The Future Of Interaction: Will technology liberate us or cage us into a screen?

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In the fall of 2014, journalist Sebastian Back interviewed me for a short magazine piece on the newer forms of mediated communication, like texting and social media.  The result is online at http://www.theplaidzebra.com/the-future-of-interaction/.

It’s interesting to me how a half hour conversation turns into a few soundbites, and how editing, music, and choice of images makes my words sound more “profound” than they felt when I was speaking them.

Back’s questions were mainly along the lines of, “should we be freaked out about people texting and using social media all the time instead of talking face-to-face?” and so my statements are all kind of in response to that implicit concern. I’m essentially arguing against moral panic.

But I think the reference to ‘liberation’ that’s in the title must have come after our interview, because I don’t remember him asking me if technology would liberate us.  If he had, I would have also argued against techno-utopianism.

Existing inequalities like class, gender, ‘race’, etc. can and do reappear on the internet and in digital communications generally. People can use digital communication to organize democratic political action but it doesn’t happen automatically, and these same media can also be used (and are) for authoritarian purposes.

So the same struggles that take place in the analog world also take place in the digital world.  The two worlds are not really all that separate.

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