• Valeria Lopez Torres

Model: Human

If we were to produce a manual to navigate the social world, how would we depict the complexity of our interactions, step-by-step? What instructions would we write to translate what we communicate with our body language?

© Valeria Lopez Torres

The interactions that we have with technology on a daily basis rarely ever happen smoothly and flawlessly. Our environments are surrounded by complex devices that, sometimes, don't work as expected. That's when an instruction manual is usually helpful. And while the days of instruction manuals seem to be a thing of the past, (some manuals have been displaced by better design), the art of creating a manual involves a complex process of translation. One which takes the complexities of an object, along with its components and structure, and communicate it visually, so that it comes across in a simple way for all its users.

Some manuals need to be multilingual, allowing the product to be sold across different markets. In such cases, the cultural biases that translations are subject to must been taken into consideration to ensure clarity and leave no room for misinterpretation. Corporations like IKEA have taken a language-free approach on their assembly manuals and rely on diagrams and numbers to communicate their message, although numbers—and more specifically arithmetic—is a language with its own rules and syntax. In any case, the act of translation almost always involves a certain degree of loss: loss of information; a deformation.

Just as we have experience dealing with machines, we also have experience dealing with humans. Yet, humans—highly complex in their structure and operation—do not have manuals that explain how to troubleshoot in case of a conflict or unexpected situation. Instead, we come up with different ways of letting others know how we feel without the use of words. We rely then, on social cues; body language, facial expressions, and the tone of our voice. In this context, translating social cues is a complex process that gets even more difficult when there is an underlying message that is not overtly communicated.

If we were to produce a manual for the social world, how could we summarize the complexity of our social interactions on a step-by-step basis? Would we solve our problems better? How would we translate body language and gestures, when these are highly influenced by culture?

Model: Human is a playful exploration of the relationship between image and text, in a context in which both have to support one another. Photography and instructions taken from real manuals are extracted from their original environments, de-contextualized, and juxtaposed onto one another to produce an “anti-manual manual”. In a way, breaking the rules of logic and common sense shines some light on issues that constantly arise in a world in which cultures, languages, behaviors and communication styles clash.