The Impact of Digital Transformation on… Society

Digital, Opinion, UX

This series of blog posts looks at how Digital Transformation is changing business models, work and society in 2017. In this final post, I will look at its impacts on society – specifically the affect of personalisation on online ideological segregation, and connected devices on the rise of technostress.


3a) Society: Online Ideological Segregation

Digital disruption doesn’t just affect the world of business; it impacts social behaviour too. In 2016 many of us became aware of the “filter bubbles” we live in after some surprising election outcomes. In 2017 we expect to see further segregation as a result of it, but we may also start to see a response to this problem.

Segregation has existed since the dawn of society. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar believes that a human being is only capable of maintaining around 150 meaningful relationships (the Dunbar number), so there’s no way we can integrate with all seven billion people living on this planet. We’re also biased towards listening to statements that we already agree with, so naturally we’re going to form in to smaller groups. In the pre-digital age, people defined themselves by their political lie, or the newspapers they read.

However, the digital age is creating a deeper and more fragmented society. While Social Media provides everyone with a voice, so has been seen as a democratizing force, it is now argued that online social networks and personalisation increases ideological segregation.

Facebook personalisation

Personalisation is an intelligent UX tool that learns and adapts to the user based on their behaviour. Its purpose is to build a bond with users by providing the right content at the right time for the right person. The most basic form of personalisation suggests related content based on the content being viewed. This is simple to do, and is a powerful marketing tool – but it has narrowed reader’s access to a variety of content and views.

As online ideological segregation becomes more evident, pressure may grow on businesses, content providers and UX designers to reduce the level of personalisation of content – but is it possible to turn back the clock?

3b) Society: Technostress

The growth of technology in our everyday lives at work, at home and out and about makes it difficult to switch off. While we all demand to be connected at any time and anywhere it is having a knock on affect to our stress levels and mental health.

Technostress is on the increase. Defined as the negative psychological link between people and new technologies – it can be experienced by people who cannot adapt to new technologies or to those who are compulsive about being connected and sharing constant updates. The group of people most likely to suffer technostress at work are young men and those with lower computer literacy.

Aside from working towards richer, more natural interpersonal telecommunications, designers are going to have to start thinking beyond our own product’s UX design and consider our users’ holistic life experience. France has made some interesting first steps here by questioning whether employees should have rights not to respond to emails outside of working hours. While the success of Digital Detox Holidays indicates that there is an increasing appetite for people who are ‘addicted’ to their devices to force themselves to disconnect and de-stress.

“When are we offline?” is going to be a big question in 2017, and products that allow us those moments of freedom are likely to gain traction.

Digital Detox Holiday in Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize

Embracing Digital Transformation in 2017

Working at the #2 Digital Elite Agency 2016 my colleagues and I play our part in digital transformation everyday. This year we are looking forward to seeing how technology and UX not only improves users’ digital experiences, but impacts business models, the way people work and society. As a UX community we need to harness and develop the positive transformations, and reduce and manage the negative disruptions.

The Impact of Digital Transformation… on Business Models and the Future of Work

Read more on the impact of digital transformation in part 1) Business Models and part 2) Future of Work of this blog series.

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