I made a comment a couple of weeks ago on a peer’s blog post about the gendered contextualization of smartwatch advertisements as well as expressed curiosity as to the direction the technology will go. Smartwatches have had a sluggish start but are figured to pick up momentum in the coming years. Analysts suggest that the Apple Watch will jumpstart the wearable technologies sector this year, and with the release date looming close, I thought it would be productive to consider the watch’s features and how those features may inform human interactions, gender constructs, and expressions of sexuality.
From history, we see that the advent of new technologies influence various parts of culture; from determining social norms to creating new ways of communications, technology often plays a large role in shaping society. In this way, I believe that smartwatches will become “the next big thing” and will help shape how humans interact with one another.
Using the Apple Watch as an example, let’s look at the features/parameters it has set up for the user. The first feature that strikes me is the ability to send your heartbeat to a loved one. What I found initially problematic is its depiction of its usage. The portrayal reinforces a heteronormative narrative of tech-savvy users. Advertisements aside, I can see (a blurry vision) how this feature can enhance a user’s intimacy with their partners, friends, and loved ones. Sensing another’s heartbeat involves getting close to that person and being physically vulnerable. However, I argue that sending someone a heartbeat is a watered down imitation of the real thing. Perhaps in the future more meaning and importance will be inscribed to it as interactions become less physical and more digital.
Another important notion to consider is that the Apple Watch limits the users to certain interactions to indicate that the user is thinking of another person in an intimate way. Messaging and calling have been made available, as well as the aforementioned heartbeat interaction, and the new sketch feature and tap feature. I think the tap feature is rather benign, a simple action to indicate contemplation. I’m interested in seeing how users implement the sketch feature into their relationships and how they stretch the limits of that form of communication.
However, we should keep in mind how these interactions are received: all on the wrist; the user has to conduct the action of moving their hand towards their face to see the content on a 1.5″ (height) screen. This platform thereby limits/promotes certain types of content (i.e. a watch wouldn’t be the ideal platform to watch movies).
Finally, it’s necessary to consider what options/features have been left out. For example, adding a camera to the piece (either on the front or elsewhere) would have opened up a new field of interaction. Furthermore, while Apple’s native apps are lacking, I’m curious to see where third party developers take the technology to expand interactions.