Technology is Us (3)

Technology has profoundly extended human capabilities. From early stone age axes and spears to space stations.

The alphabet and writing are technological developments. The pen is an evolution of a stick. Then there was the printing press. The rest, as they say, is history.
We have massively changed environments with technology and in turn the environments change us. There are social environments and the global natural environment under threat as a result of technological activity.
Electronic technology changed how we spend our lives in work and leisure and how we relate to each other. The new digital environment has accelerated these changes.

Hooking our Attention

Evertwhere we go we seem to see people wired to their devices. Listening to music, texting, skyping, scrolling through news feeds, social media, watching films, playing games. And gambling.

And at home most of us may devote large portions of our short lives to being connected to digital devices.

The ‘Addictive’ Nature of Digital Devices

When radio and then television came along there was something ‘addictive’ about them. Maybe they offered us an escape from boredom or stress or worries. Whatever, they are providers of pleasure and reducers of pain. Of course, this is true too of the earlier technology of reading.

Digital devices seem far more potent in demanding our time. They grab our attention deeply. We see and hear thousands of images and sounds in an hour. And most of us have some experience of becoming immersed. We may go looking for a pair of shoes and emerge two hours later strongly considering enrolling for an online course promising to set us up with a soap-making business!

Embedded in our culture for hundreds of years has been advertising. The situation today is that the digital experiences we enjoy are driven by advertising and marketing, commercial methods of persuading – or tempting – us to buy.

The technologies of persuasion are immensely more sophisticated and powerful than they were even 30 years ago. And to see the contrast, check out the very first British television advertisement in 1955 at this post). Much has been written too about how digital technology has been used to manipulate voting and spread ‘fake news).

Of course, it’s not compulsory to given in to the hundreds of messages we receive each day which try to sell us things or change how we think. But most of us have at times bought stuff we don’t remotely need or can’t afford. Only each individual can reflect on their own relationship with the digital world. And it would be daft to ignore the tremendous benefits of digital technology.

A growing concern in society relates to digital gambling. A mobile device offers ‘a casino in your pocket’. While gambling harms have always occurred, the advent of digital gambling can bring the compulsive behaviour associated with the design of all digital devices, coupled with 24/7 marketing and advertising, this able to target consumers individually through sophisticated analogues.

A mousetrap promises a tasty morsel. Advertisements and other enticements often promise us various sorts of reward connected with pleasure. We’re ‘all human’ and humans are often motivated by emotion more than reason. The advertising industry has always known this, and so too have designers of digital devices and products. It is true that most people do enjoy the delights of the digital world safely and with reasonable control, though this varies between individuals and often within the same individual. Too many people though are trapped into cycles of compulsive behaviours which can lead to great harms. Digital gambling is not alone in this but it provides a ‘case study’ exemplifying some of the wider issues around negative consequences of digital engagement in society.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: