TOUCH VS. TECH: Personal Contact is the New Black
Imagine a world where there’s actually less clicking, swiping, automation and downloading. A world where human touch, and in-person conversations are encouraged and enjoyed; where flip phones and watches are back in style. These days that sounds more like a dystopian society than current or future realities, but those contrasting ideologies make up the themes of Courtney Maum’s new novel “Touch.” The novel’s protagonist is Sloane Jacosen: “A progenitor of ideas, soothsayer of the swipe. Instincts, accounted for; maternal instincts, nil.” Sloane is a successful, highly sought after freelance trend forecaster for tech companies, commanding big bucks and living the good life in Paris with her equally tech savvy boyfriend. When a big offer comes through from Mammoth, a tech giant out of New York, Sloane reluctantly gives in to a chance to return to the U.S. and be closer to her family of which she’s been estranged from for several years.
At the onset of her new job, conceiving the next big tech gadgets for an upcoming annual convention, she has a personal and professional revelation that will undermine her position and rock her world. Instead of millennials mining for more apps and being distracted with screens and gadgets, Sloane senses people will want to get further away from technology and instead be more engaged, craving personal connections. This is confirmed when she sets up a suggestion box for employees to contribute to anonymously. There was no lack of submissions as most of the staff relished the chance to share ideas and unburden themselves of concerns. It becomes somewhat of a confessional of loneliness and disillusionment with their corporate demands and culture of tech consumerism. One participant admitted to going to the hairdresser not so much for the benefits of cut and color, but to be touched. Although at odds with her boss and mission, Sloane gives into her personal and professional instincts, heeding the call for change and becoming a champion for intimacy.
“Having touch is endangered. You think the future belongs to the type of people who are going to sync their fridges with their smartphones, but people are ready-not tomorrow, but now-to be vulnerable and undirected and intimate again.”
Sloane’s new found insights impacts her work life and home life as Roman, her neo-sensualist boyfriend delves deeper in his world of tech. He creates an acrylic suit that covers the whole body with the intentional purpose of decreasing intimacy and sex between humans while authoring a treatise on death of penetrative sex. Conversely, Sloane realizes, for the first time in a long time, that she wants to be close to her family again, and be part of a romantic relationship imbued with love, togetherness and touching. Will Sloane’s professional statement for intimacy be the demise in her career or take hold amongst the techies? Will the demise of her relationship lead to personal connectedness elsewhere?
"Touch" is an interesting premise presented in a light, yet engaging and entertaining manner. Maum proves more than adept at satirical writing while fully drawing fun and modern female lead characters.