These panels are from a graphic novel called “The Resonator” by Prentis Rollins (click on it to see a larger version). I wanted to use it to illustrate Cognitive Estrangement.

The story is set in a future where humans do not sleep anymore. The reason is unknown but it is thought be because of information overload or some interference from the government. Sleep can only be achieved by using a mysterious artifacts called resonators, which are illegal. Aaron Bronson is being detained because he has been accused of using a resonator. In this scene is being interrogated by a public defender assigned to his case.

Cognitive estrangement happens when the user experiences a scene or idea that is different from our empirical reality, but similar enough that they can see it being a plausible future. Information overload is everywhere. There are numerous articles that say how we absorb more information in a day then some people in the past ever encountered. Because of this, a future where humans never sleep because of this absorption is something that we could imagine as a possibility.

As we read the panel from left to right we see Aaron begin to yawn. This is familiar to us, but we are then stopped by the utter look of shock is the lawyer’s face, and the quote, “…My god, he’s yawning. He’s sleepy. This is what it is to be sleepy.” We are immediately distanced because we know what it is like to feel tired and to yawn. This is something we take for granted, and in experiencing this phenomenon from her point of view, we are being forced to reflect and see sleep in a completely different way.

I feel like I’m mixing up some reading and skipping over some obvious connections here. Someone help me fill in the gaps!