Information Architecture & Hypertext
Digital influence has rapidly impacted the way we think and use media. Technology has created an illusion of free choice but it has restricted the choices available to us. Conner Forest of TechRepublic writes,
“ Futurists and technophiles encourage its use, sure that technology will welcome a new utopia, while luddites rail against the “destructive” nature of technology use.”
A myriad of articles of has been written on this topic of how technology is influencing how we think. One article by Tristan Harris writes on the various ways technology hijack’s people’s minds. Harris writes that a cellphone is similar to a slot machine/gambling. Specifically, apps on phones are the slot machines. Does someone make a conscious choice every time they check their phone? People have the constant need to check their phones looking for various notifications from the apps they are subscribed to. Notifications, in general, play on people’s fear of missing out. Designers realize this and look to controlling people based on their impulses.
Social approval is related the fear of missing out. For example, posting a picture on Facebook and Instagram allows other users to interact with the photo by liking, reacting, and commenting. Posting a photo plays on people’s need for social approval. Additionally, when someone likes your photo, you are more likely to like a photo of theirs in return.
During the process of designing an app, developers have in mind the menu that is being presented to you. By doing this, they limit the choices we have available. However, this might be a positive for some. Having many choices is overwhelming and may lead to people freezing up. Freedom is chaotic while order and structure are easier to navigate through. Take Netflix for instance. Netflix has thousands and thousands of movies and TV shows. It is a daunting task to wade through all those titles to find something to watch. Netflix knowing this creates recommendations for you based on what they think you might be interested. Presented with a choice of recommendations is an easier task to go through opposed to blindly deciding what to watch. It takes away the responsibility from ourselves.
This model of limited choice has been around for a long time. It is harder to change the way things have always been, especially if they work.
Using apps, in essence, is creating a shortcut to access various sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Reddit, and much more. All those sites listed can be accessed by typing the name in a web browser’s URL. Although cell phones do have the capabilities of an internet browser, it might be fair to say people access these sites through using apps more. There may be multiple reasons for this with one being apps create convenience for the user. However, apps go back to how technology influences how we think. While using the Facebook app on a phone, Facebook controls what you see on your phone. This is beneficial for Facebook because they can target you with ads while using the app.
Further, digital technology is affecting how have been using media. A novel is a traditional form of media that has been around for centuries. Technology has improved the novel to the extent of the introduction eBooks. Moreover, people are reading more than ever because of the internet. However, “has the use of the Web made it impossible for us to read long pieces of writing?” Medium, the site you are using to currently using to read this, has listed at the top of articles how long it takes to read it. It will vary from person to person but it might deter people from reading an article that lists it as a 30 minute read opposed to a 5–10-minute read. Is it more important that people are reading than how long they are reading? I lean more towards the former. Ultimately, it is important to be aware of how media and it’s usage is affecting us and to ask ourselves the question of, “are there other options than the choices they are giving us?”.