Saturday, 27 October 2007

Technological autism?

How much of our attention is lost or diverted under the influence of technology? How many of us are 'not there?' William Bunn tries to answer in The Globe and mail (Toronto).
"Autism, in sum, is a significantly reduced sensitivity to context. Though no one has termed it autism, pervasive users of technology are often said to be suffering from other ailments: iPod oblivion, cellphone zombieism, inattention blindness, problem cellphone use, or the CrackBerry prayer (named after the pose one strikes while discreetly checking his or her device).

How much sensitivity is lost under the influence of technology? Jim Balsillie, CEO of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, suggests BlackBerry use means a person is 20 per cent "not there." However, An investigator who published a driving and cellphone study in The New England Journal of Medicine reported "a 50-per-cent reduction in the processing of visual information." So a person engaged in the use of technology is, according to some experts, at least 50 per cent "not there."

According to the American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM: IV), the diagnostic criteria for the autistic disorder requires the confirmation of three major features:

1. A qualitative impairment in social interaction.
2. A qualitative impairment in communication.
3. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities.
Do technology users exhibit qualitative impairments in social interaction and communication? Yes and yes. Do they demonstrate "restrictive repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour." Yes.

Diagnosis: technological autism.

Definition: A pervasive disorder induced through the use of technology."

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