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  • Published: 18 June 2015
  • ISBN: 9781473505254
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

The Four-Dimensional Human

Ways of Being in the Digital World

A revelatory exploration of life in the digital age

SHORTLISTED FOR THE SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 2015WINNER OF THE JERWOOD PRIZEONE OF WIRED's NON-FICTION BOOKS OF THE DECADEWe spend more time than ever online, and the digital revolution is rewiring our sense of what it means to be human. Smartphones let us live in one another's pockets, while websites advertise our spare rooms all across the world. Never before have we been so connected. Increasingly we are coaxed from the three-dimensional world around us and into the wonders of a fourth dimension, a world of digitised experiences in which we can project our idealised selves.

But what does it feel like to live in constant connectivity? What new pleases and anxieties are emerging with our exposure to this networked world? How is the relationship to our bodies changing as we head deeper into digital life? Most importantly, how do we exist in public with these recoded inner lives, and how do we preserve our old ideas of isolation, disappearance and privacy on a Google-mapped planet?

  • Published: 18 June 2015
  • ISBN: 9781473505254
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

About the author

Laurence Scott

Laurence Scott's book The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World (2015) was shortlisted for The Samuel Johnson Prize, won the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Prize, and was named the Sunday Times ‘Thought Book of the Year’. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Guardian, Financial Times, New Statesman, Boston Globe, Wired and the London Review of Books. In 2011 he was named a ‘New Generation Thinker’ by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the BBC, and now regularly writes and presents documentaries for BBC radio, as well as presenting and contributing to the Radio 3 arts and ideas programme, Free Thinking. He is a Lecturer in Writing at New York University in London, where he lives.

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Praise for The Four-Dimensional Human

In this sequence of almost Montaigne-like essays, blending observation, philosophical inquiry and a highly literary sort of layering, Scott exquisitely articulates not what the digital world can do but how it feels to engage with it. He resists the usual polarisation of debate, capturing instead our “breathless” mix of excitement and unease. Scott’s writing is exceptionally fine, and his cultural range extravagant. Describing YouTube’s “enveloping of the past”, he moves from Ian McEwan to Katie Price. Pondering the phenomenon of digital detox, he recalls EM?Forster’s yearning for the greenwood. He flits from Google’s Desert View to early Christian hermits, from Airbnb to late-Victorian science fiction — and it is always insightful, never pretentious. An astounding debut.

Sunday Times, Thought Book of the Year

Scott's references are admirably broad, spanning high and low culture in a layered and complex (and Samuel Johnson shortlisted) account.

Financial Times, Books of the Year

Clever, allusive, with a capacious sense of humour, the book sizzles with intelligence ... brilliant.

New York Times

Scott is an ideal person to tackle this subject... Moreover, he is both a creative writer and a perceptive literary critic, who leavens his text with some mercurially brilliant turns of phrase and poetic coinages, while at the same time stiffening it up with huge dollops of literary explication and quotation… with his joyful phrase-making and sharp eye for the follies and absurdities of wired life, Scott would be the perfect investigator to report back on what it feels like to be… uploaded.

Will Self, Guardian

A book that delivers a nourishing counterpoint to the ephemerality of the digital age. Scott offers layered and complex thought in a style that is elegant and artful. He has worked long and hard, you imagine, at these thoughts and words – and to prove that it can still be done, despite the glow of distraction emanating from a smartphone inevitably sitting on a table nearby, is worth celebrating in itself.

Sophie Elmhirst, Financial Times

A real flirt of a book. It’s full of impish gaiety, elegant and lithe in its language, providing intellectual ambushes and startling connections. It examines our evolving notions of publicity, privacy, time-wasting, frivolity, friendship, allegiances, denial, escapism and squalor in the internet age. The teasing, wary optimism is bewitching as well as informative.

Richard Davenport, Spectator, Christmas Books

[Laurence Scott's] account of what is becoming of us is often beautiful even if unnerving at times... It is certainly worth our attention.

New Scientist

A probing and elegant meditation on the digital world’s 'ways of being'... The book is full of artfully concentrated imaginative descriptions... less a commentary on the digital world than a meditation on the many ways our technologies serve as spectral emanations of our inner lives in all their contradictory richness. Beyond the lovely precision of its diction and companionable voice, it is notable for its courage to write from inside the ambiguities and confusions of online life, to resist the easy pleasures of summary judgement.

Josh Cohen, New Statesman

This is a brisk, important, funny and thoroughly absorbing work …The allure, edges and routine of the online sphere are explored here with considerable literary flourish. Scott’s sentences fizz with ingenuity and clarity and he observes familiar territory with fresh eyes…This is a serious book that asks serious questions about what our new ways of living is doing to our minds, relationships and the natural world. But this is nevertheless delivered with a jocular and self-skewering touch.

Simon Parkin, Literary Review

With a vast range of reference, from Greek myth to Zadie Smith, this is a wonderful debut, precisely observed and crafted with a dazzling intelligence that makes you want to quote whole pages aloud.


A delicate reflective book… Scott’s book is a gentle meditation that drifts through observations about behaviour, state of mind and sense of self, without manufactured conclusion. And he defines something that many of us feel, a need to resist the relentlessness of immersive technology, and the constant enthusiasm for technology that runs parallel with our anxiety and claustrophobia.

Jemima Kiss, Observer

An entertaining and insightful guide to the positive and negative effects of this new reality.

Ian Critchley, Sunday Times

Here at last we have a portrait in full of our digitally extended, digitally entwined selves. With wit, intelligence, and tenderness, Laurence Scott explores the glowing, sprite-filled wonderland that we now inhabit, and the silent, empty places that lie in its shadow.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows and The Glass Cage

Exotically beautiful and conceptually generous, this study of digital life is essential reading even (and especially) for those of us without a Facebook account. Scott is a delightfully tender and humane guide to transformations that might amaze Ovid and new forms of nostalgia to rival Proust. Scott's thinking is strenuous, his prose raucously alive. He writes about change but this is a landmark book and long may it last.

Alexandra Harris, author of Romantic Moderns and Weatherland

He ranges from big themes to the smallest of anxieties - 'the silence of the unsent text message', for example - with a relentlessness that reminds one sometimes of Geoff Dyer... and at other times of Walter Benjamin.

John Naughton, Observer

I enjoyed Scott’s tropes, whether he was nailing the defining quality of Katie Price as “eternal next-ness”, or describing the x-ray view of screened luggage as a Warholian “pastel fantasia”.


Laurence Scott is a gifted anthropologist of cyberspace whose fieldwork is kindled by sharp insights and luminous prose.

Chloe Aridjis, author of Book of Clouds and Asunder

The Four-Dimensional Human is a highly original, thought-provoking and ambitious look at life in the digital age. It sparkles with original insight and commentary about how we are all, for better or worse, adapting to the dramatic changes in the world around us.

Jamie Bartlett, author of The Dark Net

The Four-Dimensional Human adds immeasurably to the burgeoning literature on what sociel media do to our innermost lives, relationships and stance towards the world... a richly complex potrayal of the ways we live today in the digital world, inviting readers to understand our own often inexplicable, bittersweet sensations. As a writer, [Scott] is naturally alert to the way the digital world affects language... his witty takedown of the "noun invasion"... is worth the price of admission alone. The future, Scott warns, "will demand an evolution in how we think about what it means to be present, how we manifest bodily and virtually in the world". His book provides the best of companions and guides along the way.

Carol Tarvis, Times Literary Supplement

A bemused bulletin from the bleeding edge of the digital revolution. Like the online world itself, it's scattershot yet coherent, varied yet concentrated, restless and inspiring – and you can lose a lot of hours perusing it.


Laurence Scott’s meditation on the way digital media have changed not only our lives but our consciousness is full of fresh ideas and written with great panache. Drawing on a wide range of references – from Henry James to Eminem, from nineteenth-century futurist fiction to the fable of Beauty and the Beast – Scott illuminates our bewildering new world.’

Jane Ridley, Andrew O'Hagan and Lucy Hughes-Hallett, judges of the 2014 Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction

Scott’s thought-provoking insight invites us to question what lies in store for the so called four dimensional human … This book is ideal for people who are fascinated with debates around technologies impact on us.


A thought-provoking and powerful read that’s intelligent but easy to engage with.

Anna James, www.acaseforbooks.com

I enjoyed Scott’s tropes, whether he was nailing the defining quality of Katie Price as 'eternal next-ness', or describing the x-ray view of screened luggage as a Warholian 'pastel fantasia'.


An interesting book in a lot of ways.


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