Just as the tide (World Wide Web and internet) ebbs and flows depositing evermore information, we collect and use it more and more voraciously. Like grains of sand falling through our fingertips, we struggle to hold onto a sense of self as society becomes more online than an offline organism.
Today data is collected and accumulates in our lives ever more diversely, the impact and influence upon us as social beings, our freedom of thoughts and choices are merging more closely with online life. The term ‘information overload’ is frequently used but are we overloaded as individuals because there is too much information or that we seek too much information? Bawden and Robinson, discuss ‘quality over quantity’ and that ‘too much information may actually reflect too much to do: too much activity or too many diverse duties’ (2008) apply.
We live in a constantly upgrading ‘…complex and rich information environment… a homogenisation of information’ with the ‘look and feel of print being largely lost’ (2008). This has allowed freedoms to expand previous limitations. In an age rife with digitalisation, our predominant access to information is via a screen interface be it a phone, tablet or computer.
In his book The 4th Revolution, How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality, Floridi discusses the ‘transition from history to hyperhistory for the living generation; whereby advanced societies become more heavily dependent on ICTs for normal functioning and growth (2014). He uses the term ’onlife’ as part of his theories on the ‘blurring of the distinction between reality and virtuality; the blurring of the distinction between human, machine and nature’ (Floridi 2012), apply to today’s technologically advanced societies more and more. This is a topic that is not only interesting but also worrisome.
Take Japan as an example; well known for its love of technology and gaming, its population is shrinking due to its low birth rate. Economic stagnation, work-life balance, shifting social and cultural attitudes, habits and values are having an effect. However, within this, there are new sub-cultures such as a ‘new breed of Japanese men, the Okatu, who love manga, anime and computers – and sometimes show little interest in sex’ (Rani, 2014). These men have relationships with their online animated characters going as far as to take them to restaurants and parks. Unusual or normal? Surely this is no longer blurring the lines? Furthermore, Ryle (2013) states that the Japanese Ministry of Education is so worried about children’s internet habits that it has introduced internet fasting camps concerned that over 518,000 children were addicted to screen life. These are just two examples of how internet addiction is changing the status quo.
This is a wide and complex area of study and people far more informed than I are grappling with some fundamental questions surrounding our interface with technology.
Finally, each day I commute to work with Borg-like citizens interfacing with the hive in some form. I watch from the peripheries and worry that I may via my research, Blog and Twitter commitments also become assimilated. For now, it’s time to find some balance, switch off and build sandcastles or just have a drink with a friend.
Can you face unplugging from the hive for a day and leave that phone switched off?
Attached is a link to a Smartphone Compulsion Test by Dr Grenfield, a university psychiatry professor and founder of the Centre for Internet and Technology Addiction. How addicted are you to your device?
The irony here is of course that I have used technology to research the information, the test is IT-based and that an algorithm is revealing how addicted you are to your device!
Bawden, D and Robinson, L (2012) Introduction to Information Science: London. Facet Publishing.
Floridi, L. (2014) The 4th Revolution. How Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality: Oxford. Oxford University Press.
Floridi, L. (2015) Commentary on the Onlife Manifesto DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-04093-6_4, (online) available at:https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-3-319-04093-6_4.pdf
PubMedHealth. (2017) Parent’s phone addiction may lead to child behavioural problems. (online) available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2017-05-31-parents-phone-addiction-may-lead-to-child-behavioural-problems/
Rani, A. (2014) The Japanese men who prefer virtual girlfriends to sex. BBC Magazine online at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28677674
Ryall, J. (2013) Japan to introduce internet ‘fasting camps’ for addicted kids. The Telegraph. (online) available at:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/10267303/Japan-to-introduce-internet-fasting-camps-for-addicted-kids.html