Digital Society
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Digital Society

A Digital World: its Perks, its Flaws and Change

The Internet of Things has arrived in our Digital World, supporting us, but also raising issues like the loss of privacy. We are being swamped by the many possibilities which the internet provides and often don’t even realise it until we fail or break down due to the demands of our Digital Society. We should think and reflect about all these matters. Take Change into your own hands. Familiarise yourself with the Digital World and use it for your benefit.

Digital World: Smart technology

We all use technological devises daily, whether it is for work, studies or leisure. Everyone uses computers, smartphones, hoovers, and lights. A few years ago, people would have asked what a light-bulb had to do with the Digital World, but today, all electronic devices can be linked and controlled via an internet connection. The Internet of Things makes life easier, right?

Hot Friday afternoon in May [CC0 Creative Commons]

Imagine, on a hot Friday afternoon in May, after a long day at work you turn on the air-conditioning in your living room, by simply using an app on your smartphone. While you’re on your way home, the temperature adjusts to a pleasant cool. Your camera-secured house will welcome you by turning on the smart lights automatically and the speakers will play your favourite song, while the oven is already cooking your dinner.
That sounds like an expensive dream; but is has become reality.

Smart homes of the present time [CC0 Creative Commons]

In 1997, Bill Gates built the first smart-home, costing $63 million and taking 7 years for its completion. Nowadays, consumers buy smart devices or assistants on the internet from big companies like Google or Amazon, whose businesses are built on the internet itself. The brands are following the market’s demand by expanding their offers of smart technologies. In 2017, there were 107.3 million smart homes worldwide and this number is expected to increase to 185.5 million by 2020. Due to greater availability of such tech, the market prices are decreasing, and their application is becoming more user friendly. The next level is to build a big smart city, which Bill Gates is already planning. Lifestyles will change even more, so that the family car will drive you to work, leaving us with more time to spend on … guess what?
The internet!

But wait a second.

What is it that we actually buy, when we go into the store to get smart-tech or the next generation of smartphones? Why do we even feel the need to have the newest and best devices? Isn’t the old-fashioned way more authentic and fun? The list of questions goes on and on, as there are so many more problems and challenges which arise in the Digital World we are living in.

Buying these supporting devices — which are ever attentive — means that we are giving up our right to privacy. By using technologies, we agree with the companies’ terms of collecting and storing our data. By analysing our behaviour, they can improve and personalise their services for customers. However, there have been big breaches of private data, when hackers break into the security systems of companies. A worldwide well-known name in conjunction with data breaches is Yahoo, but also companies like Uber, Pizza Hut and FedEx were targeted in the UK. Yahoo and co. are working together with hackers to improve their security measures and therefore avoid any further breaches. It is a necessity to keep our data safe and confidential, because the complexity and severity of breaches grows as quickly as technology itself.

The Digital World has brought relief, as technology takes over several of our everyday tasks. In this fast advancing time, in which we are being bombarded with media and work we want some slack in areas like the household. However, by purchasing our digital personal secretaries, the private life is being sold to companies who cannot guarantee for a secure storage of our data. Also the UK government tracks people’s digital movement for security reasons — of course. The most recent change in legislation where technology is used to improve security is the case of Bavaria, Germany, where the police is now allowed to use facial recognition and other surveillance measures like body cams or taping a phone if there is an “impending danger”. Where is the line between relief, security and privacy for you?

Digital Society and Change

Have you ever calculated how many hours a day you spend on the internet or consuming media? In 2017, adults in the UK spent an average of 7 hours and 56 minutes a day consuming media. People realise that they are “hooked” to the internet and miss out on sleep, housework and spending time with friends and family. In addition, 25% more teenagers have suffered from depression and anxiety in the past 25 years, as Phoebe stated in her post for last year’s Digisoc3 assessment. She wrote about the dangers of addiction to social media and the psychological pressure of judgement and cyber bullying by others. Wasn’t technology “supposed to make the world a better place, not a bitchier one”?

Technology and the Digital World have most definitely changed our lives and habits. We neglect essentials like sleeping and we expose ourselves to psychological terrors and pressures. The fear of not having the newest technology — like a smart home — and therefore being judged by others and wanting to be up to date with the latest movies, news and politics stresses people. We have to look perfect on social media and undertake the greatest adventures to show off in front of our many “friends”. Where does it end? It is You who has the power to consciously reduce these influences and devote more time on the essential things in life.

You have the power to consciously change your habits with the digital [CC0 Creative Commons and CC0 Creative Commons]

In this post, I have touched upon multiple upsides and downsides of the Digital World and changes in the Digital Society, but these are by far not all. Maybe reading this has inspired you to think about some issues and what you can do to make a change. Here is a classic song about Change which may help you with this, as even the way of making music has changed in the Digital World.

Self-reflection and Change

The Digital Society module has definitely made me think about some changes that happened in the past years and about how I want to engage differently or advance my experience with the Digital World in the future. By discussing such diverse topics which are related to the Digital Society and due to the multiple assessments, I have acquired some valuable skills and a range of information and knowledge on the digital world.

The course started off with the topic of the internet’s evolution in society and the legal problems of a fair internet (Net Neutrality), went over to the reality of the Internet of Things, the impact of smart-cities and ended with sessions on critical thinking and (self-)reflection. Researching on the topics and writing and reading comments on each week’s debate has helped me to be more critical about what I read and hear. There is always more than one side to it, as we saw by the example of the class’ reaction to an article which claims that the internet has changed everything. Most students disagreed with the author’s interpretation of his ‘proof’. “In fact, the Internet hasn’t changed everything, it has only improved the easiness of life” as Sofia Farante commented in the first week.

Never having written a blog post before taking this module, I have now gained first experiences with this and will be able to use it in other contexts. Whether it is for starting my own blog to report from trips that I have taken or for a future job in the Marketing sector. It was a challenge for me to only include the essential information in the first, short blog assessment as well as in Digisoc3. For the latter I wanted to write about and touch upon more topics, like for instance the question of who is responsible if a purchased machine (or bot) does illegal things (e.g. buying illegal drugs on the dark web, in the name of art). This and many more challenges are areas in which jurisdiction is lagging, as I have come to see. This would be an interesting research area for another blog under the tag of Digisoc3.

Having taken a UCIL unit before, in which I enjoyed working with students from across different disciplines, I can say that I profited from other students’ opinions once more. Everyone brought in new aspects which I might not have considered myself. This time the interaction was less verbally, but more through the students’ contributions to the platform. We could call this ‘Digital Teamwork’, another change in the Digital Society.

Last, but not least, I appreciated the experience of preparing and presenting a PechaKucha, “the arts of precise presentation”, because I had to keep it short (once again) and keep calm when presenting in front of the class. Presenting is a skill learnt by doing and this practice will help me in any future situation, in which I have to present myself, a company or a project. There is still much to discover and learn about the Digital World and Society and there are many more new developments to come.

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Exploring how digital technologies shape society: challenges, themes and implications. Featuring student and staff writers. Views expressed are those of their authors and not necessarily the University of Manchester.

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Daphne Wagner

SKEMA Business School student in International Marketing & Business Development