Posts Tagged ‘Jaron Lanier’

ARIN6903: The Human Printer: You are a gadget

September 29, 2010

I heart Twitter. I was slow to jump on the 140 character bandwagon but as soon as I got into the swing of things, there was no stopping the tweets.  On reflection, what I like about it most is not the time it sucks from my hands, it’s not the inane innermost thoughts of people I don’t know. No, it’s the fact that I can follow almost anyone – that is, those with an unlocked account – and there’s no need for reciprocation. It’s like a modern, digital version of free love. Or something.

Enough rambling and back to my point about being able to follow anyone.  What that actually means is that I’m exposed to all sorts of bizarre and fascinating tidbits of information that I can choose to explore further if the tweeter has managed to convey the larger topic within the 140 character constraint. This morning in my feed was this simple tweet:

“wow. just … wow.”

So, as you can guess, I was intrigued enough to follow the link to find out what this human printer might be. As you can probably work out, The Human Printer is an artist, Louise Naunton Morgan, who mimics a digital printer to re-create images that are sent in to her by people wanting her to create some art for them.

What I found interesting and a little contradictory is that she is mimicking a style that she is critical of:

“Today technology plays a huge role in everyday life…we have constructed these machines to aid our lives, making simple productions/tasks easier to accomplish. Our environment is now scattered with machine made artefacts, computer developed images and autonomous interactions—We are losing the essence of human production and craft to the machine, resulting in a soulless utilitarianism.”  (Charlesworth, 2010)

However, even though it seems contradictory on the surface, the point of “reclaiming the lost art of production” does seem to be something that the artist can achieve with this project since it makes people aware of both the similarities and differences between a human and a machine performing the same task.

The limitation of the digital printer in that it can only produce colours in CMYK halftone is something that Morgan replicates in her work. It appears that Morgan’s is a rejection of what Jaron Lanier refers to as “lock-in” in his 2010 book You are not a gadget. Lock-in is a point during the development and adoption of a new technology where the features and constraints of the new technology are based on the assumed need for it to be compatible with older technology (Lanier, 2010). I don’t know what the exact reasons are that have led to the particular constraints of digital printers, but I do know that the constraints of digital printers obviously affect what we can do with the technology and to an extent, mandate what is possible.

Morgan’s project seems to be an attempt at reclaiming the human element in technology and highlighting our interaction with it rather than succumbing to what Lanier describes as a “wave gradually washing over the rulebook of life”. (Lanier, 2010: 9). I also think it’s part of a wider movement of artists rejecting digital technology for more analogue methods, which can be seen in the music of bands such as The White Stripes and Air with their expensive vintage Moog keyboards.

The Human Printer

The Human Printer


Charlesworth, J. (2010)  The Human Printer Exhibition at KK Outlet,
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 29 September 2010

Lanier, J. (2010) You are not a gadget,
New York: Alfred A. Knopf

Naunton Morgan, L.(nd) The Human Printer