Stakeholder Theory and Social Responsibility
The article Can’t Put Down Your Device? That’s by Design raises several moral or ethical issues. The main point of the other is that people have become increasingly addicted to their technological devices. It follows that the products and services being offered today including smartphones have been designed by the manufacturers to steal the attention of the users. Moreover, designers have been working extremely hard to modify their products and services so that they become more addictive. Ethical, psychological, and moral questions have been raised following this development. It is evident that manufacturers of technological devices and providers of related services are manipulating the end users. Moreover, they have denied them control. Additionally, these companies have not made any effort to educate their customers about technology addition, its negative impacts, and how to avoid being addicted.
According to Greer (2018), attention has been a major driver of modern businesses. For instance, the growth and revenues of large technology companies such as Facebook and Google has, over the years, been influenced by the attention that each organization receives from the customers. Most of these corporations are profit-motivated and therefore consider it an advantage to have a large number of individuals addicted to its services or products. However, such a business model is unethical and immoral. A company that seeks to maximize attention to hook users and, in turn, make more profits fall short of the social responsibility of aligning with the well-being of customers and human beings in general. However, such companies cannot be viewed as evil. Rather, their activities are as a result of their business model. What should be emphasized is that the addiction to technological devices is a development that is happening by design and not merely by accident. As Singer (2015) points out, the design qualities aim at making a product extremely captivating to the extent that it becomes difficult for users to put it down. The popularity of these services has made them more appealing to many people, thereby making the situation worse.Stakeholder Theory and Social Responsibility
Another issue raised in the article relates to the ethics of persuasion given that the consequences of designers actions affect billions of users across the world. The strategy of persuasion has been helpful to companies for ages. When applied in technology, however, the effect is different (Schüll, 2012). In the end, it becomes evident that the end user not just being persuaded to use a product. Rather, he is being manipulated or coerced to do it through various design features.
It is also unethical for technology companies to tap into the needs of people that are deeply buried. For instance, LinkedIn has an icon that indicates the size of the network of each account holder. This design feature has activated the instinctive social approval desire of young people resulting in the majority of users scrambling to connect. This clearly shows that technology is not entirely neutral. Instead, it is a tool that can coax users to act in specific ways. On the other hand, the websites and apps running in peoples’ devices have been engineered to ensure that users continue to scroll for the longest time possible. While those companies that successfully hook user’s attention continue to make enormous profits, they remain unmindful of the time being wasted this way by probably billions of people.
There are several approaches that could be helpful in addressing the issues highlight above. One approach to the issue of unethical design would involve developers of various addictive products helping their users set boundaries. To achieve this, the companies should pay less attention to ways they could improve their devices or software and instead find ways through which these products could improve people’s lives. Using email as an example, the designers could create an inbox that allows a user to set the maximum time that he wants to spend reading new emails. Once the quota has been surpassed, the system should alert the user that he is spending more time there than he intended (Staff, 2017). Smartphones, on the other hand, could be designed to count and notify the user the number of times he unlocks it each day. A person that gets a notification informing him or her that he is unlocking his phone for 99th time will certainly tend to be more cautious of the time he dedicates to his device. By creating the provision to specify such boundaries, those addicted to their devices will be better positioned to keep track of their time and therefore make informed decisions. Stakeholder Theory and Social Responsibility
Although this option is good, it is likely to have little or no impact at all on the design and features of technological devices and software being used. The main motivation of the companies involved is to make profits. Since the current practice allows them to attract customers and keep them hooked to their products, most of them will be unwilling to introduce any design changes that would make users more conscious of their time.
To address the unethical behavior of software and device designers going beyond the acceptable limits of persuasion, the best approach would be to consider the issue as a growing problem that requires the right alignment of incentives. It is not in the interest of companies such as Facebook, Google, and Apple to make users away of the time they spend scrolling. This is due to bad incentives. Although these companies want more people to use their products, they fail to measure how good these products are to the people. The solution could be market intervention either through regulation or taxes to force all players in the industry introduce the desire design changes. This would help to ensure that all parts of a device are aligned with the interests of the users.
The use of taxes and regulation, however, would have a negative impact on the industry. Manufactures and providers of services have been found to act fast following demands from the consumers. Therefore, although Google, Facebook, and Apple among other companies have failed to act to give users control over various notifications and distractions, they are likely to do it if consumer demand is there. Unfortunately, this is a development that cannot occur on its own. A strong movement is needed to improve software design basics. Consumers could pressure product designers to stop exploiting their psychological vulnerabilities. Such a move would be morally acceptable and would help the company formulate a way to check their products to ascertain that they meet the expectations of the end user.
Regulators in the industry could introduce new design and certification standards to ensure that designers do not create apps and software that are going to be addictive. Although product and service providers would not be compelled to create devices with the stipulated features, those that have been designed bearing such values would be labeled for easier identification by users. Similarly, apps that exemplify such ethos would also be designated and endorsed for users that don’t want distractions. The above-mentioned approaches could go a long way in addressing the problem from its source as opposed to spending a lot of time debating about self-control and how users can apply it to solve the problem of addiction. From an ethical perspective, however, the solutions could be rejected on the basis that it denies users an opportunity to exercise their free will. Further, it could be argued from a moral perspective that it is the responsibility of the user, and not the maker of the device, to apply self-control when using digital devices. Usually, the addiction to tech devices comes as a result of personal failures that may include weak willpower. However, it should also be recognized that these companies have employed the best designers in the world whose main focus is to create products or services that will hook people making it difficult for them to exercise their self-control.
Recently, Silicon Valley projects have leaned towards mindfulness by emphasizing on user consciousness. The main disadvantage is that the move has burdened uses with the responsibility of training their focus while not realizing that the devices they possess have intentionally been designed to hook them. Based on the ethical reasoning conducted, there is a need for users to transform their self-awareness if they are to overcome the unethical issues in the design of devices. This could be done through honest but conscious conversations focusing on consumer psychology. Apart from making people more aware of the seductive power of their device, the move will likely help them become more immune to its negative impact by developing the most appropriate norms. Additionally, there is a need for companies to transform the design of devices, enabling users to have control of those features that persuade and hijack their attention against their free will. The best approach would be to equip apps and software with features that allow people to specify the timeline of how they wished to spend their time. By allowing a person to block moments that could hijack their mind, users could be better positioned to spend their time well.Stakeholder Theory and Social Responsibility
Greer, S. (2018, August 27). How do we stop technology addiction? Retrieved from https://medium.com/s/story/how-do-we-stop-technology-addiction-c0c081b8c970
Schüll, N. D. (2012) .Addiction by design: Machine gambling in Las Vegas. Princeton University Press.
Singer, N. (2015). Can’t put down your device? That’s by design. The New York Times.