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The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  307 ratings  ·  79 reviews
A constellation of everyday digital phenomena is rewiring our inner lives, argues Laurence Scott. We are increasingly coaxed from the third-dimensional containment of our pre-digital selves into a wonderful and eerie fourth dimension, a world of ceaseless communication, instant information and global connection.

Our portals to this new world have been wedged open, and the s
Paperback, 248 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published June 18th 2015)
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3.46  · 
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You are no doubt reading this on a screen, most likely some sort of tablet or phone, but it could be on a computer. This constant interaction with the 1’s and 0’s of the digital world is starting to have an effect on our own lives, as we are drawn into a world of constant connection, information at your fingertips and 24 hour communication. Scott calls this new persona, the four dimensional human, and in this book considers the ways that this influx of digital consciousness will affect us. Some ...more
The Four-Dimensional Human invites us to think about how digitization has changed our lives. It's not a book about dooms-day warnings of how technology will ruin us, but rather, gently nudges us to think about what it means to be connected to the cloud at all times. What does it mean for our sense of a body, when we are constantly "bodiless" on the net? What meanings do space and place have, when I can be where you are with the click of a button or a swipe on a screen?

Scott's writing style combi
This is a difficult book to write about and very hard to describe. It's basically a study of how 'networked life', ie 24/7 connection to the internet and social media and the ability to constantly communicate across almost all physical borders, has transformed the human experience, and what that means for us. But it's a sprawling sort of book that goes in loads of different directions, rather than presenting a single argument. If this sounds a bit incoherent, it sometimes can be, yet Scott's wri ...more
Pete Foley
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The introduction alone is worth the price of admission.
I feel like sometimes he gets a little carried away in his grand and super verbose similes and references, but then he'll turn around and slap you with beautiful insights.
It's such a pleasure to read about our modern, connected lives without it sounding like your grand mother is disappointed in you.
Jul 09, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I recieved a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. It's been a few months & I've made many attempts to reach the end but have finally had to admit defeat, this book really isn't for me.
A non-fiction book written in highly styled prose is an interesting concept, but such a book needs to retain the essential elements of expertise or insight & I just didn't find that here.

Great read for style, but sadly the content was just not to my taste.
Douglas Lord
Talk about 'waxy.' This Scott dude can certainly stretch an idea. He argues, semi-convincingly, that digital devices and social media are the 4th dimension. We're somewhere else when we're really here. Or vice versa or something.

“Social media…makes a moment four-dimensional by scaffolding it with simultaneity, such that it exists in multiple places at once” (xv). But he also gives an example of writing a postcard doing the same thing, so isn’t it *any* distraction removing you from the present?
Neil McRobert
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a piece of philosophical and critical writing this book has its flaws. As a piece of entertaining commentary on daily digital interaction it is hugely effective. Scott adopts a fairly systematic approach early on. He reminisces about some piece of pop culture trivia or literary moment and then finds a way to use it as a metaphorical entry into the changing themes of his study. He zips along from tennis, to Oscar Wilde, via 80s children's TV and a late (and ineffective) use of the desert as sp ...more
Karel Baloun
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scott deeply understands the internet, and wastes few words on empty ideas, and covers vast ground accessible from his Comparative Literature PhD and broad artistic interests. Carefully choose descriptive words and obscure yet appropriate metaphors and examples, this book often sent me to google for erudition, and never wasted my curiosity.

Best moments are countless, including: Duschamps’ Toilet. Timescales as Porn. Proust. Dorian Grey. Flatland, and several personal brushes with death.

I couldn'
Libby Greene
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed reading this book, but whenever I talk about it, I feel the need to reserve myself. The Four-Dimensional Human explores the ways in which digital networks have changed our ways of living and being in the world-- a highly worthwhile subject, imho. Laurence Scott uses the pop academic's medley of sociological, mythological, literary, and crit. theoretical lenses to examine our modern fascinations and to subsume our behaviors into conceptual frameworks, all snugly fitted into hi ...more
Karel Baloun
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scott deeply understands the internet, and wastes few words on empty ideas, and covers vast ground accessible from his Comparative Literature PhD and broad artistic interests. Carefully choose descriptive words and obscure yet appropriate metaphors and examples, this book often sent me to google for erudition, and never wasted my curiosity.

Best moments are countless, including: Duschamps’ Toilet. Timescales as Porn. Proust. Dorian Grey. Flatland, and several personal brushes with death.

I couldn'
Though the book was vaguely relevant to my MA thesis on posthumanism and virtuality, it was difficult to read at times. The style itself is witty and a pleasure to read, and the anecdotes as to how the author came to think about a certain consequence to our existence in 4D do make it all more clear. Indeed, I could not blaim the author for having bad style or poor writing skills - 80% of the time, it is a good read.
The only drawbavk that I see is the the author's tendency to repeat the same thi
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017
Full of fantastic metaphors and penetrating, striking and stinging insights into our all-encompassing digital world and the creation of an always-on uncannily haunted screen life, mixed in with some labored comparative literature analysis that just did not work. And he really dropped the ball with the last chapter on the "desertification" of reality and the internet. Labored comparison after labored comparison. A good editor would have trimmed Scott's escapades into intertextual analysis and cho ...more
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Monica Keszler
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately, you'll have to accept that any book written about the internet is destined to have some of its ideas outdated in a relatively short period of time, just based on the explosive growth and change and flux websites, apps, etc experience. This book was only published in 2015 yet calls back to some internet phenomena that made me feel like I was taking a long, deep drag from a nostalgia cigarette. Scott also makes a lot of references to pop culture, art, and history that can make this ...more
Chris Baker
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
The internet has become all pervaise. Like Mr Tickle, Scott suggests, it has the magical ability to reach into every frame of our lives. Smart phones and tablets have become palm-sized windows onto new vistas. The tropes of social media are changing the way that we view the world. Notifications are creating new rhythms, communication is at once instant and overwhelming.

While we struggle to catch breath, time to reflect on what is happening is increasingly important. Yet here we get the space to
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A sort of phenomenology of the networked self. Digressive, literary, clever. Scott does a better job than almost any other book I've read (and I've read a few recently) on capturing the uncanny elements of our social media world, the experience of "being" online. This isn't a screed or a pep-rally: Scott's tone as he discusses the various strange aspects of our lives online is perhaps best described as bemused ambivalence. He references literature and pop culture in trying to understand the curr ...more
Abandoned at p.61. A subject with real potential smothered by cloying, infra-De Botton cod philosophising (very infra-De Botton - none of his icy-but-perfectly-judged-superciliousness, rather scratching at the edges of the subject with poorly timed aperçus). Given the subject matter - how are we negotiating, physically and emotionally, our increasing loss of corporeality - it might have been worth persisting with. But then again, perhaps not. And live really is too short for not-very-good books.
Dan Coxon
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A smart, literate look at the ways in which online culture is changing us as a species. It veers away from hard science, preferring to draw upon Scott's personal experience and his extensive reading. So much of it rang true - essential.
Although some of these ideas are interesting and everything is well written, the author just crams together separate & unrelated topics in a continuous stretchy metaphor.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am actually glad that I went back to this book and gave it another chance. I almost DNF'ed it for so many reasons, such as it had been too long since I last read it and I lost interest. But, once I gave it another chance, I found myself finding it hard to put it down.

I am a person that is really into reading about technology and social media, so this book was right up my alley.

Earlier, I read Changing the Subject by Sven Birkerts and I really wanted to read another book similar to it. I want
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Only managed half of this book’s 200 or so pages. It’s difficult to articulate exactly why I found this book so exasperating, as that would require going back through it to dig out some illustrative passages - which I am disinclined to do, intellectually-lazy lightweight that I am.

I started by admiring and liking this book, as Scott has some penetrating insights to report about how we exist in the digital world, and he sometimes describes them in a striking, vivid way. But those gems are so wadd
Sue Lyle
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To read a book where the writer is clearly so intelligent and well read and has such an engaging narrative style was a pleasure. I was impressed with the quality of the writing and not a little envious of the breadth of his own reading. I loved all the literary and philosophical references woven into the book. It made me stop and think and write about my own technology-led digital life. A book that makes me stop and reflect, to take some time in contemplation on the meaning of my life and our li ...more
Gary Lang
Sep 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
From the time I encountered the sentence, “Before everyone knew about Steve Jobs, he released Apple’s own browser in 2003, and, feeling unable to break from the journeying metaphors, threw Safari’s hat into the ring” I knew this book was written by an intelligent guy who is going to make a lot of analogies and draw a lot of conclusions from them because they "seem" correct. The book reminds me of literary semiotics, where people sometimes use math and physics concepts incorrectly understood and ...more
Joseph Cope
Lots going on here; really, a bit too much. Shakespeare, Mr Tickle, Oedipus, bees. By the end of this book I felt battered by ideas. And it is a thin line sometimes between clever analogy and pretentiousness. Having said that, there are some good points buried here and there that made me think about the way hyper-connectivity affects life. See, I got it a bit, and the flamboyant and eclectic style is entertaining, but unchecked I did feel risks overrunning the the book's arguments and turned thi ...more
Paul Dunphy
Jun 13, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book right to the end -- and I deserve serious credit for that. The writing was whimsical and self-indulgent and I was never sure why certain anecdotes provided were relevant to the matter at hand. Although, there are certain vignettes in there from the author's own experience that exemplify new ways that people appropriate technology in ways that are surprising and even that can make uncomfortable reading. These evocative instances lead you to believe that insights will be imminentl ...more
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed. The title intrigued me and the person who tweeted seemed eager to talk about it. I looked for it online and looked through the preview of it.
Not sure if this is considered a self help book or something else. It really wasn't my type of book but it did have a few great moments that someone opened my mind to different train of thought.
Affad Shaikh
Was a read and a half. I admit some aspects of it were a bit much philosophizing, and those portions that hit the reality of a internet integrated life were spot on. I find that if you're better connected much of the stuff I considered philosophizing would make sense. Given that I myself have cut back my consumption, participation, and reliance on social media, i found the trends bizarre. Probably makes me a rare breed amongst my co-milliannialist generation.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-studies
With a deft fluency in both "high" and "low" culture, Scott builds an eerily affecting argument about the pervasive societal transformations as a result of digital life. From Virginia Woolf to misadventures on Airbnb, this cultural commentary-cum-memoir peels back the curtain on our fourth dimension – an out-of-time existence in the world wide web.
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won't address directly the ideas presented in the book. They are certainly compelling, but what is important is that it provides a desperately needed framework (at least the beginnings of one) to meaningfully think about the digital.
D.J. Desmond
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Filled with really good ideas that made me think, and I agree that humans in a technological age are 4D, but it didn’t seem to stay on topics that I found more intriguing, and spent a good amount of time on stuff not as useful.
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“Millions of us daily take advantage of [Skype], delighted to carry the severed heads of family members under our arms as we move from the deck to the cool of inside, or steering them around our new homes, bobbing them like babies on a seasickening tour. Skype can be a wonderful consolation prize in the ongoing tournament of globalization, though typically the first place it transforms us is to ourselves. How often are the initial seconds of a video's call takeoff occupied by two wary, diagonal glances, with a quick muss or flick of the hair, or a more generous tilt of the screen in respect to the chin? Please attend to your own mask first. Yet, despite the obvious cheer of seeing a faraway face, lonesomeness surely persists in the impossibility of eye contact. You can offer up your eyes to the other person, but your own view will be of the webcam's unwarm aperture. ... The problem lies in the fact that we can't bring our silence with us through walls. In phone conversations, while silence can be both awkward and intimate, there is no doubt that each of you inhabits the same darkness, breathing the same dead air. Perversely, a phone silence is a thick rope tying two speakers together in the private void of their suspended conversation. This binding may be unpleasant and to be avoided, but it isn't as estranging as its visual counterpart. When talk runs to ground on Skype, and if the purpose of the call is to chat, I can quickly sense that my silence isn't their silence. For some reason silence can't cross the membrane of the computer screen as it can uncoil down phone lines. While we may be lulled into thinking that a Skype call, being visual, is more akin to a hang-out than a phone conversation, it is in many ways more demanding than its aural predecessor. Not until Skype has it become clear how much companionable quiet has depended on co-inhabiting an atmosphere, with a simple act of sharing the particulars of a place -- the objects in the room, the light through the window -- offering a lovely alternative to talk.” 1 likes
“We have an ~everywhereness~ to us now that inevitably alters our relationship to those stalwart human aspects of self-containment, remoteness and isolation.” 1 likes
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