Author: Margaret Morris
Source: (
Psychologist Margaret Morris talks about the five books that shaped her approach to technology. These books are:
·       The Saturated Self by Kenneth Gergen;
·       The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths And The Making Of The Self by Dan McAdams;
·       How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett
·       Loneliness – Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by  John T. Cacioppo  and William Patrick;
·       Evocative Objects – Things we think with by by Sherry Turkle, Tod Machover, Carol Strohecker, Susan Yee and Mitchel Resnick.
Her central point is that whether technology benefits you or damages you/your family/your relationships, etc depends on how well you use technology. These five books can show you how to use technology better.
Dan McAdams’ book highlights something called the interview process which one can use to optimise one’s use of social media: “That interview process was developed by psychologist Dan McAdams, who wrote one of the books that I’ve recommended, The Stories We Live By. I first ask students to do that interview with themselves. It’s a pretty personal and in-depth thing just to acknowledge the major chapters, themes and struggles in one’s life. Next they integrate a description of the technologies that were significant at different points in their lives. Then they find points where their technology use might be either exacerbating certain struggles or certainly not helping them move on. They might recognize what Dan McAdams calls ‘a narrative rut.’ Then they can start thinking about what to do differently. So that’s a pretty explicit, deliberate approach.”
Lisa Feldman Barrett turns the argument that technology influences us on its head. Instead she shows in her book how “…we can become “the architects of our experiences.” She pushes against the idea that events trigger emotions in a predetermined way and suggests we find the most specific language possible to describe our experiences and feelings. This specificity may propel us to move forward from challenges in a constructive way…We are not just this objective summary of what has happened to us. We are our interpretations of things, and how we articulate them… Her work suggests that perhaps what’s going to really help a person is actually not technology that tells them how they’re feeling, but something that helps them articulate how they’re feeling.”
John Cacioppo’s book delves into an unusual subject. He focuses “…tools to help people—particularly people in later life—reach out to others, or at least recognize that loneliness isn’t something that’s fixed and a necessary part of life. In one project for older adults and their caregivers, we depicted loneliness—or, on the flipside, social connectedness—in a visual display that looked like a solar system. It was driven by sensors and also a journal that they kept. In making this with interaction designers and developers, what I really wanted was to take some ideas about loneliness from John Cacioppo’s work and from ‘learned helplessness’ to show that things are changeable…Learned helplessness is when someone stops trying to change a negative situation after repeated failures. The situation is perceived as fixed or stable, part of an attributional style that’s associated with depression. In the case of his study, that would be the feeling that as one participant said at the start of the study ‘Loneliness is a part of old age and there’s nothing you can do about it.’
We wanted to create feedback that immediately rewarded social effort. So that if the older adult made a phone call or sent an email or had someone over, the dynamic display immediately updated to reinforce that effort. It conveyed that they could change their social engagement through small steps.
The other part of it is what you can do to bring about change. One of the things I found really interesting in John Cacioppo’s work is that loneliness isn’t exclusively about receiving social support. It’s about participating in different kinds of relationships and communities. Making small gestures for others and not expecting anything in return is one really positive path out of loneliness.”
Sheryl Turkle and her colleagues’ book is a collection of essays about cherished objects. “Turkle investigates and celebrates the attachment that we have to objects. The relationships with objects isn’t between one person and one thing. There are all these human relationships and stories that are entangled in our attachment to objects. That is why a lot of people are attached to their phones. It’s not about the device, it’s about the relationships and the validation that they can have access to through these devices. That’s why they’re so important to them, they are a touchpoint for all that human connection.
There’s always the question, ‘Why are people spending so much time on their screens?’ I think maybe a slightly better question is, ‘What are they getting out of it?’ or ‘What are they seeking from their screens?’ There’s a search for a signal that I matter, or that people want to talk to me. It’s acknowledging that I’m desirable, I’m important, I’m significant to other people.
That’s maybe a more fruitful conversation to have than just wondering how we get people to be less attached to their screens. Maybe kids need more validation, more world-opening experiences or more role models than those available to them in their local environments. Or maybe they just need more excitement. It’s about addressing those needs. Those are the kind of things we should be thinking about.”


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