Expectations and assumptions: relationships with personal technologies

Appendage, accessory or extension

Some interesting themes emerged during a recent student workshop where research questions about our individual relationships with digital technologies were developed, and research insights shared.

As part of the session the cohort discussed their experiences of keeping a daily diary about the ways in which they engage with their own digital devices. In doing so, many issues were raised, for instance the notion of scale was mentioned, and whether our worlds have expanded because of the internet, or whether they are becoming smaller.  In particular, when more advanced personal search algorithms are mainstream, will we end up in a cycle of reduced self-reference and self-affirmation – of which we are unaware? Will this lead to our horizons being narrowed as we are presented with information that reinforces our existing viewpoints or interests because our search findings are specifically channeled/personalized?

The role of institutional software vs generally available software was discussed, and this led to thoughts about institutional expectations of personal technologies, and how these expectations and relationships may evolve – what are the implications for the authority of an institution? Expectation as a theme was raised again when considering the oft expressed assumption that technology should be making individuals more productive, and how perceived personal ‘deficiencies’ are precluding this state from occurring.  ‘Expectation’ is as an important theme to explore regarding our relationships with technology within an arts and design context.

Questions that emerged from group discussions are as follows (draft):

  1. Analysing need v desire: Do you really need a Mac? Students noted how Apple-centric students are at CSM, and questioned why, and whether it needs to be this way. Here there is an interest around the individual and deeper social and cultural forces at work in the College.
  2. Disciplinary shifts: How is the use of digital technologies changing the ways artists learn and develop their disciplines? Students noted that there are multiple ways in which artists and designers work with digital technologies as part of their practice.
  3. With the prevalence of digital devices, what does the future of university look like for arts and design students?
  4. Cyborg or Bjorn Borg: What human skills do our technologies take over?
  5. Fashion and personal identity: Are people’s perceptions of one another influenced by the technologies we display? Looking at personal expression, identity and judgments? Also mentioned was the seeming duality around the personalization of desired generic devices.
  6. Can international collaborations be enabled by technologies?
  7. Technology-enhanced learning: What kinds of skills or knowledge can learning technologies facilitate?
  8. Creativity and failure: How do people adjust when core device functionality fails? We are inherently creative and this study explores how humans make things happen at times of technical rupture.


Already one group has observed an international student collaborative workshop held using Skype. The question the workshop addressed was ‘what is the future of the super-natural city?’ and three remarks during the session about the technical experience are worth exploring at some stage:

  • you are still fixed in time!
  • insane recursive image of all of us
  • it seemed like it was working for a moment…