Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Greg Wadley, Lecturer, School of Computing and Information Systems, University of Melbourne

Some experts say technologies such as social media and video games are like drugs. Others disagree.

This debate is really about whether technologies are addictive. But the defining property of a psychoactive drug is not “addictiveness”, but the ability to change a user’s mental and emotional state.

This ability - sometimes beneficial, sometimes dangerous - has made drugs an important influence on the human story. Now some technologies have this ability too.

Rather than debate whether or not technologies are addictive (some can be, for some people), I believe there is value in understanding (and exploiting) their role as mood-regulators.

In this light, I reviewed drug research to understand the complex roles that “mood-regulating artefacts” can play.

What drugs do

Many people use drugs, for reasons and with consequences that are broader and more varied than addiction.

Research from anthropological and historical perspectives shows that drug use is an ancient behaviour, deeply embedded in human societies, and impacting activities as varied as work, religion and politics.

Caffeine, a very widely used drug, powers the working day by reducing fatigue and increasing motivation. Alcohol has been a solace and social lubricant for millennia. Hallucinogenic drugs have been central to spirituality, as was tobacco before it was domesticated and eventually globalised.

Today, new drugs affect aspects of life as varied as work and study, moral decision-making, and youth social gatherings. And of course, a broad range of prescription drugs change users’ mental states for therapeutic purposes.

While drug addiction is a serious problem, only some drug use represents serious addiction. For this reason, some pharmacologists have proposed that we view psychoactive drugs as tools for manipulating mental states, allowing us to achieve goals such as adaptation to workplaces and social settings.

In fact, we use drugs and technologies for mood-regulation, to shape how we feel and behave, to relate better to others, and to achieve our goals.

Mood-regulating technologies

It is clear that some people engage with some technologies to the point of compulsion and harm, with phone, Internet and poker machine abuse included among the “behavioural addictions”.

There are concerns about the impact of excessive technology use upon attention span, relationships, work-life balance, and child development. It’s been suggested that consumer-tech firms deliberately design addictive products, while some users have gone as far as to seek rehabilitation.

image Virtual reality technology could have therapeutic uses. Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

But it is problematic to label a technology itself as addictive, since only some users are affected to that extent. If the defining characteristic of a psychoactive drug is the ability to alter mood, does this suggest a more useful way to compare drugs with technology?

It might, because many recent digital technologies can change users’ mood, including games, phones and social media, online video, and virtual reality.

This is also true of “old media” such as television and recorded music, which new mobile platforms make available any time and anywhere.

Researchers are investigating the use of web and virtual reality apps to change mood for therapeutic purposes. Many apps available on the iOS and Android stores claim to help manage issues like anxiety, although users should take professional advice before using one. Other researchers are experimenting with new ways to alter mood, including smell and driverless cars.

Perhaps the popularity and impact of some technologies come partly from the ability they give us to manipulate our moods.

Thinking past addiction

Mood regulation shapes human cultures. The ability to change one’s mental state, and to satisfy this desire in others, has inspired commerce and innovation, underpinned power relations, and compensated the downtrodden.

Mood-regulating technologies might gain a similar significance, helping us adapt emotionally to a challenging and fast-changing world.

But the addiction debate shows we need better ways to understand this aspect of technology use.

Thinking of technologies as “tools for manipulating mental states” might help us tell a story of technology use – helpful, harmful or ambiguous - which compares in its richness to the story of drug use.

Authors: Greg Wadley, Lecturer, School of Computing and Information Systems, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-comparing-technology-to-drugs-isnt-simply-a-question-of-addiction-80150

Writers Wanted

NZ election 2020: 5 experts on the final debate and the campaign's winners and losers ahead of the big decision

arrow_forward

Meet North Queensland First, the party that wants to kill crocs and form a new state

arrow_forward

3 Ways to Keep Your Business Safe with Roller Shutters

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

3 Ways to Keep Your Business Safe with Roller Shutters

If you operate your business in a neighbourhood or city that is not known for being a safe environment, it is not surprising if you often worry about the safety of your business establishments o...

News Co - avatar News Co

Expert Tips on How to Create a Digital Product to Sell on Your Blog

As the managing director of a growing talent agency, I use the company blog to not only promote my business but as a way to establish ourselves as an authority in our industry. You see, blogs a...

Adam Jacobs - avatar Adam Jacobs

How to Find A company with Tijuana manufacturing

If you have decided to launch a business in Tijuana, there is a need to know about the manufacturing companies. The decision to choose a manufacturing company is not so easy as it looks.   The rig...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion