Exploration Summary and Conclusions
Research shows Americans have a large appetite for consumer electronics and screened devices, particularly the television, computer and mobile phone. These high levels of consumption have created problems with Internet addiction, and has been most recently broadened to include device or technology addiction as well.
Theorists believe as people continue to have these high levels of interaction with devices deeper, intimate relationships referred to as “humachine” (Poster) are formed. In searching for evidence of the “humachine” a survey of daily device usage and perception revealing what resembles a working partnership with the technology as opposed to a deep relationship. Survey respondents reported interacting with no less than two and as many as eight devices in the typical day resulting in fragmented usage divided among gadgets. I believe this fragmentation dilutes the intensity of interaction and dependence that could develop and nurture a deeper connection or “humachine”.
The evolution of the smart phone into what more closely resembles a mini computer is quickly consolidating varying device functions into one piece of technology. Through the smart phone I believe people will become increasingly reliant on one device, focusing and intensifying the interaction. This may result in a deeper, more intimate connection needed for realizing the “humachine” in the near future.
Examination of my own device usage revealed a great dependence on my mobile smart phone and overwhelming feelings of stress and loss of control as related to technology. A 24-hour device detox brought to light a habit for constantly “checking” the devices, concerns regarding the deterioration of face-to-face communication and a struggle to balance relationships in both the physical and virtual worlds. I concluded that in going without I longed for the ability to easily multi-task and search for new information (i.e. functions of the device) and not the device itself.
This is Your Brain on Devices
As advancements in technology promote increasing human attachment to and interaction with a device(s), I believe this is an area that warrants further exploration. I think “humachine” relationships will be realized, but we have to be able to recognize them and prove existence. Moving forward, I believe device dependence and “humachine” research should look to Neuroimaging or Brain Mapping with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tools to truly uncover deep human connections to technology and devices. Traditional research methodologies such as surveys and focus groups can have difficulty uncovering the subconscious thoughts and feelings of the respondent. Brain Mapping, however bypasses any conscious interference by measuring response activity in different areas of the brain and ultimately decoding the thoughts of the respondent.
At the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at SUNY Stony Brook, Drs. Arthur and Elaine Aron perform studies focusing on cognition in personal relationships and have been active in several research efforts using Brain Mapping technologies. In 2005, Dr. Arthur Aron in partnership with anthropologist Helen Fisher and neurologist Lucy L. Brown studied romantic love using fMRI. Brain activity was measured as respondents were shown photographs of the person they were in love with for a short period, distracted, and then shown a photograph of a person with whom they had a “neutral” relationship with. Suppose, this study were repeated adding the device the person interacts with the most in between the photographs. Would the fMRI reveal similar brain activity images to the response associated with love? Perhaps addiction? Or maybe similar to the attachment and nurturing responsibility a parent feels for its child? I believe Neuroimaging and Brain Mapping can provide us with the answers that will move deep device relationships from theory to scientific fact.
Please find an Exemplary Literature Review supporting the information presented in the "Screen Addiction" blog.