This recently-published Pew Research Center Report discusses some of the attitudes of Americans in the continuously evolving world of technology and how technology impacts our lives. In particular, the report focuses on benefits, harms, and possible remedies to digital life through respondent interviews and a “canvassing of experts.” In the report, we learn that among those surveyed, 47% of respondents predict that individuals’ well-being will be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade and 32% say people’s well-being will be more harmed than helped. The remaining 21% predict there will not be much change in people’s well-being compared to now.
Themes expressed from respondents range from optimism toward global connectivity to dangers of digital addiction, to ideas on how to redesign media literacy. One respondent, Daniel Weitzner (principal research scientist and founding director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative), said of digital connectivity: “Human beings want and need connection, and the internet is the ultimate connection machine. Whether on questions of politics, community affairs, science, education, romance or economic life, the internet does connect people with meaningful and rewarding information and relationships... I have to feel confident that we can continue to gain fulfillment from these human connections.” Others expressed a more cautious outlook on how technology can, in a sense, take over our lives. David S.H. Rosenthal, retired chief scientist of the LOCKSS Program at Stanford University, said, “The digital economy is based upon competition to consume humans’ attention. This competition has existed for a long time, but the current generation of tools for consuming attention is far more effective than previous generations.”
Many respondents reported ideas for mitigating the diverse set of issues that go along with living a digital life, such as appropriate technology education and reevaluating our expectations. Alex Halavais, director of the M.A. in social technologies program at Arizona State University, said, “The primary change needs to come in education. From a very early age, people need to understand how to interact with networked, digital technologies. They need to learn how to use social media, and learn how not to be used by it.”
To read this engrossing and interesting report in full, please visit the Pew Research Center’s website. In the report, readers also have the opportunity to read the detailed section entitled, "About this canvassing of experts," to see who was canvassed and what questions they were asked.