James R. Williams

The following is an essay I wrote during my University degree:


As technology intersects more and more aspects of peoples lives is becoming more difficult to avoid the encroachment of technology into our lives. With an estimated 73% of adults in the UK access the internet every day(1), lives are becoming more interconnected than ever before and avoiding it is becoming increasingly difficult almost to the point of impossibility.

Technology users often become accustomed to the limitations of the technology solutions or products offered to them, not realising or capable of adapting them to suit their needs they adapt their needs to match up with the software. A quasi-Stockholm syndrome of technology almost where people adapt to suit the technology where they could just as easily adapt the technology, master it, to suit their needs.

We may be in control of technology but not the dependence we have directly or otherwise placed on it. Society lives it's lives online and without it could not function in its current capacity. Wherever or not control is equal to dominos remains to be seen as we are effectively controlled by our own invention with its limitations presented to us unknowingly through a quasi-Stockholm syndrome of interfaces.

There are ultimately two sides to this issue, the people with an understanding and ability to change the options presented to them through or ones who accept these pre-chosen options and assume it has been done for the right reasons. All that is left is for people to choose which side they would like to be on.

If people are willing to give up certain personal liberties for these benefits in their lives there isn’t really a problem.

Choice is inherently good. The bedrock to a successful and free society is one that is based on peoples’ ability to decide their own futures, and live as they wish. However, often the options have already been limited before we make the choices ourselves.

The range of options we have to choice from has already been pre-selected to be placed in front of us to choose from.

Similarly with technology their usage has already been predetermined and limited in someway if you are suing a standardised product. Word processors for example can only what their in-built features are capable of.

User interactions are predetermined. Unless you are personally coding scripts to do actions for you. When users interact with a system, the button and it's following actions have been thought through by another person, doing what they think is best. Users are accustomed to the standard limitations of technology and are rarely aware of the wider benefits as these are not provided within the average set up.

Schwartz discusses that expectations have been inflated to such an extent, that people think there is a perfect option available to them. The belief that there is a utopian option available to them leads to satisfaction with our decisions declines as we question our choice. There is no denying that choice is one of the bedrocks of democory and freedom but it could be argued that is too much of a good thing.

Defining what makes a master of technology is however is a difficult task. Are the people in con roll the users of the developers behind these “empowering” digital tools we use? The 2012 Facebook emotional study (2) is one such reason to show that the technology itself is controlling its users. Often, the users themselves knowing it is happening. However, the question still remains if the matter of people sacrificing personal privacy for convince has any significant impact on society.

As we move towards an ever more interconnected world there will be a shift in understanding with digital natives being the norm, however we need more people with the ability to manipulate these technologies rather than just use them in their intended capacity. A freedom that comes with being a master is the ability to chose your own direction and not one set by others deliberately or otherwise.

We all make choices but in the end our choices make us.

References

(1) http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/rdit2/internet-access---households-and-individuals/2013/stb-ia-2013.html

(2) http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/02/facebook-sorry-secret-psychological-experiment-users

Schwartz. 2005. The Paradox Of Choice. [Online]. [Accessed 1 Jan 2015] Available from: http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice