Sunday, March 28, 2021

Critical Hype and the Red Queen Effect

Thanks to @jjn1 I've just read a great piece by @STS_News (Lee Vinsel), called You’re Doing It Wrong: Notes on Criticism and Technology Hype, which develops some points I've made on this blog and elsewhere.

  • A general willingness to take technology hype at face value, which infects technology critics as well as technology champions.
  • The lack of evidence for specific technological effects. In particular, Vinsel calls out two works I've discussed on this blog and elsewhere: Social Dilemma (Tristan Harris) and Surveillance Capitalism (Soshanna Zuboff). However, my posts concentrated on other issues with these works, and didn't discuss the evidence issue.
  • The lack of evidence for macroeconomic technological effects, including the popular belief that technological change is accelerating. (I call this the Red Queen Effect.)
  • Critical focus on the most glamorous and recent technologies, neglecting those that might be of more lasting significance to greater numbers of people. For my part, I am particularly wary of any innovation described as a paradigm shift, or as the Holy Grail of anything. I have also noted that academic studies of technology adoption are often focused on the most recent technologies, which means that the early adoption phase is much better understood than the late adoption phase.

 I plan to return to some of these topics in future posts.


John Naughton, Is online advertising about to crash, just like the property market did in 2008? (The Guardian, 27 March 2021)

Lee Vinsel, You’re Doing It Wrong: Notes on Criticism and Technology Hype (Medium, 1 February 2021)

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