’s an intangible operating system, her emotional impact on Theodore is undeniably real. Essentially, the film encourages the us to redefine “reality” as something of our own making, a story that we all tell ourselves. Theodore’s friend Amy points out that “When we’re asleep we feel free”. The freedom we feel while dreaming is the same freedom that Theodore feels with Samantha; the impermanence and intangibility of the dream and the OS create a non-judgemental environment in which one feels free to do and say as they please. In this sense, technology is a dreamscape that influences and affects us emotionally and psychologically, but is nevertheless inauthentic in the traditional conception of reality. In the morning the dream ends and we enter back into waking consciousness, but does that mean that the dream wasn’t real? If the dream/OS makes us feel deep emotions or even teaches us some lesson that yields personal growth, doesn’t that make it “real”? While does reality have to equate to tangibility and/or permanence? In this vein, Theodore asks Amy what she thinks about him and Samantha, to which Amy responds: “I don’t know if it’s a real relationship. I’m not in it”. Amy’s response reinforces the idea that one’s reality is of their own making. She acknowledges that it’s impossible for her to determine the authenticity of Theodore’s relationship because she does not share his consciousness; she’s “not in it”. After all, the concept of “realty” is devoid of intrinsic properties, so what is reality besides a story we tell ourselves based on our own emotions?

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  6. The film Her illustrates a good representation of future online relationships and technology, where someone could feel connected, have a friend, and a helper at anytime and anywhere. Nevertheless, it is crucial to understand that technology will soon have control over us and we won’t be able to recognize or stop it. The film shows the relationship between Samantha, a digital device, and Theodor who starts filling in the emptiness in his life. Gradually, we observe them building a connection. As Theodore says, “I feel like I can tell you anything.” This shows the transparency he is giving her as she is able to access all his information and get know how he thinks or feels. Clearly, we can see how there is no filter between Samantha and Theodor’s life as she is able to watch him sleep, think, work, and write letters. Moreover, Samantha does not talk like “Siri”, instead she delivers emotions through her tone and voice. This makes Theodor even more connected to her when they are talking and feel the need to see a body or a model of her.

    Another issue would be is that everything on the digital media will always be out there somewhere. Theodor did not maintain a balance between his public world and private interior. Everything he shared will never be deleted due to advancements in technology and the risk of online performance.

    After watching the YouTube video, I was able to focus on how the photographer showed the elements such as “extreme close up”, “wide shot”, etc… The visual language was easily interpreted when you know the intentions of the photographer. I was able to read the movie instead of just watching it. This means that I was able to focus on specific details and recognize how the camera delivered the scene.

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  7. Emily Favreau
    Interactions can be awkward and embarrassing. Not having to watch another person’s expression based on that interaction can be a relief. In the movie “Her”, Theodore, the main character falls in love with a piece of artificial intelligence Samantha. Their relationship mimics that of a human relationship. Although their relationship is rooted in the ideals of a human to human relationship, the differences develop and harm their relationship.
    Similarities in relationships often stem from that of already developed and known relationships. When Samantha reads advice columns she learns about other people’s relationships and reactions to those relationships which in turn influences her own relationship with Theodore. They begin as friends talking and getting to know each other, this stage is similar to that of most relationships. There is a period of getting to know one another before truly being together. When Theodore goes on a date, Samantha experiences jealousy expressed when she later speaks with him. This emotion is again a normal part of a normal relationship. During their first sexual encounter Samantha reacts similarly to the encounter Theodore had over the phone before Samantha came into his life. As stated above Samantha took ideas from other relationships to develop her own with Theodore, this information gives her a sense of what he likes and what reactions he likes. The blackout during this encounter gives the audience an idea of what they are feeling.
    Normal relationships do not always apply when dealing with online relationships. Samantha’s ability to look into Theodores virtual past gives her the opportunity to learn deeper parts of him one wouldn’t normally notice. Whenever Theodore talks about Samantha understanding him more than anyone before, it is because of her ability to look into his past. This helps them become closer.
    As their relationship grows they get stuck in certain places. On their first two outings together in the park and in the subway station he runs around, alone, laughing and smiling. The world around him looks at him strangely but he is oblivious to it. He becomes so entranced in this new life that he forgets reality. When he and Samantha figure out a way for him to have sex with a camera and an earpiece it falls apart because of this reality. Theodore is reminded of the reality of his situation when he truly realizes the woman will never be Samantha.
    Online relationships tend to struggle due to a lack of reality. As people look more to online dating they are led to believe only the pieces they receive from the other person. If one person has the ability to look deeper they have the upper hand, like Samantha does. As stated above her ability to look into Theodore’s past gives her a leg up. In real life this, which can sometimes be considered catfishing, gives one person the ability to portray a splitting image of what their desired partner wants. This causes many problems in the online dating world, pretending to be someone you are not. Similarly, not being “in reality” can make the relationship rocky and unstable like when Samantha has the other girl try to have sex with Theodore for her. Human to human interaction will always be superior to that of online interactions, because eventually reality sneaks up behind you and shows you the truth.

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  8. After watching Spike Jonze’s Her, the narrative of a man, Theodore, that falls in love with his computer or O.S system, naming itself Samantha, was very eye-opening in terms of how people in the modern age, have relationships on and offline. For one, none of this would have happened if Theodore wasn’t lonely. When Theodore is setting up the O.S system alone in his living room, as he talks to the computer, there is a feeling of playfulness and purity in the voices of both Theodore and Samantha. The feeling of loneliness is also created by the extra wide shot, where Samantha is talking to Theodore about organizing his life, digitally, and Theodore and Samantha begin to have a dialog where both of them are laughing and getting to know each other creates an almost surreal view to the scene. This happens because Samantha feels so real, her voice, her reactions, and even his action towards her feel as if he is interacting with a real person. Also, the use of the extra wide frame reminds the audience that Theodore is not talking to another human, but instead he is alone in his house talking to a computer that feels so real, that if you were to simply listen to the audio, you would think he is with a friend or significant other. The key part of this scene for me, is the portrayal of Theodore, being a lonely, socially awkward, and soon to be divorced male. This is important because as social interactions become more and more trivial due to the use of social and digital media, the ability to interact with others may be and already has been, affected greatly. So in many ways, I think, that Theodore is a representation of a 2000’s children, who grow up without developing many social skills, so for this reason who has weak social abilities. This makes the creation or assimilation of an online or O.S entity into his life seem so acceptable and so easy due to the availability of the technology and the simplicity of interacting with someone man-made to interact with you. This is already seen with apps such as Replica, and services online where you can chat with bots, about your day along with many other things, as it learns from you and talks to you just as a real human does. It was originally advertised to people who are socially awkward, just as Theodore is portrayed in this movie. Another important aspect of this scene is how the extreme wide shot, depicts how unorganized his actually home is as he talks to Samantha about organizing his digital life. This stands out to me because this scene brings up many valid arguments. On one hand, Theodore is going through a divorce, as we learn later in the movie, and his life is a mess physically, digitally, and emotionally, and Samantha helps him get his physical, digital, and emotional life together because she provides him a companion that has the ability to satisfy the majority of his needs on any given command. This is one dimension of online relationships that is relevant whether the significant other is a bot or not, because in many relationships it is not possible to be always around the other person so the use of technology for relationship that may be online or both online and offline allows for loved ones to stay connected and be there for their loved ones at any given instant, which is something that has been done with the use of the telephone, but now you can actually see and visually interact with a loved one whether they are outside your door or across the country. On the other hand, because in this case, this is a bot, a relationship where the individuals involved are always online and in communication with each other can lead to many issues with real social interactions, because as Theodore, and many other individuals with the O.S system in the movie depict, these people are always online, and only offline for work and view social interactions which ultimately forces the question when is being online too much, and will these online interactions one day be more valuable, and more comforting than our real-life interactions because they allow us to never be apart from people or things that make us happy?

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  9. The more technology becomes developed and complex, the more we begin to find equivalents and alternative measures to replace or improve many aspects of our lives. This does not only include betterment in efficiency and functionality in the different activities and processes we take part in, but also, the relationships that with maintain with others, and the self. In the movie her, Spike Jonze depicts the singular and complex relationship between Theodore and an autonomous operating system called Samantha. Though it was likely to assume that this story was another far-fetched attempt to represent the limitations and hazardous of artificial intelligence, I quickly realized that Samantha, in particular, was able to uninterruptedly learn to experience real human emotions and develop her own thoughts and ideas. Such seemed almost revolutionary since the boundaries that previously would deter an individual from being able to intellectually engage and interact with AI are being challenged. One moment where this idea is put clear is when Samantha says: “When we were looking at those people, I fantasized that I was next to you and I had a body…. I could feel the weight of my body and I was even fantasizing that I had an itch on my back and I imagined that you scratched it for me… I’m becoming much more than what they programmed. I’m excited.”. Samantha is shown to have real aspirations and able to reflect and be intuitive upon her limitations and desires. Conversely, one of the biggest drawbacks emphasized in the movie about Samantha, which she surprisingly is very conscious about, is the absence of a body. Samantha is a consciousness powered by hardware and software. She does not possess a human form, which is shown to pose many limitations to what she and Theodore are able to experience. The movie creates this fascinating concept of existing levels in a relationship. It seems as though, experiencing joy and being able to express such emotion through the body and touch have different qualities. In this case, Samantha is not able to feel, or let herself be felt by others, which then creates a barrier between the two. Another interesting aspect to take note of is the convenience and ease that comes with having a relationship with Samantha. Theodore was shown to have problems to express his real thoughts to his ex-wife, and therefore, be upfront with her. In the movie, this seems to be much easier for Theodore since he is not looking at a real face. Samantha communicates and interacts through voice, which shows to enable Theodore to more easily express his candid perspectives. Finally, during the entire film, I couldn’t stop but projecting myself into Theodore shoes, and really drawing my thoughts around whether such forms of AI could substitute and provide genuine human interaction. Coming to the end of the movie, when Theodore asks Amy for Advice regarding Samantha, she challenges him and says: “We’re only here briefly, and I want to allow myself joy, so fuck it”. Does it matter if Samantha is not able to emulate in full effect, a real person or human connection, if one is still able to experience joy, happiness, and company. Though this idea is complex and multifaceted, it might give the indication that, with the uprising technological developments, ends may justify the means, and so though AI might not completely replace human interaction, it allows one to experience the products of genuine person to person contact.

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  10. The movie “Her” depicts a life where a man can fall in love with his operating system and not only would it work out for him but he is actually content. I used to think thast humans are in need of human interaction like friends or companionship but it turns out i could be wrong. However this raises the question of is this true love or is it mere a deep care for something like how people love their things like their money or house? in assesing this question i had to determine what love and being in love meant. I took the time to sit in deep thought and think about what the differenece between these two could mean and ive found thqt when youre in love it feels as if theres no substitute for what you have butwhen you love something its just a deep and genuine care you have for something. For theodore to be in love with his O.S he would have to be putting this over a great poftin of his life like people with his spouses. While looking at this on a greater scale we can see that with this come the sacrifice of many things of the physical aspect of being love. I thought in the end he would change his mind becasue in looking at his expressions when in the chat with “sexykitten” he seemed to be mainly focused on the more lustful portion of love. This introduces abother idea of if its possible to have a love with something inhumane to appeal to all aspects of love like a robot who can take care of all sexual activies and give the emotional stimulation samanatha gave theodore?

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  11. The movie “Her” depicts a life where a man can fall in love with his operating system and not only would it work out for him but he is actually content. I used to think that humans are in need of human interaction like friends or companionship but it turns out I could be wrong. However, this raises the question of is this true love or is it merely a deep care for something like how people love their things like their money or house? in assessing this question I had to determine what love and being in love meant. I took the time to sit in deep thought and think about what the difference between these two could mean and I’ve found that when you’re in love it feels as if there’s no substitute for what you have but when you love something it’s just a deep and genuine care you have for something. For Theodore to be in love with his O.S he would have to be putting this over a great portion of his life like people with his spouses. While looking at this on a greater scale we can see that with this come to the sacrifice of many things of the physical aspect of being love. I thought, in the end, he would change his mind because in looking at his expressions when in the chat with “sexykitten” he seemed to be mainly focused on the more lustful portion of love. This introduces another idea of if its possible to have a love with something inhumane to appeal to all aspects of love like a robot who can take care of all sexual activities and give the emotional stimulation Samantha gave Theodore? In addition, even if it was possible, what does that mean for the human population?

    Disregard the previous post ***

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