Are the Physiological and Digital Systems Converging? : Exploring the relation between humans and mobile technologies.

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för informatik (IK)

Abstract: This thesis has its starting point in the digitalization of society focusing on the rapid development of mobile technologies and the increasing interplay between humans and machines. The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) is extending at a fast pace, affecting all parts of society, and the everyday life of most individuals. The fast progressing development of mobile technologies (smartphones and their accessories/ wearable’s) is creating new trends such as health tracking and quantified self. These mobile technologies can register an increasing number of physiological features, implying that the interconnection between the physiological and digital systems is increasing. This creates a range of new possibilities within health and medical research but it also creates new challenges and the need for new knowledge in how we relate these devices to our bodies. In the psychological perspective, smartphone use is increasing and previous studies imply that these devices are affecting our behaviour, our mental health as well as our cognitive functions. This implies for a need to understand the relation we have to these devices also in a psychological perspective, focusing on emotions and cognition. This study set out to explore the relation between humans and technologies from a systems perspective. The research question involved: How are users and smartphones related in physical and psychological perspectives? The methods used were questionnaires and interviews. The respondents were students in two European universities, who described their experiences of smartphone use, and three doctors (in medicine and biomedicine) that provided interesting aspects in how mobile technologies can be related to the human body from a system perspective   In a physical perspective the users as well as their physical environments could be described as converging with the digital systems. The need of being connected and have access to all life-spheres at once seemed to be an important driving force, implying that users are dependent on information and a converged life-style. In a psychological perspective, the emotional bond seemed stronger then the actual physical need. The perceptions of smartphones differed, but a common denominator described by both Swedish and Albanian users, was the perception of the smartphone as something with human-like features, comparable to a friend. The last part of the study concerned if smartphones can be seen as a new entity of our own system, comparable to an organ. The result suggests that this depends on the individual use, if the technologies is used to sustain health, the value it provides, and it is also a matter of the users ontological believes. The concept of physio-digital convergence is proposed as a new concept to analyse the development of increasing use of mobile technologies further.

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