Paddy O’Reilly presented a paper on the uncanny at a recent post grad conference. Put simply, she talked about Freud’s notion of the uncanny as the way the unfamiliar and the familiar come together and leave us feeling ‘queasy’ inside. Paddy used images from robotics to make the point.
She put on a U-tube of Big Dog. A military styled robot that can assist in wartime operations.
We watched the film clip and Paddy who sat in front remarked on the amazing expressions on our faces as we moved through states of awe and pity for the strange creature that struggled to right itself while walking on ice and a sudden shiver of revulsion whenever the blend of human and non-human came together. It is this combination of the familiar and unfamiliar, the human and the nonhuman that disturbs our cognitive tranquility, that makes us wince, turn away and at the same time titillates.
I thought of ET. I thought of those strange faceless dolls that were popular some time ago. Paddy also showed a short video of this giant little girl who is manipulated to walk through the streets by cranes and pulleys. Dracula comes to mind. Pinocchio, as well. The non-human into the human. It fascinates and yet we recoil.
Take a look and be disturbed.