Living with the UnDead (technology)


Every thing dies eventually.

That is not a sad fact. Just a reality. We all, at some point, have pictured our optimal demise. From saving a kitten in a burning building to being shot in the back by a jealous lover. We have an idea of how we would prefer to “go”.

I wonder if the makers of things in this world picture how they want their creations to “go”? Unless you are making serious bank, or have a spending problem, you probably also have technology in your care that is past the point of still totally doing the thing it was set out to do.

When I was 17 I bought my grandmother’s 1985 Aries K (grey Coupe model for the enthusiasts). It had 70k on it from 11 years of driving from Chatham to Grimsby. For $200 I got a set of wheels and I couldn’t have been happier. The thing to bear in mind is that it was 11 years old, and a Dodge, so it wasn’t the same reliant automobile that came off the lot to replace my grandmother’s Dodge Duster back in 85′, but it was what I could afford.

You learn to live with the undead because you still need them.

The interior dashboard light died immediately and I never got around to fixing it. Instead I got used to driving in a completely dark vehicle at night heading up to North Bay when I was in college. It could only really go 108 on the highway anyway so I was never worried about speeding. The car I ended up replacing it with also had it’s own death rattle when it stopped having a reverse gear. Two weeks of circling for parking spots before making the call to let the dear thing get towed away for $25.

Over the years all of the appliances and technology that I have encountered eventually stops working as intended and then the relationship changes. It becomes humanistic.

When your refrigerator works perfectly, you don’t tend to think much of it other than “look at my nice working technology”. And then over time, like all things, it stops doing all of the things it was made to do. It starts doing new things, making new noises, new smells, adding exciting new features like leaking all of the condensation water out if you close the door too hard. Or humming until you smack the side of it. Who decided to make these new features? I can’t imagine it was the team over at Kenmore, and it certainly wasn’t me.

This leads me to the only logical conclusion. My fridge is now sentient. In death it became alive.

In my personal life I don’t get hung up on needing the newest gadgets or versions of tech. I only replace things when the actually stop working.

This means that most of my worldly belongings are part of the growing undead.  What this leaves me with is an interesting relationship with made things. I have grown to like the fact that my phone will stop working and freeze up if I switch between applications too quickly. It has made me slow down. My kitchen faucet becomes loose now every couple months. I feel that it is telling me to clean under the sink every so often while I am down there tightening the thing. I have a 13 year old desk fan that will start making this nauseating squeak and sway weirdly if it needs a bit of attention. I think it learned that from the sink.

It’s the sad breakdown of technology that is the humanistic part which is interesting. Those are the qualities we tend to remember about the made things we own or interact with in our lives.

I wonder if there is a place for more humanity in properly functioning technology, and not just in the fans and fridges are that trying to quietly shove off.

Mixed Media Illustration by Chris Gostling


Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 



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