// Posted by Molly on 04/13/2014 (11:52 PM)
The New York Times article “Technology is not driving us apart after all” takes an interesting perspective on how technology has (or has not) effected interpersonal communication. The article discussed a social experiment conducted by Rutgers Professor, Keith Hampton. Hampton… Read more
The New York Times article “Technology is not driving us apart after all” takes an interesting perspective on how technology has (or has not) effected interpersonal communication. The article discussed a social experiment conducted by Rutgers Professor, Keith Hampton. Hampton decided to recreate an old experiment conducted in the 1960s and 70’s (by sociologist, William Whyte) in which he examined how people used and interacted in public settings. Using hidden cameras, Whyte filmed people gathering in public spaces, observed how they behaved, where they migrated to, how long their conversations lasted etc. Using this experiment as a point of comparison, Hampton observed how people communicated within a public space in contemporary society, as we are in the midst of a “communication revolution”. Hampton’s research challenged the widespread concept that today we are overly “plugged in” and completely engrossed in technology at the expense of face-to-face communication. Using 38 hours of comparable film footage, Hampton’s research found that only “10% of modern adults were seen to be using their phones, while actual face-to-face communications and meetings were up significantly”, further “People on the phone were not ignoring lunch partners or interrupting strolls with their lovers; rather, phone use seemed to be a way to pass the time while waiting to meet up with someone, or unwinding during a solo lunch break,” (Hampton). Hampton claims humans are really “bad” at looking back in time, and that we over idealize how things used to be, and how people really behave, when in reality, things have not really changed all that much. Hampton goes on to challenge and criticize Turkles book “All together”, in which she claims public space isn’t communal anymore, and her theory that no one interacts in these public spaces anymore, because they are so engrossed in their own technological worlds. Hampton claims there isn’t enough real evidence to prove this, and theorizes that our idea that technology has alienated us is a product of our own romanticism of the past. His work shows that over the last few decades, our tendency to communicate with others has actually grown rather significantly. We are looking back at the world without technology through rose colored lenses in a way, technology isn’t necessarily making us isolated or disengaged, it may be changing how we interact, but Hampton’s research seeks to oppose the common stigma or “misperception” surrounding technology and communication.
Why do you think there has become this widespread cynicism surrounding modern technology, or “technological dissidence”? Do you think technology is really alienating us? Why do you think hipsters are either so closely associated with technology (bloggers, photographers etc.) but on the other end, perceived to be so far removed from, or the ‘counter culture’ to this digital revolution in which we are living in?