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Impacts on health

In this video hear from our course contributors about the impacts of technologies on our physical and mental health.

The production and disposal of technologies are leading to real-world harm, but what about the harms caused by technologies as we use them? In this video, our course contributors discuss how technologies are impacting our physical and mental health.

As Hunter highlights developing an expanded definition of technologies, looking at things such as glasses and even language itself as a technology, helps us to understand just how much technology impacts our lives. And, in an effort too develop an expanded definition of sustainability it’s important that we interrogate these impacts thoroughly.

Through social media gender-based violence has found a new form within which to exist. The anonymity of the internet allows people to spread hate in a way that they couldn’t 20 years ago with next to no repercussions. In 2020 humanitarian organisation Plan International surveyed 14,00 girls and young women from 31 countries to understand their experiences of online violence (1). Their results found that “58% had experienced online harassment, with half saying they faced more harassment online than in the street” adding that the severity of these experiences increased “for women and girls who are politically outspoken, disabled, Black, or identify as LGBTQ+”(2).

Despite these figures, our engagement with technologies is growing, social media use has climbed year on year since its inception (3). This is in part because applications like Instagram are designed in a way that you will want to keep using it. Maja Dakić speaks on the introduction of gamification into app development which sees developers applying game dynamics to the user experience. Dakic describes the way “gamified elements help to trigger a sense of achievement and thus motivates users to use your app even more” (4). You can recognise these elements in features such as, like buttons, badges, virtual goods, and leaderboards, even how apps refresh and display content is akin to a slot machine or roulette.

Equally, the rise of disinformation online, including climate change denial has huge effects offline. A report by InfluenceMap found ads on Facebook, viewed by over 8 million in the USA in the first half of 2020, were sharing messages such as “make no doubt about it: the hysteria over climate change is to sell you Big Government control” and “Fossil fuels are not an existential threat … The Green New Deal is an existential threat.” The spread of such information influences how people see the effects of climate change and the actions of governments, such ads are not flagged as being false. What’s more concerning, however, is that these ads were targeted to certain demographics, for example, men in rural areas are believed to be more susceptible to the information (5).

Discussion prompt

All of the points raised here and by our contributors help us to expand our understanding of the impacts of technologies and question whether such impacts are sustainable? What are your thoughts on the points raised here? Do you feel like the impacts of technologies on our health are sustainable? Are there any specific changes you would like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

References

  1. Plan International, 2020. Free to be online.
  2. Tife Sanusi, 2021. Online Gender-Based Violence: What You Need to Know, Global Citizen.
  3. Dave Chaffey, 2022. Global social media statistics research summary 2022, Smart Insights.
  4. Maja Dakić, 2019. Gamification in Mobile Apps, Medium.
  5. Influence Map, 2020. Climate Change and Digital Advertising,
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