What happens when a proportion of the people using a new technology see it to be so
enticing that they are willing to sacrifice every other aspect of their lives in order
to engage with it?
In most instances, people can comfortably moderate their use of computers and the
Internet. Occasionally however, some individuals feel compelled to indulge to an excessive
degree, disrupting their lives and fracturing relationships. This uncontrolled behaviour
displays many characteristics of addiction.
This project centers on the role design can play in guiding these individuals through
their turbulent affair with the technology.
The Computer Hood is in ‘Design Week’ magazine this week as part of the promotion
of the RCA Summer Show.
“Technological addictions are operationally defined as non-chemical, behavioural addictions
that involve human-machine interaction. They can be either passive (e.g. television)
or active (e.g. the computer) and usually contain inducing and reinforcing features,
which may contribute to the promotion of addictive tendencies.
The opportunity for dysfunctional engagement with computers and the Internet is being
compounded by their standardisation in society. Flat rate broadband fees and online
social software combine to provide a platform ideal for inclined individuals to develop
an expansive social network across the digital landscape. In moderation this is fine,
but it becomes problematic when usage is sustained over extended periods; especially
when at the expense of existing ‘real world’ relationships and responsibility. The
situation can deteriorate even further as the individual begins to display the salient
features of addiction, i.e., mood modification, withdrawal, conflict and relapse.
Addressing this issue is rarely approached through design; generally, cognitive behavioural
therapists prescribe treatment through rigorous counseling. Often this treatment is
helped by medication. A very drastic measure and one that can only be taken by the
affected individuals once they have accepted that this is a worthy problem. Designers
have previously given very little consideration to the thoughts and actions of these
individuals before or after a decision to seek help has been made.
Upon identifying a space for design in this dysfunctional sociotechnological landscape,
I wrote three briefs based upon the differing experiences of real people affected,
directly and indirectly, by this behaviour. The ‘Design for the Computer Obsessive’
project does not set out to solve all the issues it raises; instead it has been developed
to highlight the impact of extreme engagement with a new technology. I want the projects
to almost follow a narrative from one part to the next. A series of products that
could easily coexist but also enjoy success independently.”