Technology connects to students’ identity
By Katie Dawson | IDS | January 19, 2012
After a life full of technology, students are addicted.
The preoccupation with electronics and the need to be constantly connected has led students to feel a need to check their computers, phones or iPods even when they’re not supposed to, IU journalism professor and researcher on technology and identity Hans Ibold said.
“I sometimes, in large lecture classes, have students who I’ll be looking right at them. I’ll see their Facebook page opened, and they still can’t keep from interacting with it,” Ibold said.
According to a study released by the Neilsen Company, Americans spent 53 billion minutes on social networking sites in May 2011 alone.
“When I ask students about their study habits, they always, consistently, have multiple screens open, and they have their phone and social networking site on while they’re studying,” Ibold said. “Rare is the student who tells me they shut everything off in order to just read or write.”
IU Mobile has benefited from students’ need to be connected. Since IU Mobile debuted in September 2009, there have been 31,000 downloads of the smartphone application on the Apple App store and 16,000 downloads on the Android and about 600,000 total hits.
“We’ll continue to make more services, more functions available because that’s really become the expectation,” said Brian McGough, director of enterprise software for University Information Technology Services and IU Mobile project manager. “I think the base expectation has evolved into where you should be able to access your data really anytime, anywhere.”
Ibold’s field of study, identity and how it is affected by the media and technology, shows how caught up students are with the preservation of their technological identities.
“Identity formation and maintenance has become a preoccupation for people, not just young people, but people across the board,” said. “The tools that students use every day, especially the identity management tools like Facebook, which essentially is a way to manage identity, is very preoccupying to students.”
Drug and alcohol addicts seek dopamine, a neurotransmitter that enables people to not only experience rewards, but also perform more of an action to get to the rewards.
Studies from the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry have found that while technology itself is not addictive, the way people use it can be.
“We are getting notifications from Facebook and email that creates these random reinforcement schedules where we’re getting these rewards on these random schedules which leads to these dopamine squirts which creates a mild euphoria,” Ibold said.
“On a random schedule, research shows that we are getting addicted to those reinforcements, and we seek more and more of that out as opposed to spending more time with the existing information.”
Because of the amount of information available, analysts often study how the information relates to society.
“You have this global reservoir of knowledge at our fingertips, but figuring out what it means or being able to place it into context and being able to think through it, that’s knowledge, and that’s different than just having a million points of data that you have access to,” Ibold said.
Many students believe the more information they have, the closer to knowledge they are, Ibold said. Instead, the factors of real knowledge take a deeper attention span.
“I think that there is a bit of a danger here where we can be diluted into thinking that we are getting smarter and that we’re more knowledgeable when we have all this information,” Ibold said. “More information doesn’t lead to wisdom or even knowledge.”
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