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Digital Media and Culture Yearbook 2014/Chapter 3: Always-on Culture

"[...]those little devices in our pockets are so psychologically-powerful, that they don’t only change what we do – they change who we are." [1]

The basis of an 'always-on' culture is that we are constantly connected and networked, even when we are not physically using our phones or computers. We are "tethered" to the technology we consume; technology has become a part of us that we cannot escape from.

In an 'always-on' culture, we think of the implied blurring of the lines between our public and private lives. There can be an inability to escape the need to check social media platforms or the internet in general, even in situations when it could be considered rude or inappropriate. Some people have developed a need to incessantly, and compulsively, be contactable due to this culture. Snapping that connection can result in anxiety among other negative side effects consistent with an addict going through withdrawal. Other negative effects can come from our growing connection including online dis-inhibition, reduced social context cues, privacy issues, and other factors. However, we can't always turn ourselves 'off'. Everyday life is saturated with technology and media and the benefits it brings. The value of instant communication and the wealth of information are just two of many reasons that our culture's direction isn't necessarily a wrong one.

Voices from theorists including danah boyd, Sherry Turkle, Leslie Perlow, and Naomi Baron become significant when discussing 'always-on' culture. Their ideas provide a foundation for analysing technology and media's place in our culture and how our daily lives have changed living in an 'always-on' culture.

Main ConceptsEdit

'Always-On'Edit

The term 'always-on' is used to refer to the way modern technology (mobile phones, computers, etc.) continuously keeps people connected to each other through the Internet, and therefore always accessible. Sherry Turkle, a prominent theorist who's work analyzes our relationship with technology, suggests that people have become so tethered with their 'always-on' communication devices that the self has become attached to the devices so much that life can be represented by the digital screens we keep in our pockets[2].

Others theorists, such as danah boyd, have a more positive perspective. They claim that the online world is always just around the corner, and that the online world does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. boyd says that most people are 'always-on' without technology being the center of the activity and that "there is no longer about on or off. It's about living in a world where being networked to people and information wherever and whenever you need it is just assumed"[3]. If people in some way are connected to the network, through a mobile phone, a computer, gaming console etc., they are considered to be 'always-on.' However, this constant connection does not mean that users must always pay attention to that connection.

While boyd makes a valid point to say that our online lives are as ‘real’ as our offline lives, more could be said about the significant difference between these two aspects of our lives, in particular how we behave online versus how we behave offline. Suler makes the point that when we communicate online, our input comes after some delay, perhaps minutes, hours or even days, and this affects what we say, in text form, and how we say it[4]. Importantly, he asserts that when we communicate face-to-face with others, “moment-by-moment responses between people powerfully shapes the ongoing flow of self-disclosure, usually in the direction of conforming to social norms”[5]. If this is the case and an increasing amount of our time is spent online, this could perhaps leave some people struggling with the face-to-face social skills necessary to fit in to a particular environment. Such as that of an organisation with a clear expectation of cultural behaviour, or to succeed in particular roles where face-to-face interaction with people is necessary.

'Always-On': The Different Means of Getting ConnectedEdit

Being ‘always-on’, according to danah boyd, means taking into account both technical networks and social networks. When we cannot connect to the technical network we can often feel frustrated, angry, or worried that we can’t get access to a particular piece of information, or that our productivity will fall, or we can’t make a particular social connection at that precise point in time [6]. This section looks briefly at the how the internet developed and the legacy issues from that development, the technical network today and how each part has advantages and disadvantages.

The Mobile DeviceEdit

Recent advancements in general technology have affronted media in such a way that it is now more accessible to people than ever. The developments in the mobile phone as a device have been testament to this, as within the past 10 years more and more technology has been added to the mobile device itself allowing more functions to be used. The mobile phone is no longer just a phone - cameras to film and photograph, games, app storage, social media, email, GPS capabilities, information storage etc, and quite importantly, mobile internet access - creating a handheld computer. The concept of being able to connect to the Internet wirelessly on such a portable level is an important and pivotal factor in regards to this 'always-on' culture.

The Smart Phone

The invention of the smartphone has been quite possibly the most important development in terms of thinking about this 'always-on' culture. It is these devices to which theorists refer to when discussing how we are connected and 'tethered' and are responsible for the ability to stay connected to various medias as mobile phones have been developed to do more than just facilitate calls.

The Tablet

Recently, tablet devices have been growing in popularity, combining the portability of the smartphone and the larger screen of a laptop.

Origins of the Internet and its LegacyEdit

The Internet’s origin began in the 1960s with a network created by Advanced Research Projects Agency which was part of the US Defense department. It was called ARPANET and was originally designed to connect universities and laboratories [7]. Many other networks were subsequently created in different organizations and countries, but the networks themselves could not effectively interconnect (BBC, 2012). In 1974 Vint Cerfand Robert Kahnwrote communication protocols to enable information to be easily sent from one network to another, and this was published in May 1974. The protocols they wrote were called TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and IP (Internet Protocol) and now form the protocols that run the internet [8]. Despite the clear benefits at the time of allowing the internet to flourish, TCP/IP might now be categorized as a ‘Lock-in’ as described by Jaron Lanier [9], and we are now somewhat constrained by a major tool we use to understand the world.

Future DirectionEdit

The advance towards true 'always-on' connectivity globally, and in particular wireless connectivity, has recently been the subject of intent from two of the world's largest technology companies: Google and Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced that he has plans to expand the boundaries of the Internet to ensure every person in the globe has affordable, basic access to internet services. He expects to do so through the use of wireless drones, satellites, and lasers, thus creating a fully 'always-on' world [10]. Zuckerberg provides competition for Google who intends to do the same with balloons and radio signals rather than drones and satellites [11].

Participants in an 'Always-On' CultureEdit

Youth: UnpluggedEdit

 
Japanese teenager with her mobile phone

One of the most obvious and commonly considered victims of an 'always-on' culture are the younger generations, always on their phone or with multiple social media profiles online that need constant attention. This links back to the idea of their Online Identity. Young people today are so constantly connected that if they happen to not post a picture or a status for more than two days, there is genuine concern between their friends about their safety and well being. [12] Ten years ago, a twelve-year-old would never have had a mobile phone, let alone using several social media platforms such as Facebook or YouTube. Now, twelve-year-olds have the latest mobile phone and can likely work it better than their parents. Unplugging a young adult evokes feelings similar to an addict going through withdrawal and depression. [13] Unplugging oneself is not as easy as turning off a phone. Teens have so many technological outlets and "are growing up in a world that offers them instant access nearly everywhere to nearly the entirety of human knowledge." [14] Thus is it understandable, and frankly unavoidable, that young people are a major part of the growing 'always-on' culture.

Unplugged: The StudyEdit

A 2010 study had 200 University of Maryland (USA) students go without all forms of media, including non-technological media, for 24 hours.[15] After 24 hours, students logged onto class blogs and reported their successes, or, in many cases, failures. The results of the study were definitive: mobile technology not only changed students' relationships with the news and access to information but also had a profound impact on their relationships with friends and family. The study concludes that constant connection to media has caused students to make different social and moral decisions with their 24 hours than if they had spent the day surrounded by their average collection of media outlets (withoutmedia, 2010).

Severing the students' tether to technology created feelings similar to those of an addict going through depression and separation anxiety. Some students claimed that they had feelings similar to "phantom limb pain"[16] experienced often by disabled war veterans. Students found themselves twitching towards their iPods or feeling their back pockets for their phone before realizing they were doing it. After physically removing themselves from technology and media, they found that they couldn't mentally separate from it. Media dependency had become a habit. A student participant from the study said the following:

“A few hours later, I brushed my teeth, came back to my room, opened my laptop, and got on Facebook. I was on the computer for a good ten minutes before I realized what I was doing.[17]

“With full knowledge that my phone was off and tucked away, I reached into my pocket at least 30 times to pull out a vibrating phone that wasn’t there.”[18]

A question remains - do those in an 'always-on' culture live a richer life or those who remain disconnected? A few voices from the study say that "I believe that those who are not tied to this system are missing something... they are missing information.” (withoutmedia, 2010). Information itself is a commodity that people collect, trade, and put value in. Those who have a constant connection to media possess more information than others and therefore become "richer". Without certain information or internet access the world becomes much smaller. It could take several weeks to learn about the 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile April 2nd, 2014.[19] Then again, how would that information even get to the end user? Internet is out, as is television and newspapers. Face-to-face would remain the most reliable transfer of information but the earthquake news would be dated and limited to those who physically heard it from the source. One student commented that, “Those who aren't connected through media probably have no idea about certain things going on in the world,” (withoutmedia, 2010).

"I find it difficult to fathom someone not being connected through media, because I know no other way..."

Part of 'The Network'Edit

boyd talks of 'the network'; the particular platform (out of thousands available) online users utilize to connect with people who have similar interests and aspirations, in order to achieve a common goal/objective[20]. Instead of 'tethering' being an addiction, it is instead a practical evolutionary step building upon humanity's natural social requirements and curiosity[21]. Most of our networks are personalized, and we only interact with those we wish to interact with (the exceptions being trolls and hackers)[22]. This means that people wish to be 'always-on' in order to continuously develop and progress - as interaction with like-minded individuals can further our own ends and development[23]:

"Many who blog and tweet are not writing for the world at large; they are writing for the small group who might find it relevant and meaningful. And, realistically, the world at large is not reading the details of their lives. Instead, they are taking advantage of the affordances of these technologies to connect with others in a way that they feel is appropriate"[24].

Jaron Lanier calls the 'network' the 'tribe':

"The central mistake of recent digital culture is to chop up a network of individuals so finely that you end up with mush. You then start to care about the abstraction of the network more than the real people who are networked, even though the network by itself is meaningless. [...] The members of the tribe are my lifelong friends, my mentors, my students, my colleagues and my fellow travelers."[25].

Lanier talks here about the different groups of people that participate in this 'always-on' culture. A common thought is that the majority of this network are teenagers:

"So immersed were these young people in their social networks that the idea of being unavailable, even for an instant, was unimaginable." [26]

This idea of teens being totally involved in the network is a popular one, however, as Lanier stated above, they are not the only people. More and more workplaces expect their employees to be 'always-on', to be part of the network with their other colleagues in order to work to their full potential. In order for them to achieve this, they have to be networked to each other, it will get their work done in a much more timely and efficient manner.

It is with these opinions that being 'always-on' is viewed as a positive measure, as realistically humans do not have the capacity to be 'always-on' to everything the internet has to offer. Thus we restrict what we are 'always-on' to - to things that solely benefit us[27]. Despite this perceived restriction on the 'network', Fowler & Christakis note that increased involvement within a network (particularly one based around social media) yields positive benefits to the individual through situational inequality and positional inequality. Using the example of loneliness, on average people are lonely for 48 days of the year, but for every extra friend within an individual's 'network' the number of lonely days per year is judged to decrease by almost two days[28]. This is an example of positional inequality positively effecting an individual in the form of situational inequality, demonstrating boyd's notion that being 'always-on' to the 'network' yields positive results.

However, views on the concept differ, with even initial supporters highlighting negative issues resulting from being 'always-on'. It can be argued that Fowler & Christakis' view shows that instead of willingly being 'always-on' to the 'network', individuals are coerced into participation out of fear of the adverse consequences associated with being disconnected - "loneliness [...] a cause and a consequence of becoming disconnected"[29]. Furthermore, in a study by Eastin and LaRose[30] , it was observed that there was a spike in levels of depression among individuals who experience 'Internet Stress', such as being unable to establish a a solid connection. The impact is decidedly negative, and could raise the argument that the 'always-on' culture has caused an overall increase in anxiety and depression by its ability to give more chances for people to experience this form of 'Internet Stress'. It has also been noted that 'always-on' culture could eventually develop into a component of the 'locked in' theory, forcing humans to rely even more greatly on technology, even for simple social contact[31]. In addition to these theories, because individual's are forced to utilize the 'network' during their free time (due to job and family commitments), it has also been noted that being 'always-on' increases anxiety levels and is a large contributor to disrupted sleeping patterns[32]. From this it has been identified that 'always-on' culture, at this point, has been neither fully researched nor fully understood.

'Tethering'Edit

One of the main concepts focused on within 'always-on' discussion is the idea that we are tethered to our technological devices. Academic Sherry Turkle coins the term in her discussion of the growing 'always-on' culture. She describes the concept of a 'Tethered self' as the idea of people being consistently accessible through technology and our expectations for them to always be contactable. She explores how even when not physically using our phones or social networking we are still contactable through them, therefore we are forever linked to our communication outlets. [33] . In her piece "Always-On/Always-On-You: The Tethered Self," Turkle looks at how technology has changed the social acceptability of being disengaged with the people in your physical space and more connected with people miles away. The idea of being tethered to a device raises issues on our increasing reliance on the technology we use [34]. We expect our technology to always work and for others to be immediately responsive, however if the technology breaks or people do not responded we panic. Throughout the working world, staff are expected to be constantly accessible, to the extent that if they are not "on" there is potential for them losing their job. [35] Academic danah boyd comments that "It's no longer about on or off, really. It's about living in a world where being networked to people and information wherever and whenever you need is just assumed" [36].

According to Turkle, the idea of the 'Tethered Self' brings up the issue of boundaries; "a parent, partner, or child can be lost for a few seconds or a few minutes to an alternative reality" [37]. People are having to draw clear lines as to when they are present in the physical space around them and when they are 'on' or connected to other people and spaces. Instead of being a natural act, turning of has to be a conscious decision made by the user.

Acknowledging our tethered state raises the question of to whom or to what we are connected [38] With the ever-growing state of convergence in technological advancements we are starting to see a change in the way we interact with humans. We are tethered to a completely different community in the 21st century. We are not restricted to being tied to only family and friends via local telephone, the Internet has enabled a broader array of contacting. With the growth of technology the 'always-on' culture has grown, we are always connected to the Internet, we can phone people all around the world; we are always tethered.

Tethering is not simply about one's own choice to be connected through the 'main' social media (text, email, Facebook, Twitter). It has been suggested by researcher Slavoj Žižek in his work "Big Brother, or The triumph of the Gaze Over the Eye" that in our modern society, anxiety is more likely to arise through not being accessible or existing in this online sense. This has resulted in it becoming something of an oddity for someone to be outside of these online platforms, and socially surreal.

As Žižek points out, the culture of 'always-on' has made some people act in bizarrely voyeuristic ways - almost as if they were broadcasting their entire lives as a reality show. He compares aspects of the use of social media to the presentation of the film The Truman Show and the reality television series Big Brother, in terms of the manner in which people are almost utilizing themselves as actors, casting forth an image of themselves to formulate an impression of themselves for others to digest [39]. This includes occasionally detailing processes of life that would be usually deemed unworthy of note, simply because it seems to be expected of oneself to do so.

'Always-on' culture and tethering can be seen as causing crucial problems for businesses. In correlation with people having expectations of their own technology always working we have the same expectation for the technologies of companies. This causes companies who suffer from unexpected technological failures to lose money and reputation as a result. For example in February last year a crash of the Bank of America's online banking system caused disruptions for numerous customers wanting to check their finances at the start of the month. The customers were seen to later vent their frustrations to social media sites. [40]. Hence the company's reputation was hurt due to unavoidable technological failures due to their customers reliance on being 'always-on'. On the other hand if businesses were to reject the use of social media they would inevitably lose out in publicity to other more vocal companies, or be seen as outdated for not utilizing new technology.

Besides tethering affecting businesses, it is also contributing to an ever-growing issue of internet addiction disorder, giving ease of use to to people to connect to the Internet, anywhere and anytime. "IAD was originally proposed as a disorder in a satirical hoax by Ivan Goldberg, M.D., in 1995, though some later researchers have taken his essay seriously." [41] This is the results of the 'always-on' culture, addiction, a severe mental disorder. As Sherry Turkle mentions in 'Connected but alone?' ‘[...]those little devices in our pockets are so psychologically-powerful, that they don’t only change what we do – they change who we are.’ [42] Evidently showing you the power of technological convergence, tethering and the internet's effect on the 21st century.

Tethered to the WorkplaceEdit

Just as the younger generations have an inescapable tie to technology, adults in the workplace are finding it just as hard to tear themselves away from their work once 5'o'clock rolls around. Meeting memos, online calendar appointment books, stock market app live updates, and the constant flurry of work emails make it impossible for workers to leave work at the office. Everyone is expected to be 'always-on' as a next-day meeting could be announced via email that was sent out during dinnertime. Expectations have changed. Workers are often required to always be connected to media to learn the latest news or even just to stay updated with company happening. A recent study done by the American Psychological Association (APA) discovered that more than half of employed adults said they check work messages at least once a day over the weekend and outside week work hours. More than 4 in 10 workers reported doing the same while on vacation. In the same study, adults reported that being 'always-on' increased their workload by a third as more work could be done faster and from anywhere. Stepping out of the office doesn't include the mobile phone in the jacket pocket or the work laptop in the briefcase in hand.

The APA suggests a few tips for unplugging for the day from the office, but it's the case of easier said than done. A few tips include managing expectations, setting boundaries, limiting multitasking, and turning work media off after work hours. For many companies out there, this isn't possible. Workers are hired with the knowledge that a 40-hour, 8-to-5 work week is a dream. Employees may not be strictly required to be "on call" 24/7 but the expectation might be set by employers.

Small business owners also struggle with the demands to remain 'always-on'. In this age, many store owners need an online presence to attract business, even Facebook profiles to send out updates or even to post store hours. A recent LinkedIn study found that 81% of sampling of small businesses use social media to drive growth. YellowPages have moved online and businesses follow. Often, resources and time are thin when it comes to maintaining, or even creating, an online presence. Websites are difficult to set up and look appealing so many people opt to make social media profiles as a marketing tool in addition to an online presence itself, (Forbes, 2013). An online presence can connect business with a large number of potential consumers with very little effort.

'Online Dis-inhibition'Edit

Another main concept within 'always-on' is online dis-inhibition. The process of online dis-inhibition is described as the phenomenon of online users posting comments or discussions which they would be unlikely to say in real life. Users are seen to lose sense of some of their real world inhibitions that would dictate what to say in their offline conversations. John Suler, a Psychology Professor based at Rider University specialises in online dis-inhibition. He explains that they can be split between 'Benign dis-inhibition' and 'Toxic dis-inhibition' [43].

Benign Dis-inhibitionEdit

Often, benign dis-inhibition can be seen as an extension of online dis-inhibition where the online user can express emotions of sincerity and affection. Benign dis-inhibition was described by Suler in its simplest terms as an attempt to better understand and develop oneself. [44] Behaviours can include sharing secrets and revealing more of themselves online than they would confide in a friend. Often online blog sites and chatrooms, such as Tumblr, keep users relatively anonymous and, as such, users feel more open to sharing pieces of themselves or acting kindly towards others. However, the same anonymity that allows users the privacy to share such thoughts also can lead to more destructive behaviors and actions.

Toxic Dis-inhibitionEdit

Similar to benign dis-inhibition, toxic dis-inhibition can be viewed as an extension to the idea of online dis-inhibitions. However, in contrast to benign dis-inhibition, toxic dis-inhibition is the act of users spreading negative views and expressions online including social platforms and blogs. Such acts have recently been taken very seriously and as a result, many online laws and legislations have had to be changed. Toxic dis-inhibition can be linked to social media, particularly Tumblr, Twitter and ask.fm. These sites have been in the media a lot recently as stories relating to toxic dis-inhibition have brought the serious consequences of the issue - such as cyber-bullying - into public consciousness. Cyberbullying has become a recent trend in middle and high schools with the explosion of the internet and an addiction to technology. Children and teens don't have as much supervision on the internet and feel more anonymous. The only requirement for many social media sites is an email address which can be faked easily. Cyberbulling has been shown to have disastrous effects, making kids become depressed and withdraw, and in some extreme circumstances, driven students to suicide. [45] Similar to benign dis-inhibition, Suler has simplified the idea to its base meaning of "a blind catharsis, a fruitless repetition compulsion or acting out of pathological needs without any beneficial psychology change. [46]"

Popular Examples of Online Dis-inhibitionEdit

One oft-acknowledged example of dis-inhibition affecting a large online populace is with the community surrounding Chatroulette. Chatroulette is a webcam-based chat service that connects the user randomly to another user, often from a pool of several million potential users who are online at any one time, anywhere in the world. The website receives little to no moderation, so if one connects to others on Chatroulette, there is no possible way to identify who they are about to connect with. Furthermore, the website utilises anonymous connections for all of its users, and as such, extreme or otherwise hurtful things are displayed on Chatroulette with some degree of frequency[47]. This would point to the dis-inhibition of Chatroulette being easily categorised as toxic. Since the user is anonymous and randomly connected to another person anywhere in the world, often times people using the service will act in bizarre or lewd ways (including expressing themselves violently with with a great degree of explicitly sexual content).

A well known example of toxic dis-inhibition was the volatile reception Rebecca Black's 2011 song "Friday". After her music video went viral, Black started to receive death threats from members of the public. Black had to be taken out of school to be taught at home by her mother due to the extent of her bullying. [48] Of course, threatening the life of an innocent 13 year old girl is unacceptable and the California Police Department had to make investigations. [49] However they never discovered who was behind it, thus re-iterating the idea that people believe that they can say whatever they want online and they will not get caught.

Another example of online dis-inhibition was the "Twitter joke trial" of Paul Chambers in 2010. After discovering that his local airport was closed a week before he had to fly, he posted this tweet: "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s*** together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" He was arrested and fined for threatening the airport and consequently lost his job. He was granted an appeal in 2012 [50]

'Reduced Social Context Cues'Edit

Sproull and Kesler (1986) and reduced social context cues. Sproull and Kesler argue that email and social networking, two main means of communication in 'always-on' culture, are of a low fidelity CMC. A low fidelity CMC meaning a low number of social context cues. With email, texts or social networks we are limited to text based communication where we lose out on people's expressions and immediate responses to information. They argue this mode of communication will lead to people becoming more self absorbed in communications since they don't have the other person physically present. Particularly with 'always-on' culture, people online can be seen to get annoyed at slow responses to communication despite the recipient potentially being too busy to respond, since there is no way to know why they recipient isn't responding. [51] Communication such as jokes or sarcasm will also be comparatively more difficult to read leading to potentially misread situations. However with the increasing use of communication in the form of video chatting we are seeing higher fidelity means of communication, therefore this issue can be seen as becoming less of a concern. That being said taking reduced social cues on a larger scale not seeing people's reactions can lead users to post rude or hurtful posts to celebrities or on YouTube comments, because they see no obvious repercussion of doing so. This phenomenon is unlikely to change due to higher fidelity video chatting as this tends to only occur between people who already know each other. As opposed to between audiences and you tubers, celebrities etc.

DeterminismEdit

Technological DeterminismEdit

Technological determinism, also known as hard determinism, is the idea that technology has important effects on our lives. The term was first coined by the American sociologist Thorstein Veblen, who theorised that technology was the driving force behind social change and influences how cultures develop and grow in response to technology and its constant development. This theory argues that technology drives history and becomes determinant at a certain stage in its own history. It refers to how technology is responsible for the formation of new social and cultural conventions, establishing how we live our lives as we adapt and change around these technologies. For example, the development of mobile technology has increased many peoples accessibility to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, because of this increased accessibility through these advancements, online interaction between people has increased considerably and new conventions regarding society and social media have been formed. It has been argued by Dovey and Giddlings (2008) that the idea of technological determinism figures prominently in the popular imagination and political rhetoric[52].

Cultural DeterminismEdit

Cultural determinism, also known as soft determinism, is the idea that technology itself does not have an important effect in peoples lives, but rather people make technology important. This means that human agents intend to make technology an important part of their life[53]. In addition to these ideas, being raised in a technology-saturate environment will have a significant fact on the current generations and amplified effects for generations to come as technology develops. By 1990, a large number of adults had mobile phones. In 2005, most teenagers had the same technology, but with more features in a smaller package. In 2014, many children have listed the latest smartphone on their Christmas lists. Technology and media play a role in a developing mind's emotional maturity, interpersonal communication skills, and other behaviors that will change as technology plays an even bigger role in our lives than it does now.

Low Fidelity/High FidelityEdit

Examples of "Low fidelity" communications are ones which are solely text-based or voice-based. Low fidelity is characterised by the lack of interpersonal and social context cues which determine how an individual feels or expresses their opinion. For example, text-based communications can lose the intended meaning depending on how the receiver interprets it. Different emphasis on certain words can change the importance significantly. Voice-based communications are of a slightly higher fidelity, but they lack facial expressions which are a clear indicator of one's position on a matter[54].

 
Video call between Sweden and Singapore

Communicating with strangers without face-to-face cues also may lead to the reader subconsciously creating a voice and/or visual image for the other person conducted from their own imagination. This, in turn, will create a different version of the person which the user is communicating with based on his/hers individual desires and needs. Thus, the "reality" of these types of conversations may be distorted and develop into a fantasy face-to-face conversation, imagined by the reader, where the stranger fits into a specific role which the reader requires[55].

Video based communications give you both voice and facial recognition aspects but they provide a different atmosphere than from when you are in the same room as another human being. For example, content and micro facial expressions can be lost through a drop in signal or a low quality webcam. Eye contact can provide a lot of information and be a strong non-verbal cue in a conversation, and it can never be achieved with the use of webcams.

Locked InEdit

Locked in is the idea that some software and ideas are used so much that they become industry standard, and are accepted by most people to the extent that they are nearly impossible to change. Lanier often uses the example of MIDI, a system which was created in the early 1980's. This system concerns musical notes and it transfers them from electronic instruments to computers. Lanier argues that this system is not the best and has limitations; however, as many new and different programmes have been created and adapted to be able to use it, it means that MIDI is still currently used. Another example is the QWERTY keyboard. This layout of keyboard became popular and frequently used in type writers. As most people know how to type using this sort of keyboard and are familiar with this layout, using another one would most likely not be successful with people, meaning that the QWERTY keyboard remains used[56].

Key TheoristsEdit

 
danah boyd

danah boydEdit

"It's no longer about on or off really. It's about living in a world where being networked to people and information wherever and whenever you need it is just assumed. I may not be always-on the Internet as we think of it colloquially, but I am always connected to the network. And that's what it means to be always-on.[57]" -danah boyd

danah boyd is an academic researcher, focusing primarily on social media and how society interacts with it. Her work in The Social Media Reader [58] highlights the problems that arise when defining the 'always-on' lifestyle, especially looking at when being online begins and ends. In this boyd argues that different social contexts create different relationships with being 'always-on', meaning that how society uses technology is not defined by space, but by the contexts we create. Continuing with this idea, boyd reasons that 'always-on-ers' are characterised by their values and lifestyle rather than generation. Therefore raising questions of who is involved in this 'always-on' lifestyle according to their professional life and social activities, widely varying the spectrum. Technological literacy is no longer limited to the younger generations as we see a rise in more and more user friendly technology that can be used by the majority. Furthermore, boyd supports the notion that technology provides a new area for understanding, curiosity, and interaction allowing users to gain knowledge about people and information, with 'always-on-ers' taking full advantage of the possibilities available.

boyd summarises the effects of the 'always-on' culture by using the example of Snapchat.[59] In this blog post she points out how technology users automatically scroll through information without taking the time to engage with it. A result of being 'always-on' is mindlessly accessing information without any need or desire to. However, Snapchat offers a solution to mindless media consumption by limiting the amount time the information is available for, portraying the message of "You’ve got 7 seconds. PAY ATTENTION". This type of technology forces people to engage with media again rather than only being semi-consciously aware of their 'always-on' lifestyle.

The Blurring of Virtual and Reality

This is an idea that boyd argues is applying more and more to our everyday lives. This exist because technology is gradually replacing tasks that would otherwise be carried out manually. Examples of this lie in the writing of essays, communicating with others, applying for jobs, entertainment, and gaining knowledge. Due to this different spheres of life are infiltrating others, such as work and leisure, meaning that since users can be communicated at all times through technology. Therefore, new information related to work can be read at home, and the same for personal news can be found out whilst at work. It could be argued that this blurring of leisure and work is the consequential result of the blurring of virtual and reality.

Ubiquity

One of boyd's main ideas is that technology and connectivity has become ubiquitous. This means that the technologies are being used as part of everyday life, and no longer thought of as simply technology. boyd refers to ubiquity in terms of how technology is becoming part of the social infrastructure, and supporting people in what they do. Furthermore, boyd is referring to the connectivity of technology and how it is a service for everyday people, not just technologists. This relates to 'always-on' culture because as technology becomes more ubiquitous it is being used for more reasons in everyday life, and thus is a key component in being 'always-on'.[60]

The 'Network'

Being surrounded by technology also links in with boyd's idea of what the 'network' truly means. boyd believes that the 'network' does not refer to the technology available, but rather to the idea that it offers a new platform to express pre-existing cultural ideas. Interaction and engagement are the driving forces behind information access and communication within the "networked public". boyd argues that this formation of networks is primarily visible on social networking sites(SNSs) and media-sharing websites. The purposes of these networks, according to boyd, are socialisation, consumption, and civic engagement. This links to 'always-on' culture because socialising is being greatly influenced by technology and ease it offers in everyday life.[61]

Addiction to Technology

According to boyd being always-on is like being a part of the online community where people are connected to each other through layers of information. She calls it an ‘ecosystem in which people can stay connected to one another through a variety of microdata’. That’s where she made interesting point about online addiction. Some people see being always-on as an obsession; a virtual sickness which destroys lives. Boyd argues that always-on has nothing to do with technological addiction but more to do with the passion that people have for information and the lives of others.[62]

Online and Offline Lives

Whilst boyd seems to make a relevant point that our online lives are as ‘real’ as our offline lives, more could be said about the significant difference between these two aspects of our lives, in particular how we behave online versus how we behave offline. Suler (2005) makes the point that when we communicate online, our input comes after some delay, perhaps minutes or hours or days, and this affects what we say, in text form, and how we say it. Importantly, he asserts that when we communicate face-to-face with others, “moment-by-moment responses between people powerfully shapes the ongoing flow of self-disclosure, usually in the direction of conforming to social norms” (p. 185). If this is the case, if an increasing amount of our time is spent online this could perhaps leave some people struggling with face-to-face social skills necessary to fit into a particular environment, such as that of an organisation with a clear expectations of cultural behaviour, or to succeed in particular roles where face-to-face interaction with people is necessary.[63]

Sherry TurkleEdit

 
Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle is another key theorist associated with 'always-on' culture and, specifically related to 'the tethered self'. Sherry Turkle is an American professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the area of social studies.[64] Turkle is a hugely influential theorist in this field and is incredibly important when talking in terms of Social Media and this 'always-on' culture. She has contributed to many academic papers and research journals, with much of her work focusing on the psychology of human relationships and technology where she discusses and develops further this notion of the 'tethered self' stating that:

"Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed - and only for the parts we find useful, comforting or amusing." [65]

"We are tethered to our 'always-on/always-on-us' communications devices and the people and things we reach through them: people, Webpages, voice mail, games, artificial intelligences... they live for us through our tethering devices, always ready-to-mind and hand." [66]

The Tethered Self

The "Tethered Self" is a prominent part of her 'always-on' study. This idea concerns the way in which people are connected and have access to it a communication device, such as a smart phone. She often discusses how people can always be reached through mobiles or emails and if the person cannot contact the users, then machines often represent them, such as voicemail. Also, how a growing number of people are connected to some sort of network, such as Facebook, and rarely disconnect from it. From interviews she has conducted, she concludes that people, especially teenagers, feel at a loss without their mobile and without being connected. She argues that people have become more reliant on their technologies and this has led to users checking their networks more for any notifications. For example, users checking their smart phones for notifications.[67]

Life on The Screen

Another book published by Turkle in 1995 'Life on The Screen: Identity in The age of the Internet' which is part of her work based around computers and the effect they have on us. She developed ideas of 'cyberspace' - a place where we can, every day, go to interact and connect with people anywhere- and develop relationships with them online. In writing she said human beings were changing and adapting due being unable to distinguish between computers and real life.

The concept of being able to go on at any time to speak to someone any where gives the idea of being 'always-on' and in this sense, with a computer. Always having access to these online worlds and being able to be reached from people even when we are not there, we are still 'always-on'. [68]

The Second Self

The “Second Self” is Sherry Turkle's second published book. Throughout, she refers to ideas of computers being more than a device and how it is an important part of the user’s life, physiologically and socially.[69] Her book is based upon opinions and attitudes of people who use computers and how that effects on their lives. [70] Written in 1984, before today's technology was invented and before most people owned a smart phone, Turkle expresses ideas that could lead to today's 'always-on' culture such as the fear people initially had about becoming "addicted" to technology.[71] Turkle also mentions ideas, similar to theorist Marshall McLuhan, of technology extending the self but she also adds how it extends the “external” world for the user.[72] She states in the book, the idea that technology “changes not only in what we do but how we think” which is similar to her ideas in “Alone Together.” This idea is emphasised in her later work as by then more technology had been developed and consumed. [71]

Alone Together

Her book "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other" (2011) mentions the idea of 'always-on' culture and the relationship between people and technology and the consequences that can have. This is where she drew on the main ideas of 'tethering' and the 'always-on' culture. She made points about how we are more connected now than what we have ever been before but with that we are still alone. We are replacing our social interactions- conversations and intimacy with texting and communicating through computer use. [73]

Turkle gave a talk through the website TED called "Connected, but still alone?" here she discussed some of the main points from the book. She talked about the ideas of communication and how it changed who we are and what we do and so we are developing social problems when it comes to being offline. We are now expecting less from each other and more from our technologies altering our relationships and friendships in the outside world and we are also losing valuable skills in conversation and social behaviour do to our new forms of connection and technology.[74]

Leslie PerlowEdit

About

Leslie Perlow is a professor of Leadership in the Organizational Behaviour area at Harvard Business School. Most of her research focuses on being 'always-on' in the work place. In her latest publication, “Sleeping With Your Smartphone” she focuses on employees of businesses who feel the need to be always online and always be connected and she discusses how disconnecting can be the most powerful tool for them.[75]

Sleeping With Your Smartphone

In her latest publication, “Sleeping With your Smartphone,” she surveys thousands of different businesspeople in different professions over how much they work and their smartphone habits. Some of her questions included how often they check their phone and how often they can disconnect from it. She argues that professionals feel pressure to be 'always-on' and they often feel that if they disconnect, others may still stay on and become more successful than them.[76] Due to different time zones and needing to be contactable for clients and fellow colleagues, Perlow has argued that it leads to employees to change their timetable and reschedule their time to make sure that they are always connected and remain to be perceived as a good employee as constantly being on is often expected from high pressure jobs.[77]

Disconnecting

Perlow experimented with a company, Boston Consulting Company, to see if their employees would be able to disconnect and if that could be achieved. At 6:00pm each night, a different employee would be able to disconnect from their work network and other employees were able to deal with clients if need be. Most employees felt many benefits such as finding their work more satisfying. They also felt that they regained more control over their work life. Perlow argues that when this approach is applied correctly, not being 'always-on' can benefit not just the employee but the organisation as well.[78]

Thriving in an Overconnected World In 2013, Perlow gave a TEDTalk on what she perceived as a detrimental effect that the 'always-on' culture of smartphones was having on businesses and organizations, as well as family life and relationships. She asserted that because of 'always-on' culture existing, people are constantly checking their smartphones for updates on career-related issues, e-mails from colleagues, or for information about their current duties at work - all the while squandering the time they spend outside of work doing this. Perlow describes this as a common attitude - stating that it is easy for one to think it's the best thing to do for their career. She further asserts that these behaviors have lead to a significant deterioration in the relationships and skills people use to deal with situations and issues outside of the workplace. Perlow concludes by asserting that this "overconnected world" does not have to lead to negative effects - if proper changes are made to the workplace structure and certain criteria are established for what is and what is not good use of one's connected devices, work and life can be improved, avoiding the downfalls of an "overconnected" society. [79]

Naomi BaronEdit

About

Naomi Baron is a linguist and professor of linguistics at American University in Washington D.C. She researches topics such as language in social context, language acquisition and computer medicated-communication. Her book, Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World, which was published in 2008, won the English-Speaking Union’s HRH The Duke of Edinburgh ESU English Language Book Award for 2008.

Domestication of technology

In her book, 'Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World' she talks about the idea of domestication of technology, a theory with comes from Rodger Silverstone and Leslie Haddon. This is the idea that we use technology as an everyday essential without giving it a second thought. She explains that such communication technologies has gradually changed our social norms and an example of this is that it is so much easier for us to go online and find out what the weather is going to be rather than turn on our televisions, go to the weather channel and await our local report. As domestication of communication technologies spreads through the populace, people are increasingly “on” networks that extend beyond the landline. Her theory that the domestication of such technologies like email, IM, blogging and facebook can have some dangers. The first is that once you become “on” it is hard to come “off” and it is increasingly easy to being 'always-on'. Once you have got past the first fees of buying a computer or a phone it becomes less and less expensive to keep connected through them. Secondly is that anyone can be an author or a publisher and can surpass legal authorities. And the third one and probably the most dangerous is the compromising of our safety and privacy. This is potentially the worst but can be put simply from accidentally sending an email to the wrong person or before you are finished to some of our banking information being hacked or stolen.

Effects of Being "Always-On"Edit

AdvantagesEdit

Instant Information

A main advantage of being 'always-on' is being able to receive information and news as soon as it becomes available. Prior to the advancement we have seen in technology today, people would have to log on to a PC, buy a newspaper or wait for a letter to arrive at their door to receive information. Nowadays, however, they can receive these kind of communications instantly through their mobile device and, in some cases, be notified exactly when they become available. The time taken to communicate has been significantly shortened and made much more convenient for the user. As the world becomes more and more online everything we need becomes more readily available to us. We can get information in a matter of seconds and everything that we need to know we are able to find out. According to filmmaker Tiffany Shlain director of 'Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology', "something happens in one place and we can see it, feel it, and do something about it which has such huge potential" [80].

Information is no longer something that takes an exertion to locate, we have it right at our finger tips. “Work will be dominated by fast-moving, geographically diverse, free-agent teams of workers connected via socially mediating technologies.” (Fred Stutzman, Carnegie Mellon) This theory explains the influence that being “always-on” has on us and the idea of what its effect on our society has been. It is thought that because the spread of information is so quick, diverse and free moving, that our society will become quick, diverse and free moving, and as a result of this, our culture will benefit greatly. All of these factors make for a much more efficient way of communicating and working. According to Royston Martin (2009) the notion of media being “everywhere and always on” does not have to be viewed negatively. “The spread of free, easily accessible instant information – be it on, for example, health care or democratic election processes – are small examples of the potential the digital media has to help raise living standards.”

Development of Different Skills

There are a lot of theories that say the 'always-on' culture is having a negative effect on children and teens with side effects as lower attention span and inability to work through problems. This may be true however there are a lot of other benefits that our weigh these. Studies show that 55 percent of those surveyed say that the brains of young people in 2020 will be wired differently from those of their parents. What’s more, they say, is the ability of always-connected young people to nimbly get information from an array of online sources and then share it seamlessly among a broad network of people is a positive trend. (Laura B. Weiss, 2012) It is shown that the younger generation may not be able to do the same things their parents can do however they will have skills that are above their parents head. With these on-going technological advances it may not be as necessary for the younger generation to have really long attention spans as information is so available however it may be more beneficial for them to have the skills to hunt down information and share it to a mass audience. Young people born around the year 2000 “have grown up in a world that has come to offer them instant access to nearly the entirety of human knowledge, and incredible opportunities to connect, create, and collaborate,” says Janna Anderson (Laura B. Weiss, 2012) Therefore these are the way their brains have developed and grown to adapt to these circumstances therefore will be affluent in this particular set of skills unlike their parents who have had to adapt to their generational technologies and grew up with a set of skills that would help them in their world.

Making Plans and Meeting Up

Now that the majority of Westernised society has a mobile phone, meeting up with individuals or groups has become much easier. Before the popularization of the mobile phone, people would have most likely contacted one another via land-line. A simple plan would be made to meet up, and the persons involved would not talk to one another again until they saw each other in person at the time and place agreed. Now, thanks to mobile technology, plans can be altered with ease, depending on the situation. For example, if a person on a train which is running late, they can contact their 'always-on' friend from their mobile to let them know what is going on and to rearrange plans.

Communication with Others and Synchronisation of Media

A major upside of 'always-on' culture is the ease of communication that it has brought to people - particularly technologically engaged youths. If one desires to communicate with another electronically, there are nearly infinite ways of accomplishing this - all depending on the type of communication desired. One can use microblogs (sites like Twitter), blogs (like Tumblr, Wordpress, or Blogspot), social media sites like Facebook, or they could even use various multimedia forms of communication like e-mail, text messaging, or Skype in order to communicate easily with other individuals. On top of the ease of communication that 'always-on' culture affords, it also supports a fantastic level of synchronisation for most forms of social media. For instance, one can easily link their Instagram account to their Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr accounts (as well as many other social networking sites)[81], allowing posts on any or all of those sites to be visible across platforms, and also allowing the user to keep their communications and musings synchronised across multiple platforms of social media and keeping things orderly at the same time.

DisadvantagesEdit

"Disconnectivity Anxiety" (DA)

DA is, as defined by Dr. Jim Taylor, "a persistent and unpleasant condition characterized by worry and unease caused by periods of technological disconnection from others" [82]. This anxiety can come from anything, such as, not being able to connect to the Internet or someone not responding quickly enough to a message. From Taylor's perspective, the constant need to be connected is a problem in society and people should make an effort to detach themselves when the technology is not necessary.

“Continuous Partial Attention” (CPA)

CPA is: “to pay partial attention — CONTINUOUSLY” [83]. The term was coined by writer Linda Stone in 1998. When we use our attention in this way, we are dividing it between multiple things but at a superficial level. CPA is motivated “by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network”. Continuous partial attention is different from multitasking, we multitask to be more efficient and we use CPA because we don’t want to miss anything. In large doses, it can play a part in creating a very stressful lifestyle through "operating in crisis management mode".

Reduced Personal Privacy

It has been noted that always being connected can disrupt and interfere with an individual's privacy, as they simply cannot disconnect themselves. Jan van Dijk talks of, particularly in relation to the use of GPS technology in social media, an inability for an individual to detach themselves from their 'network' for personal reasons - simply because society as a whole now functions in an 'always-on' fashion[84]:

"There is pressure in all communications technology to be within reach at any time and place [...] it causes the individual to be traceable to the deepest crevices of the social fabric and in all environments. Almost every place becomes a social place. And even if one tries and succeeds using blocking options, the chances of having to justify oneself are increasing"[85].

It is argued that being 'always-on' is an increasing danger to personal autonomy, as our "natural space to withdraw"[86] is shrinking as a direct result[87]. Being 'always-on' and open to so many social outlets takes away an individual's personal time, whilst reducing their ability to switch off, which would eventually result in an overload of data to process; as no individual has the capacity to take in all that the internet has to offer[88].

Inability to Focus

As discussed in Nicholas Carr's book 'The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains',' always being connected to the Internet or mobile network can create difficulty to focus on any single thing for more than a few minutes [89]. The Internet gives you short bursts of information and then leads you to something else not giving a lot of time to focus on one thing.

Changing Attitudes

Turkle expresses how she feels that attitudes of users of the technology is changing. She often mentions how communication is breaking down due to the increasing use of technology to communicate. Turkle also argues that the way technology is now being used is not just changing the way the users communicate with each other, but it is also changing the user as a person. The need for attention is able to fulfilled by social media and the ability to message people from a device but this can also lead to users feeling more bored or alone in real life situations. In a 2012 Ted Talk, she expresses how face-to-face communication is suffering due to the rise of online conversation and how even when people are in them presence of others they often want to be somewhere else, so they communicate online while in the company of others. She gives the example of people texting and emailing from boardrooms and during meetings. Overall, she expresses that the popularity of communicating online and the decline of communicating in person hence creating a feeling of isolation for the user.[90]

Psychological Damage by Being 'Always-On'

There are some psychological issues related to being ‘always-on'. 'Being drop into a mode of permanent online activity’ can create lots of stress and anxiety. Constantly checking messages on the smartphones can lead to the point that there is no break whatsoever. This situation can create a feeling of being overwhelmed, depressed and in some cases makes people even to commit suicide.The pressure of being ‘always-on’ is huge, especially in the work place. There is confusion where the media demands stop and where the life starts. "Work and life are blended into a stressful soup of endless demands. In many workplaces, switching off is seen as uncommitted, even unprofessional". Many people are place in the situation that the demands from the work place take over their personal life.[91]

Changing Media Industries and ConvergenceEdit

NewspapersEdit

Newspapers fall under the heading of “old media” whilst the Internet is considered “new media”. It could be argued that newspapers are becoming a thing of the past. They were once the only means for people to be informed of current events around the globe and could typically be found in every household. However, now the need to buy a newspaper is waning due to free websites providing up-to-date information, sharing news the instant it occurs. In the age of Twitter and trending topics, there is far less need to track down newsworthy events when they will come to you whether you seek them or not. Many online news providers let users customize their news feed so only topics their interested come to them, such as RSS Feeds.[92] Older generations might still purchase newspapers; however, newspaper readership in the younger generations is declining as they have all the information they could need at their fingertips.

Many traditional print newspapers are putting more money and resources into the digital side of news. “At present, the major British newspapers are edging sideways towards the digital tipping point. Print staffs and print supplements and people and resources shifted into digital.” [93] As well as regularly updated websites, many newspapers have launched smartphone apps allowing people to access news on the move and provide notifications for breaking news. Some newspapers have made the complete digital transition as physical readership couldn't maintain profit; instead, newspapers find it more cost beneficial to "print" online, thereby reaching more users and cutting costs.

TelevisionEdit

As Marshall McLuhan said: "There is a basic principle that distinguishes a hot medium like radio from a cool one like the telephone, or a hot medium like the movie from a cool one like TV... A hot medium is one that extends one single sense in "high definition". [94]

Television was once a cool medium - meaning something that could be consumed passively, unlike a movie at the cinema or a lecture for example. However, the more we use social media and the internet, the more interactive television is becoming. [95]

Although TV had become interactive before smartphone technology, with the popularisation of voting reality shows like Big Brother (Channel 4/Five) to magazine programmes with debating segments such as This Morning (ITV), the boom in social media and 'always-on' culture has meant that audiences now expect TV shows to have a presence online and want to have their say more than ever. [96]

For example, it is now possible to download apps for specific TV shows to a smartphone which allow the user to interact with the shows producers and with other viewers. This year, the BBC launched an app for their talent show The Voice which allows users to play along with the blind audition element of the show and voice their opinion, as well as vote in the later stages of the programme. [97]

Another example of this is the frequent reminders during a television show to "Like" Facebook pages and to "Tweet" using certain hashtags which essentially encourage the viewer to join in discussions about the programme and receive the latest news on it. This both helps the shows producers understand the audience they have and make sure that they draw in as big an audience as possible as reminders can be sent out.

Video GamesEdit

Many popular video games have recently begun to utilise social media as a way to report the player's progress through the game as they play it. For instance, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves features an option for players to link their Twitter account to the game, and as they play the game, whenever they reach a milestone of progression across the game's many chapters, Twitter will post snapshots or small updates of the player's progress[98]. Another notable example of this is with the recent title Grand Theft Auto V. In Grand Theft Auto V, the player is presented with the option to link their game account to their Facebook account, allowing the game to post status updates and small bits of information about the player's behavior in the game (such as number of in-game kills, recently completed missions, or recently-won multiplayer games). As well as this Rockstar games has also created an online game profile category which enables players from all over the world to link together and share player profiles of your in game progress, evidently video game producers are admirably trying to converge and synergies social media and online gaming as much as possible to keep an Always-On culture active to keep the success and 'Buzz' surrounding the game.

Additionally, in a more aggregate sense, there is a popular system of measuring progress on the Xbox and Playstation consoles (referred to as Achievements and Trophies, respectively). These systems of measurement track a player's progress as they complete goals set by the game's designers. Many third-party websites allow players of games on these consoles to automatically update their social networks (such as Twitter or Facebook) with notifications of their progress. Additionally, the Playstation supports native Twitter integration support for players to cross-post their Trophies to their feeds.

With the introduction of the current generation of gaming consoles, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One both feature the capacity to share video feeds of any one player's gameplay in real-time via popular video game streaming site Twitch.tv[99][100]. Less than a month after the release of the Playstation 4, Twitch reported that Playstation 4 users had generated over 10% of the streams on their website, with over 20 million minutes of footage streamed from gamers to the popular site in under one month's time[101].

Fashion IndustryEdit

Similarly, the concept of constant technology has further branched out into other major industries across the world influencing fashion as well as culture and social aspects of everyday living. Zeki (2014) describes - in an interview with designer Tuba Ergin - how the fashion world and technological world are becoming forever more 'harmonised' with each other, as well as how each compliment one another. Designer Ergin, showcased his designs at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Istanbul in 2012, which included the new addition of circuit cards into each of his fashion garments including dresses and tops, and furthermore onto shoes and bags. Ergin (2014) mentions how each and every one of us now as members of society are now fully under the influence of the sheer absorption of technology. He evens goes as far to state that "I believe there is almost no difference between drug abuse and technology addiction" [102] Such a statement allows us to see how we are now fully 'Always On' with our devices and the extent to which can be compared to such a heavily addictive substance such as drugs. In his interview, Ergin then goes on to discuss the developments of our devices that we are forever always using in our everyday lives such as technological glasses as well as watches. However, he then states that technology in the future will lead into clothes that can react to body temperature and the human pulse, such advancements will allow fitness merchandise to rocket, presumably.

Marketing IndustryEdit

Technology addiction has had a massive influence over the business-orientated world. With people constantly being visible and incorporated in their online world allows large businesses to make thousands of pounds from these users. The more people are on their phones and technology devices, the more money companies make. Such large organisations such as Facebook allow their adverts to become more expensive and make great amounts of money on their customers simply through their use online being forever constant. Cookies and other internet bugs allow marketers to track every move we make online and more importantly, how long we are on a certain webpage for and where our mouse is hovering. Such details allow them to store great information on the everyday user and can show the great extent to how intense the everyday person is 'always on' on their devices. Therefore, it is clear that marketers are cashing in on us ourselves being constantly addicted to our devices.

Social Media, Celebrity and Fan CultureEdit

Social media - in particular, Twitter - now allows us to keep up to date with what is going on in the lives of people we admire and the fan communities surrounding them. It is now very rare to find a significant individual in the public eye who does not own a Twitter account as developing an online presence within this 'always-on' culture helps to create and keep up interest in what you are promoting - even if what you are promoting is simply yourself as an online personality.

There is a law of attraction which states that people develop a greater preference for something that they are exposed to often [103] which, when applied to social media, may help us to understand how online fan communities work. The greater the presence that the social media user has online - particularly if they are already famous offline - will help create fans or increase interest among casual fans. Once we are enticed by a user through their social media account, it can become very addictive and very often people will feel that they need to know what is happening in that persons life - no matter how trivial. Fan communities and sites can also help to increase interest in a subject. Therefore, as they are 'always-on", we are 'always-on'.

Always-On and the Growing Effect on SocietyEdit

The rise of the 'always-on' culture is having drastic effects on society as we know it today, the rise in technology is allowing everyone worldwide to be able to connect to the internet using personal devices such as smartphones and laptops 24/7 365 days a year. Studies into the effects of always being online are starting to develop more and more stories day by day, for example the effects of the 'always-on' culture in the workplace; Carsten Schloter, the 49-year-old chief executive of the Swiss telecoms group, Swisscom, was found dead at his home in July 2013, according to the Telegraph “The always-on culture: smartphones, stress and suicide” were main links to his death. Such links are tied in with the norms and traditions of working in an environment in the 21st century, one always has to be ‘always-on’ to read those important emails. “Though the culture of being instantly available for emails and calls is often a product of unspoken pressure, sometimes it’s official policy.” [104]

The 'always-on' culture in education, is this culture changing education, how we learn and how our brains behave? Being always on can have it’s advantages and disadvantages, people who disconnect often get withdrawal feelings, ostracism and difficulty connecting, many professionals compare the withdrawal symptoms of disconnecting to that of drugs. Ignoring or creating a negative perception of technology in education that students willingly and actively use in every other aspect of their lives is not a winning educational strategy, research by Brian Chen [105] demonstrated how top performers in school and in further education were more likely to be those best at distinguishing high quality data. Whether technological devices make students smarter is neither here nor there, technology is only getting more advanced and therefor the always on culture in education is likely to grow more and more.

Relating Always-On to Other Digital Media and Culture TopicsEdit

Cognitive SurplusEdit

See also: Cognitive Surplus

Technology has developed to allow the user to create and share their thoughts and ideas. 'Always-on' culture means individuals can partake in cognitive surplus when they so wish. 'Always-on' culture also allows the user to view collective work online at the touch of a button. For example, Wikipedia is free of data charges in Middle-East and Africa: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Wikipedia_Zero

Thus, the development of an always-on society has created a new means of collaboration and communication. An example of this can be seen in Peter Chroust's research on far-right political movements' use of the internet, in relation to the concept of 'smart mobs'. Chroust uses the example of the Taliban, although it is debatable whether this organisation can be referred to as a 'smart mob', the organisation must remain 'always-on' in order to act out and respond efficiently to 'spontaneous' action - and gather more support[106]:

"To right-wing groups the internet not only serves as an electronic mail-box. It also enables the distribution of ideologies for political training of the cadres - and for reaching interested people outside the real network"[107].

Chroust does however note that the internet, alongside the act of being 'always-on', is most likely seldom utilized aside from through internal communication within the Taliban[108]. Despite this, "opponents of modernisation and globalisation"[109] are present throughout the world, with organisations such as Al Qaeda operating in numerous countries across different time zones. It is with this in mind that being 'always-on' is an essential component of a 'smart mob' working quickly, efficiently and spontaneously[110]:

"That explains why the Taliban invest financial resources and manpower in their presence on the internet. That most of the Afghan population have no electric light and even are illiterate, let alone have access to the world wide web, is not such a paradox as it first seems"[111].

Technological DeterminismEdit

See also: Technological Determinism

'Always-on' culture may bring about a big cultural shift relating to communication which has been determined by innovations in media technology where the user has the ability to be connected to the internet at all times. Technology has the power to transform culture, society and way people look at the world. Due to the advance in technology, people have developed a greater need to be connected to other people via mobiles/computers/tablets and are more likely to share experiences through these forms of communication than face-to-face.

Online IdentityEdit

See also: Online Identity

Being 'always-on' leads to the constant overlapping of the user's real life identity and online one. It could be argued that the user's online identity is just as 'real' as their 'real life' identity - that an online identity is carefully thought out regarding what the user displays about themselves, but in face-to-face encounters it is much more 'real time' and people are perhaps a bit more vulnerable to show themselves in a less-than-ideal way - albeit showing a more 'natural' self. Online identity is about portraying of self as a living-out of states of being, becoming, belonging and behaving through the range of everyday social and discursive practices that are connected with the body. Yet it is also a close editing of self: ‘it’s me, but minus the things I don’t like about me’ – those aspects of self chosen to be shared with the public [112].

'Always-on' may mean that some users of technology feel the need to “check-in”, update their internet status or upload pictures from their real life to portray a specific online identity [113]. These activities may take up a lot of time and be of great importance to individuals in order to determine an online identity which is always-on and available to access (i.e. Impression Management). Always-on with regard to texting, Facebook, email etc. will all contribute to your online identity as they are managed by you and reflect you as a person whether it is informally with friends (text, Facebook) or for a more professional purpose (email, LinkedIn). José van Dijck [114] differentiates between Facebook and LinkedIn, the former existing for users’ personal presentation of online identity and the latter for promotion of their professional identity with both organisations using similar means of connectivity. However, he also asserts that both platforms have a “vested interest in pushing the need for a uniform online identity” (p. 200) which may not be in the best interests of users who may want, for example, one identity for friends and another for employers.

McLuhan's view that the "medium is the message” links to your 'always-on' identity: The medium in which you use to communicate affects the message originally intended. For example, text speak is informal, thus leading to a cultural change where acronyms, such as “LOL” (laugh out loud) are used in real conversation and bad punctuation is more frequent.

Marshall McLuhanEdit

McLuhan’s assertion that the 'medium is the message' seems to be becoming more evident as the technology we use is tied in with our identity and what it says about us. Three of the world’s largest technology companies, Google, Intel, and Facebook all announced, almost on the same day, that they were investing heavily in wearable technology. Google announced that it was partnering with Italy's Luxottica, the makers of Ray-Ban sunglasses and Oakley sports glasses to ensure their new smart glasses, Google Glass, were at the cutting edge of fashion [115] [116]. Google Glass is a small screen attached to a pair of glasses which can record video, access email, and retrieve information from the web by connecting wirelessly to a user's mobile phone. Intel, the world’s largest computer chip maker, increased its investment in wearable technology by buying Basis Science, a company that has devices and services for tracking a person’s health, and wanted to accelerate its position in wearable technology [117]. Facebook also made a big investment in wearable technology by buying the virtual reality technology firm Oculus VR for £1.2bn and Mark Zuckerberg going as far as saying that “virtual reality will be the next social communications platform” [118] and will “change the way we work, play and communicate” [119]. If these investments by the world’s largest technology companies produce a proliferation of new, fashionable, technology, the reliance on wireless technology and greater bandwidth within that technology, will undoubtedly increase.

Hamid Van KotenEdit

Van Koten’s work is of significant relevance to this development in wearable technology, particularly Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus VR. In the context of technology providing an extension of our social networks, Van Koten wants to uncover the “shift from the real to the imaginary as the dominant drive towards the consumption of these representations” [120]. He says from a Jungian perspective, ”games provide an outlet for the archetypal forces within the collective unconscious. Onscreen we can safely place ourselves in the role of the Hero […] alternatively, in a Freudian sense, games are a means of enacting the Oedipus complex” [121] . Van Koten’s work build’s on that of McLuhan and it would seem with the three investments made by Google, Intel, and Facebook, the merging of games technology, which allows us to act in an imaginary world in much the same way as described in the disinhibition argument, with social media, his observation of the shift from the real to the imaginary will increase significantly.

GlossaryEdit

'Always-on' = Constantly accessible for communication through internet on different communication devices. E.g. "Checking-in”, update internet status, upload pictures to portray a specific online identity etc.

'Benign Disinhibition' = Unusual acts of generosity or kindness online or when people show fear, reveal secret emotions, wishes and other personal things about themselves online rather than offline.

'Determinism' = The idea that technology has important effects on peoples lives.

'Facebook' = Online social networking service. Founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004.

'Google' = Corporation that specializes in Internet-related services and products. This include search, software and online advertising technologies.

'Google-Glass' = Small screen attached to a pair of glasses which can record video, access email, and retrieve information from the web by connecting to a user's mobile phone through wireless internet.

'High and Low Fidelity CMC' = The level of social context cues available in differing forms of communication.

'LinkedIn' = Business oriented social networking site.

'Locked-in Theory' = The notion that a component of technology becomes so intertwined in an individual's daily routine, it becomes natural and almost impossible to stop using. It is also the idea that some software and ideas are used so much that they become industry standard and are accepted by most people to the extent that they are nearly impossible to change.

'Online Disinhibition' = Loss of real world inhibitions when communicating online.

'Online Identity' Portraying of self as a living-out of states of being, becoming, belonging and behaving through the range of everyday social and discursive practices that are connected with the body.

'Positional Inequality' = The idea that some are better off in terms of where they are located in the network.

'Situational Inequality' = The idea that some are better off than others, socio-economically.

'Tethered Self' = The idea we are always contactable through our devices and expect others to be as well.

'Tethering' = Performed by connecting one device to another, this may be through mobile phones, tablets, laptops, TVs or any other similar electronic device that has access to a Wireless LAN (WI-FI), Bluetooth, or a physical connection such as a USB cable.

'Toxic Disinhibition' = Increased aggression, rudeness or inflammatory behaviors from users while online as opposed to offline behavior.

'Technological Convergence' = The act of different technological systems evolving towards performing similar operations.

'Twitter' = Online social networking and miniblogging service. Users write and read 140-character messages known as "tweets".

'Ubiquitous Technology' = The idea that technology is present everywhere and is infiltrating everyday life.

'Wi-Fi' = A wireless technology that uses microwave radiation to transmit and receive signals between devices and because of its method of transmitting and receiving it is thus vulnerable to interference.

'3G' = Third Generation of Mobile Telecommunications Technology.

'4G' = Fourth generation of Mobile Telecommunications Technology succeeding 3G.

NotesEdit

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ReferencesEdit

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