One Big Digital Family; A Good Idea or Not?

Technology; Here, There, Everywhere….

Living in a world that is essentially ruled and powered by technology seemed completely alien 20 years ago. So how in that short space of time has the world changed so much; how has our society turned into a place connected by algorithms and data control centres? This scary thought is only becoming more and more real every day with the latest craze enabling us to complete very humane tasks all from our smart phone or a control panel.

[Apple Watch, by https://www.pricenfees.com CC BY 2.0]

In May 2016, Google collaborated with Levi to create the Smart Jacket connecting your jacket to your smart phone.

This is quite an extreme example of how rapidly technology is taking over our lives and slowly but surely ruling our society. But let me ask you, how many times today alone have you used a technological device; have you checked Facebook, or even just a text message? What is the first thing you do in the morning; I know that I check my phone before I do anything else. We are living in a world where our dependence on technology is scary — we cannot go an hour without it never mind a day or week.

Take a look at these surprising results of people who monitored their phone usage!

[Your Phone: How Often Do You REALLY Use It? by Buzzfeed Video, Standard Youtube License]

But why is this such a scary thought? Surely becoming more technologically competent is a good thing? That’s what we are all aiming for right? Well yes, to a certain extent we do want to become more competent so that we can keep up with the progression of our digital world but what effect is that really having on us as a society? And how is our society changing to match and keep up with the digital world?

Are Smart Cities distracting us from smart thinking?

It is these implications that this course highlighted — along with the potential technology has in our society, it has highlighted some of the scary truths behind technology in our society.

But first, let’s take a look at the more positive implications. A theme I would like to briefly examine is Smart Cities. Smart Cities, according to the Smart City Council 2017, is a city that “has digital technology embedded across all city functions” such as schools/universities, shops, hospitals, law enforcement and agriculture.

Terreform One’s vision of New York as a smart city. Photograph: Mitchell Joachim/Terreform One

There are many massive advantages to producing Smart Cities and many of our societies are becoming more and more like a Smart City every day. The role of technology in the Smart City is to make our city a better place to live; to eliminate everyday issues that seem somewhat unsolvable. For example, as Kate Holmes explains in her notes on this topic, technology can be used to reduce crime such as geographically spotting with high crime rates, identifying specific patterns or even by detecting gun sounds and immediately reporting to law enforcement.

Along with this advantage, there are many others including more environmentally friendly societies. We also thought culturally, how are other cities or countries developing positively into a smart city in ways that we, here in Manchester, are not. One example given was that in Germany, if you recycle bottles into a machine at a supermarket, it adds up and exchange cost (usually around 15c or 25c), prints it onto a receipt and then you either get that amount off your shop or given to you in change. This simple form of technology is encouraging most of the population to recycle and therefore creating a more environmentally friendly and cleaner country.

[Water Bottles by Thad Zadjdowicz, CC0 1.0]

During our class on Smart Cities, we thought of problems facing our society and possible technological solutions. It was amazing to see the potential technology has to make our cities a better place. However, along with suggesting solutions we also had to suggest a limitation or possibly issue that would arise from our suggested solution. This highlighted a number of issues with regards to Smart Cities.

The one I found most interesting was the idea that creating and reshaping cities to facilitate a technological way of living could potentially cause further exclusion within our society.

Facing exclusion in a society is not difficult. With so much going on, many can’t quite find where they fit in, and with styles and trends constantly changing, many just cannot keep up. But for technology, we face a whole other degree of exclusion. Those that cannot afford it, those that cannot learn how to use it and those who are a generation older than those of us adapting to it. As Kate Holmes summarised,

“As the gap between the rich and poor is increasingly becoming wider and with an ageing population we must ensure that the technologies that we put in place work for everyone.”

As exciting as the prospect of including technology more and more in our day to day lives is, is it really the final solution to all our problems? Or is it just going to create more? I, personally, don’t know the answer to this as I do not think there is one, but I do think we are becoming closer and closer to finding out and I am not sure I like the way we are heading.

My constant need to be on my phone or using technology has a massive impact on not only my life but those around me — if our city continues to grow and encourage technological use, will we ever speak to one another on the street; will we even need to leave our homes or will some sort of robot do all the work for us?

[Robot by Lenore Edman, 2012 Silicon Valley Regional First Competition, CC BY 2.0]

I can see the many positive opportunities technology creates and trust me, I am all for them! But I do think we need to carefully examine how dependent we become on this technology and really think about the implications of living in a Smart City?


Reflection

At the start of the semester, if you asked me what did I think of when you said the words “digital society” my answer would have been somewhat limited to “social media, the internet and technology.” However, one of the biggest impacts this course has had on me is expanding my very narrow minded view and opening my eyes to the real meaning of “The Digital Society” and the potential it has in the future.

[Social Media Koppelingen by ATLAS Social Media, Public Domain Mark 1.0]

I have faced many challenges in this course. For example; being able to imagine a world of technology that at the minute just does not exist in the Smart Cities topic; engaging with classmates from many different courses and backgrounds, all of whom I did not know prior to this module; and also learning a new way of working including the Pecha Kucha task and attributing images correctly.

The main challenge I faced was definitely opening my mind to the possibilities of the digital society and not limiting the capabilities and potential it has in our world not only today but in the future. If we look back 10 years, technology only just existed, and now we can’t go anywhere without seeing it or using it! Completing activities where we had to imagine Manchester in the future helped to eliminate not only my own stigma and limitations but my classmates’ as well surrounding technology in our society. Creating things like contactless charity donation points and underground pod transport to you front door were not only very exciting but also a very real possibility for our future and potentially in our lifetime.

[CMTC Technology Conference 2010 by Wesley Fryer, CC BY-SA 2.0]

Aside from broadening my knowledge of the topic and all of the possibilities the digital world has for our society, I have also gained a variety of very useful skills in the module. Having to use my initiative and think creatively has been a skill tested a lot; to think up new ideas, ideas that were unconventional or ‘outside the box’. I have also been pushed to be confident in speaking in public and in front of my peers. For example, the Pecha Kucha assignment required me to step completely out of my comfort zone and present in front of not only my peers but people I really didn’t know very well.

These experiences that I have gained will really help me in future careers and in particular, when applying for jobs. The knowledge will obviously be useful in years to come but the practical skills that I have practiced will not only look great on a CV but also help to me to sell myself to any employer. Being able to say that I am comfortable in group work, presenting to large groups of people and using my initiative to think of new, more effective, ways to resolve social issues.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on this course; I have enjoyed reflecting on ideas and implications that the digital world brings to our society but it has left me wondering, what will our world look like in 10, 20 years’ time because if we are going the way we currently are, it could be a scary and very technological place!!

And to finish, a slightly random yet fun explanation! Enjoy!

Digital Society (Explained) by Deutsche Bank, Standard Youtube License]
One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.