Thoughts On: Adapting to Technology

by Beauchamp Art

Technological interaction inevitably affects human action and motivation, as the Panopticon may stimulate self-regulation in response to the potential for constant observation, being expanded from a prison setting to the everyday. As “the ‘Normal’ work environment is the panoptic work environment,” [Galloway, 2012: 108] the individual expects to work under surveillance, much as one becomes accustomed to the presence of CCTV in public areas, thereby subconsciously inducing more abiding behaviour; camera’s abundance becomes sublime, beyond the scope of the immediate mind, though remain present in how one acts in public.

This is furthered by social-media self-regulation (like choosing to avoiding doing something that may be photographed and publicised on Facebook, which may form a bias negative representation of the individual). Much as clocks heighten “the persuasiveness of the utilitarian rationale” [Galloway, 2012: 103] (one may constrain oneself around a time-schedule, constantly monitoring one’s own progress within increments of expended time, which is furthered by the notion that ‘time is money’, or rather time must be used the most efficiently at the expense of everything.

Therefore, the mechanical systems have phenomenological effects, resulting in physical consequences. Dynamically speaking, the phrase ‘running late’ epitomises this. “Being alive and being on the clock are now essentially synonymous,” [Galloway, 2012:109] because either one is actively working, engaging in the “unpaid micro-labor” [Galloway, 2012:92] of answering emails and calls on portable machines, setting up further work and time management, whilst transgressing out of paid work hours, going between activities; monetised time seeps in to every aspect potential the “bourgeois myth of the home as a place of leisure” [Broadbent, 2014] is contaminated by labour. “In the age of postfordist capitalism it is impossible to differentia cleanly between play and work.” [Galloway, 2012: 135] The divided spaces of the home are “subverted by wi-fi [and] individual mobile devices”, all ringing with the echoes of the ticking clock, by which the Postfordist worker is constantly regulated.

Nevertheless, this is even more problematic when the power of the machine exceeds that of man, when the extended body becomes unstable. What Nelson Thrall calls “The Discarnate Effect”: “putting ourselves to speeds beyond which it appears we were designed to live.” [Shenk, 1997: 49] Whether physically straining the eyes to read through the “glut of information” [Shenk, 1997:16], or our feet to keep up with the car; the “extension of man that turns the rider into a superman.” [McLuhan, 1964: 221] Or more prominently in the contemporary situation of the hyper-connected “twenty-first century […] age of networks, […] the nervous system of our future society,” [Van Dijk, 1991: 2] computer’s efficient data processing and cyborg lust stems from “the manic compulsion to process data as fast and as long as the machine will allow […] forever.” [Shenk, 1997: 47] The individual must manually respond to interfacing by adopting technologies extended capabilities, accepting the inevitability of banality, or drown in the “sea of information,” as “we thrive on information and yet we can choke on it.” [Shenk, 1997: 20, 22] The mechanical exoskeleton may crush the body, or take it beyond its limits.

The computer user, like the drug user, regularly intakes their substance without admitting addictive behavior patterns, for online media this is a glut of information, process and mediated into an easily absorbed form, rather than as constructive knowledge. Consumption without considering consequence, without distilling and deconstructing to understand outcomes. Riding the information super highway, ignorant to the blinding banality of over abundance, the blur of hyper-speed and the psychotropic montage of images flying by at fiber-optic light-speed.

Society requires its opiates, its Panopticon theaters and Colosseums of conflict, its jeering crowds and escapes, all of which are available in the home and in he non-places of transit enabled by the networked machines, through which the user can supplement their social comfort of face-t-face interaction with interfaces anywhere under the shadow of the Cloud, offering an overcast perception of ubiquitous instantaneousness, constant connection, constant stimulation.


Reference:

  • Broadbent, Dr Stefana (2014) Digital Anthropolgy (Lecture) Futurecamp 1: How We Act Now: Psychology and Behaviour in the Digital Age. Wysing Arts Centre. Cambridge, UK.
  • Galloway, A. R. (2012) The Interface Effect (Paperback). Cambridge, UK. Polity Press.
  • McLuhan, Marshall (1964) Understanding Media. 1994 Edition. Routledge. Great Britain.
  • Shenk, David (1997) Data Smog. Harper Collins, Abacus. Great Britain.
  • Van Dijk, Jan A G M (1991). Network Society, Social Aspects of the New Media. 1999 Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd.
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