Engineered Digital Habits

“to share anything they want with anyone they want in a natural way”

–  Mark Zuckerberg, 2016 –

On the back of Facebook’s annual conference, it was this line that has stuck out for me. The belief that our online networks and connections are considered as natural as speaking face-to-face. These semantics do not come as a surprise with Facebook’s clear aim to dominate the flow of traffic around the internet, with its own integrated browsers, shopping features and recently announced bot-integration into its Messenger app. They want us to pay attention to and spend time with its services.

I’d argue that the middle-men that are the likes of Google and Facebook have positioned themselves very cleverly at the top of the food chain. What they have done over the past 15 years is embedded new behaviours that shape and define how we use technology: for shopping, communications and so on.

André Bacard in his book “The Computer Privacy Handbook” discusses how technology is put into the hands of the ‘Kindergarten’ embedding habits that mean as children grow up they cannot imagine a world without technology (and surveillance). He talks about how children who grow up watching television struggle when a television is taken away. Although I was introduced to computer technology at a young age, it was not ubiquitous nor engrained in my day-to-day behaviours. But now it is. I just feel fortunate that I am one questioning it.

Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change, explains how when we develop and practice one behaviour and becomes more entrenched in our brain’s natural cognition, the less we think about the behaviour and so becomes a habit and “unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically”.

Are we happy that we are allowing ourselves to passively develop habits engineered by corporations? Are we happy to just accept the habits and what it means or do you question it? Why are we only using a handful of apps? Why do we trust them and should we trust them? How do they truly benefit us and are there alternative means? And most importantly, how do our habits benefit the people that helped shape them in the first place?

 

 

Bacard, A. (1995). The computer privacy handbook. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit. New York: Random House.

Metz, C. (2016). How Will Zuckerberg Rule the World? By Giving Facebook’s Tech Away. [online] WIRED. Available at: http://www.wired.com/2016/04/mark-zuckerberg-giving-away-facebooks-tech-free/ [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016].

Weaver,J. Medium. (2016). Instagram and the Cult of the Attention Web: How the Free Internet is Eating Itself — RE: Write. [online] Available at: https://medium.com/re-write/instagram-and-the-cult-of-the-attention-web-how-the-free-internet-is-eating-itself-909b5713055e#.wkfuuko7q [Accessed 18 Apr. 2016].

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