Nowadays we spend a lot of our time scrolling through digital timelines, tapping and swiping on screens. Such behavior is so ingrained that we forget the older technologies these actions are meant to emulate. Swiping no longer reminds us of turning the page of a book. We tap on digital keyboards without thinking for a moment about typewriters. Scrolling certainly no longer recalls actual scrolls. Digital rituals meant to recall their analog forebears are second nature to us now, but in his movie Scroll, Daniel Sánchez brings our relationship with these rituals vividly back to life.
The video follows a minute in the life of a hyperconnected family in the digital era. Every family member has their own device which fully occupies their attention. The father receives notifications about his high school reunion. The young boy Samuel sends emoji-filled messages to his school friend. His sister uploads selfies and watches approval flood in, until Samuel snaps an unflattering picture of her and tags her without permission.
In Sánchez’s tech-saturated vision of postmodernity, little has really changed about the dynamics of family life. Kids still chat with their school friends. Their elders still try to reconnect with old ones. Siblings still squabble and tease one another. All this may now be accomplished through digital interfaces, but the reasons and feelings involved have hardly changed. And the video ends with a quiet moment which reminds us where all these digital gestures originated from. While her siblings fight in the next room, the youngest daughter taps and swipes on a picture frame showing a photo of the family, achieving no response. The metaphor has come full circle.
Is family life radically changed by the presence of new technologies, or does it simply adapt? What do you make of the intimate rituals we perform with our technologies? Does our intuitive understanding of new tech rely on analogies to old ones?