The Internet of Things as an extension and augmentation of the user
Authors: Jaroslaw Kowalski
Abstract: In recent decades, the world of objects and tools has altered markedly. New devices, which communicate with other devices via digital protocols, have emerged. Digital creations, including programs, applications, websites, and bots have also become widespread. These can be considered tools, but are simultaneously immaterial. As a raft of Internet of Things (IoT) products enter the market, a new stage of development can be seen on the horizon: IoT will be superseded by the Internet of Everything, which enables communication between material objects and data, programs, processes, and people. In this new world, technology will become active in new ways and gain new types of agency. Newly created technologies enter into a specific type of relationship with their users and exercise significant impacts upon them.This article presents the results of a qualitative study (28 individual in-depth interviews) conducted on users of different types of digital device, including wearable technologies, smart-home devices, digital applications, and voice assistants. It shows by example the various psychological and social consequences that users of these technologies experience and how those users view the technologies. IoT products can be treated as tools that empower their users. The notion of technology as an extension of the human body and mind was introduced by Marshall McLuhan and developed further by Andy Clark. They highlighted that technological solutions have assisted humanity by “moving” cognitive processes and agency beyond humans themselves. Clark offers examples of such derivation: paper, arithmetic, and writing are external extensions of the human mind. The emergence of the IoT trend introduces a new dynamic to this process: digital devices that have the ability to complement and extend human capabilities. This article proposes that these enhancements be categorised into two distinct groups: extensions (the strengthening of existing properties) and augmentations (the equipping of properties that humans did not previously possess). Through technology, users have access to the equivalent of new senses, such as instant remote knowledge of who is inside their homes, which doors are locked, and the exact location of the bus they intend to catch. These might also incorporate new skills—such as the ability to solve mathematical equations with a single click, or to cook a previously unknown dish—or character traits, such as perseverance or self-motivation. This article also intends to demonstrate that such dependencies can be two-sided. As well as the natural senses, users feel the need to employ technologically generated ones—for example, some users feel the need to “check” the condition of their empty homes, the status of their household appliances, or how much electricity their solar panels have produced. The wide selection of extensions and augmentations that cause users to function in a relational space of human and nonhuman actors have enabled new technologies that make claims on the human psyche. The qualitative method of this article allows it to describe the relationship between humans and 'technological artefacts', and to include the experiences of users described using their own conceptual grids.
Keywords: Internet of Things, Human-Technology Interaction, Smart Devices
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