Accepted paper:

How Mediating Technologies Work? A Preliminary Categorization and Some Misunderstandings


Ching Hung (University of Twente)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will, from the perspective of the technological mediation theory, make a preliminary categorization of how mediating technologies work. Then the paper will, by taking a stance of radical behaviorism go with an argument that often the danger of the power of mediating technologies is overestimated.

Paper long abstract:

From the perspective of the technological mediation theory, technologies are capable of exerting influences on human behaviors, expectably or unexpectably, when being in interaction with users. We could easily find numerous examples of mediating technology (MT afterwards) in our daily lives. Designers are happy to embrace and create this "ability" of technology, but sometimes people are worried and warned the danger of being taken control by technologies. Yes, there might be unwanted forms of technological mediation, but not every MT deserves our careful attention and great care. It would be helpful, for not only users but also designers, to make a distinction and dry a line between harmful MT and harmless one. This paper would like to make a preliminary categorization of MTs. By collecting and comparing various case studies on different MTs (especially intended ones), I will discuss how MTs work, based on what they are working, and to what extent they would evoke anxiety. Going through these cases, we will see that the most of worry-rising technologies works on physical, rather cognitive, level. However, the worries probably come from misunderstanding. I will argue, taking a radical behaviorist stance, that the danger of body-based MTs are often overestimated and at the same time the disadvantage of mind-based MTs are sometimes overlooked. Once we understand clearly different types of mechanisms by which technologies mediate, the design of MTs and the discussion on them could be much improved, and the worries could be eased as well.

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