New Criticals

So I was amazed to be utterly seduced by the film Her. My students urged me to see it as it ‘encapsulated’ the science and technology studies course that I teach at the London School of Economics. I had mentioned to them that you can choose the gender of the Siri voice, in part, because a car firm that had given their GPS a female voice had received complaints that a woman would not know the right way to go! So that even something so apparently gender-neutral as a navigation system elicits a demand for a clear gender demarcation.

The film is charming in many ways. It presents the future as almost here, and is smart enough to evoke many instances of new technologies being adopted and adapted in ways that reflect our histories and quintessentially human desires. For example, the lead Theodore Twombly ghostwrites letters on a computer that converts them into handwriting, to indicate their intimate and sentimental character. Likewise, he posts them rather than emailing them. His apartment looks much like our current image of affluent living with city views. His sleek office is pretty standard fare for the so-called creative industries. As has been much remarked upon, his high-waisted trousers are the only nod to a different fashion sense. His operating system voice, Samantha, even tells us early on that she has joined several book-reading clubs.