More and more aspects of our lives are becoming interactions with technology, from self- service checkouts at supermarkets to instant messenger communications. A recent comment piece in the London Evening Standard argued that “the self checkout lets supermarkets turn alienation into profit.” Where once we used to communicate with each other, we now interact with a machine or mediate our communications through one. But is this a natural outcome of technological advances or something used to bolster corporate profits to the unknowing detriment of consumers?
There are growing fears of an inevitable move towards an isolated society and fears that the younger generation, for whom technology is such an ingrained part of their lives, will gradually become inept at communicating face-to-face. While the use of words is just one aspect of face-to-face communications, it is often the only ingredient in technology-mediated communications. Face-to-face communications allow the use of body language, moderated tones and word- inflections, all of which are precluded by technology-mediated communications. Communicating within the comforts of their own homes, social networking site users, for example, are able to spend time mulling over the wittiness and exact phrasing of their responses, without having to worry about the speed or flow of their conversations. The more fluid nature of face-to-face conversations, however, bars long and drawn-out silences.
We’ve all been taught that practice makes perfect. Is there a danger that with an increasingly decreased amount of practice, people will become less and less able to communicate with each other in the conventional way? Will the use of technology become so institutionalised that conventional conversation will be defined as technology-mediated conversation? Is this shift necessarily a bad thing? Proponents of the expanding use of technology in our everyday communications argue that platforms like Facebook allow us, rather, to become super-social beings. Being able interact with such a wide range and large number of people means that we become more socially apt rather than inept.
The question, however, is: Are we happy with these new and increasingly accepted definitions of socially apt and do they work to our interests or corporate interests?
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