Does using Technology expand your brain?
When I began researching digital engagement I found there was an elusive element that could not completely be applied to commonly accepted theories. I consistently found that popular theories only partially explained what I was witnessing as digital engagement. I eventually came across cybernetics, which tends to be dismissed in favour of theories like ‘complexity theory’ or ‘learning systems’. I found that cybernetics, or to be more specific ‘second order cybernetics’ adequately described what I identified as digital engagement and had no contradicting elements.
As I contemplated the extent of this fit between digital engagement and cybernetics I became aware that both had emerged out of similar circumstances. The concept of ‘cybernetic systems’ emerged in the 1940-50s when digital computing first started. At that time digital computation opened up and accelerated human thought, particularly in terms of the relationship between previously disconnected disciplines of study.
At that time, this new expanded thinking was limited to a select group of experts from diverse fields who had been brought together to brainstorm ideas for the war effort. During their recreation, discussions led to identifying similarities between their different disciplines. Somehow the new expand thinking led those experts to examine systems and the control mechanism of the systems, coming to the idea of a meta system that encompassed multiple fields of study. This led to the idea of cybernetics.
Similarly, the digital engagement phenomenon that we are experiencing coincides with the emergence of a new digital technology – “social media”. Social media has had a similar affect on users who are now finding new ways of expressing or entertaining themselves, new ways to be creative or communicate, be educated or conduct business. However, in the case of social media, it is not a handful of intellectuals, it is society in general.
Anyone engaging with digital technology is now potentially experiencing similar opportunities for ‘expanded thinking’. From my research into digital engagement I believe that that by developing your awareness and understanding of the process of digital engagement an individual can increase their capacity for ‘expanded thinking’.
Unfortunately, my research also found that digital engagement without awareness and understanding could have negative consequences. There is evidence of this everywhere!