Friday, March 9, 2012

The Psychology of Technology

At least three million people have watched the video of a father shooting his daughter's laptop with a 45 mm revolver because she had posted a disparaging message on her "hidden" Facebook wall. Not hidden enough because her IT father found it and took sweet, if un-fatherly, revenge by shooting the computer with nine exploding hollow point rounds, one apparently for each transgression. Whether he knew nine was a symbolic number and highly charged, one can't be sure. He certainly knows cats have nine lives and maybe that Dante's Divine Comedy had nine circles. If so he might have sentenced his daughter to that rung. We will forgive him if he doesn't know that nine is a very good number in Chinese because when pronounced it sounds like the Chinese word for long life. One hopes the daughter has a similar fortune.

As expected this trigger happy gentleman made the morning television rounds and came across as  educated and reasonable. He simply took umbrage at an un-daughterly insult delivered by a technology he had spent $130 and half-a-day upgrading, thus rubbing more salt into the wound. The thumbs up/thumbs down polling, like Nero in the coliseum, stacked up favorably for the father who played to his base by hanging onto a cigarette too long.

In psychological terms this was his shadow side erupting, dressed up for morning television, over which he had little control, even though his language seemed measured. He simply showed his dark side where he was joined archetypally with the rest of us, mainly men, who have wanted to put a foot through a television when our horse didn't come in as ordered.

I worry about whether there are enough guns in America to control or silence the wash of devices that are coming to our shores, driven by upgrades every six months or so. The tech blogger are already anticipating when the iPad 19 will be released.

During the day I frequently spend time with OEMs, device manufacturers and carriers and they like the sound of the surf. By and large their business models are predicated on the proposition that consumers in the West (and increasing in BRIC nations and the developing world) will upgrade their electronics on a regular, predictable basis. The fear that the tablet would kill the PC and certainly the netbook and perhaps take a chunk out of high-end smartphone category has not proven to be true to date. A rising tide lifts most boats. IGR research shows that by 2014 families will own 5-8 devices and probably more. We contiinue to be surprised at how the tablet is much more than a lean-back, media consumption device. Nielsen reports that American families increasingly consider the tablet as playmate, teacher and babysitter. I haven't seen many babies leaning back.

You can't shoot what you don't see.  I recently attended a fascinating Big Data Sandbox event at Forbes. Data sets are certainly getting larger and we are becoming much more efficient in "scrubbing" raw data.

Whether following Twitter feeds or another big data source, we can visualize global traffic, tastes and passions by latitiude and longitude. And we can watch the movement of data in real time, including when apps are clicked on. We can watch how memories and ideas spread across New York City. The data tells us that people movement within a metropolitan area is 90% predictable.

Of course, this kind of analysis is the backbone of Foursquare's business that is led by 1.5 billion check-ins. The company can use data visualization to track the rhythm of nations, to see ideas spread and chart friendship connections. We have become or will become data points.

Stephen Wolfram's blog, "The Personal Analytics of My Life," shows how the author developed his own archaeology of data by charting along a distribution model his emails, key strokes, phone time, text revisions and even steps taken in the last two decades. He acknowledges such an extreme interest in personal analytics might seem a little nerdy but suggests there are stories and meaning to be found in personal data. And he hasn't even gotten to curated medical informaiton, GPS tracking and room-by-room sensor data.

I read that old Twitter tweets are being mined by companies, presumably for advertising purposes. So every key stroke is forever alive, meaningful, and probably worth something.

During the day I drown in data. At night I have been taking depth psychology classes, with a focus on C.G. Jung and  the post-Jungian, James Hillman. The Freudians can address whether we are spending too much time with devices and what that says about our mothers, sex lives and dark caves.

Jung and Hillman spoke of the collective unconscious, the metaphorical home for thousand of years of cultural images. This is a imagistic rather than metaphysical or physical zone.  For example, the Greek gods, including Zeus, Aphrodite and Venus, who appear in our day talk and customs, dreams and nightmares, are not real and provide no theology. They are fictions, fantasies and represent an imagistic way to reach the deeper part of ourselves. They are a way "in," a perspective.

I'm trying to better understand the impact of social media and Big Data on depth psychology. What happens to consciousness and cognition when digital in the most universal sense disrupts our psychologies in ways that we have not experienced before. This is a long way from what now seems the orderliness of the Industrial Revolution and the various incarnations in the 20th century.

Descartes gave us the mind/body dualism and this has hobbled our religion and politics for four hundred years. The cultural historians provided the same kind of reductionism, represented by the man/machine dualism. Poetically speaking, the machine would be represented by the pure high-flying Apollo and his crowd.  Man or the soul of man might be represented by Hermes, our guide through the muck and lower levels where the stuff of analysis is found.

But how will Zeus and his crowd stand up to Facebook and Twitter?

Just what is Trending and Pending, psychologically speaking?

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