We've all heard the phrase, "there's an app for that," but when you consider it didn't exist before the first iPhone launched six years ago, it illustrates just how rapidly we've integrated mobile technology into all facets of our daily lives.
But, the positive impact that constant digital connectivity may have on our lives has to be weighed against the potential for the overload and anxiety it sometimes causes, too. How we bring technology into balance in our lives was the subject of a panel discussion, "Returning to your senses" at the Go Further with Ford 2013 Trend Conference on Tuesday, June 25th.
Experts in the field discussed where tech-based connectivity helps us, where it hinders us and offered some tips to ensure we make technology work for us, rather than letting it control us.
So, what can we do to stay on the right side of technology?
For example, her research has found that people often prefer to text rather than talk, because it allows us to, "communicate with people in amounts we can control." As a consequence, the skill of discourse is being lost while we willingly, "sacrifice conversation in favor of connection." It's easy to recall those moments when we've seen others, or perhaps even ourselves, hanging out in a group, faces buried in devices, apparently, "content to be alone together."
There's clearly a social price to be paid if technology usurps conversation, and Turkle's prescription is to meter our addiction to devices. Especially when it comes to young children. We need to turn off occasionally, engage with real people, make eye contact with others, and most important, learn to develop an appreciation for solitude, rather than reach for the phone to see if someone has replied to our last text. Turkle asserts we'll be less anxious and less lonely if we can do that.
Moraveji believes that we can develop apps designed to move us away from a state of anxiety towards one of calm; the state of mind in which we are most effective. He advocates that because we're unlikely to give up our devices, we need new apps that will serve as tools to help us build self awareness.
For example, an e-mail platform which shows how many times you've checked messages today, might help curb the compulsion to needlessly look at them again. Or, perhaps, providing creative ways to delete messages, such as slashing them, or exploding them (virtually, of course) rather than simply sending them to trash - might help us fight the banality of our e-mail load.
Finding inner calm? There's an app for that!
Firstly, they promote guided meditation to bring people from different parts of the organization together in a mindful way. Secondly, "transforming failure" helps people figure out "where the finish line is." For example, there's always one more e-mail you can send today, so where do you draw the line? And how do you set expectations with your co-workers? Thirdly, they promote "compassionate leadership" - a condition based fundamentally on both effective listening and authenticity.
The point of all this is to help individuals at work take the opportunity to drive the process of change and mindfulness themselves.
In the realm of driving, it's about delivering useful technology, but keeping it out of your way, so you can focus and be safe. For example, one application might be in-seat heart rate monitoring, providing a measure of driver stress. Coupling this information with data from sensors monitoring traffic and weather conditions outside, the car can create a driver "workload estimate." Depending on this estimate, an incoming phone call might be routed directly to voice mail to avoid distraction at moments of high-stress driving conditions. Clever stuff, and potentially life saving!
Ed Note: Travel to Detroit was covered by Ford.
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.