As technologists, we have all been using and or promoting the use of technology for years, some of us for decades. Whatever your view of the merits of technology for getting work done, finding information or communicating to co-workers, friends and family, we can all agree that our lives have changed dramatically and permanently from the digital revolution that started decades ago.
Increasingly, I've been reading books and articles that express a growing discomfort with some of the unintended consequences of our reliance on computers. The latest book to cover it is Sherry Turkle's Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Turkle, a professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, and a licensed clinical psychologist, has written before about the impact of technology on our lives. In this book she examines the costs and risks to us of relying on technology for our emotional lives, either through sociable robots or our reliance on social networks and smart phones for our connections to others.
Have you heard the tale about how one blogger-angry at Maytag for its terrible customer service-attracted 2,906 comments on her blog at dooce.com and reached one million others with her tweets? You can bet that the frustration she had with her Kenmore washer was nothing compared to the headaches her rants caused the parent company. Did Maytag learn from its mistakes? According to Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, officers at Forrester Research and authors of Empowered (Harvard Business Review Press, September 14, 2010), they did: The company now responds to tweets that its customers post online. But they would have caused themselves less grief and negative publicity if they had a strategy in place to empower their employees to reach out to their customers online. According to Bernoff and Schadler, "To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems.