Sue Thomas – Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace


Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN-13: 978-1849660396, English, 224 pages, 2013, UK

It seems that our ancestral attachment to nature has not been forgotten, especially if you look at how we use natural metaphors to name technological products and services. We even integrate natural symbolism into elements of our interfaces. Moving well beyond the usual dichotomy between warm nature and cold technology – and unlikely compensations integrated the man-made machines – Sue Thomas investigates this relationship, framing it in a new territory that hosts the dialogue and the juxtaposition of the two domains. The book’s title stems from the concept of “biophilia”, or our innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes, which was coined by Erich Fromm, popularized by biologist E.O. Wilson, and celebrated by the homonymous interactive album by Björk in 2011. The technological world seen through the lens of environmental psychology is absorbing, generating an innovative perspective. Thomas collects a vast amount of elements ranging over design, practice, digital folklore and interfaces. She discusses the biophilic needs of a huge number of users, arguing that restorative qualities of nature affect brain functioning capacities. And after an articulate discourse involving quite different cultural fields, it’s clear that integrating these two planets (as she defines them: the one “beneath our feet” and the one “inside our machines”), should be the most natural way to balance our digital life, rather than drastic ‘digital detox’ cures, or addictive indulgence in self-gratifying screen-based loops. Alessandro Ludovico