Nomad 3 2021: The Wrap Report

Last night we wrapped up our 3rd Night Nomads series with a deep dive into digital addictions, and how we can move beyond them into the promise of technology.

Wow! What a journey the nomads have been. Over the past three weeks we have brought together close to 180 incredible digital legends to ponder our utopian digital futures.

We kicked off with a heated debate about hate speech, defining what it constitutes in the law, its impact on individuals, and the role of innovation & design in curbing it.

Then moving onto the end of online ads… where we toyed with the conundrums of privacy, data, trust, advertising and the business model of the internet.

Rounding the trio out was last night’s discussion which took a deep dive into digital addictions headed up by yet another all-star panel comprising of:

  • Fareed Kaviani, Doctoral Researcher, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University
  • Kathryn Modecki, Senior Lecturer Psychology, Griffith University & Faculty Associate, Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society
  • Sam Daley, Head of Design, Liquid Interactive
  • Sheryl Batchelor, Founder & Director, Yiliyapinya Indigenous Corporation
  • Marek Kowalkiewicz, Founding Director, The Centre for Digital Economy, QUT (Moderator)

Out of all the 2021 Night Nomads, this was definitely the broadest discussion with the conversation swinging far and wide.

On Nomophobia (and a little health too)

  • Fareed hit hard right from the get go with some terrifying stats…
  • 99.2% of people suffer from some form of Nomophobia – or NO MObile PHone PhoBIA- a psychological condition when people have a fear of being detached from mobile phone connectivity.
  • Marek did the maths. This means only 8 people in 1000 don’t freak out when they leave their phone home.
  • As we listened to these stats, I watched the Something Digital team sheepishly put their phones down – well except for Kiara – she hugged hers close to her chest. I think we just validated Fareed’s stats.
  • We are a society addicted to technology, and according to Sheryl our belief that we can multitask just is not true – multitasking leads to brain fog.
  • We need to focus on individual tasks at least 2 times a day for 45 minutes uninterrupted to feel like we have accomplished something
  • Fareed backed this up with more fun stats … It takes approximately 30 seconds to be fully engaged in driving after changing tasks … so if you are on your phone at the lights and thing you can quickly change to driving when that light goes green … it’s actually a huge problem.

On the Digital Divide

  • Sheryl challenged us to look at things in a different way…
  • It’s very easy to consider needing to overcome our addictions, but what about people in regional areas?
  • Just two hours inland from Rockhampton and there is no Optus range
  • No range – no phones – no point
  • Which flips much of tonight’s discussion on its head…
  • How are tech products and services being designed for these communities?
  • Think about eHealth and Digital health services – they are useless in a space where people simply don’t have access to digital devices or internet connectivity.

On Designing for Good

  • The principal is simple:
    • Evil ideas get designed into products
    • Good ideas get designed into products
    • There is generally good intent behind what we do
  • We it comes to the design perspective on digital – Sam and the Liquid team are very thankful that they don’t have clients with evil ideas.
  • The curveball comes when you end up being a little bit evil when you really don’t intend to be.
  • Eg. connecting people to government services. When you design the tech, you are looking at how to satisfy a huge portion of the population and the further afield you get the more unique the restriction access limitations become, eg. regional challenges, Indigenous considerations, health problems such as eyesight, etc.
  • Someone in the audience questioned how you identify design blind spots before you get out into the market.
  • Sam argued that on Day One you don’t – you’re blind. The trick is to find the experts to help you fill in the blanks and address the blind spots.

On Adolescents and Technology and Addiction

  • Enter Kathryn – who is actually an expert in studying the behaviour of adolescents … which, in all practicality, these days means you are also studying technology
  • Kathryn took things in a direction that we did not necessarily expect, arguing that using smart phones actually helps kids 😱😱😱
  • In a soon to be released “Goldilocks Study”, Kathryn argues that moderation is absolutely key in helping adolescents and kids navigate the tech driven world that we live in
  • Technology for our young generations is part of their lives from day one … and they view the world differently to us “older” people … with less division between online and offline life.
  • Kids use online time to socialise, reach out to peers, de-stress … and just because they are doing it online does not make it inferior to the real life versions of those things.
  • And yes, of course … 16 hours of gaming is not a good thing … but we need to realise that online and offline risks often mirror each other. So, it is not necessarily the tech that needs to be addressed, but rather the behaviour behind the tech.

So where does the promise of technology actually lie …

Once again, we found ourselves at the end of our Nomad event with an answer very similar to Nomad 1 and Nomad 2 … People.

Technology may be the enabler – but as people we can choose how we interact with the technology. And there are absolutely times when things feel out of control and all tech is evil … but perhaps we need to take time to appreciate how tech is in fact helping us for the better:

  • Sam mentioned how Pokemon Go people got people out and walking as they looked for characters to capture
  • Sheryl gave us an example of a meditation app which was in local Indigenous language and was being helpful on many levels
  • Kathryn believes being online can provide huge stress relief for adolescents (and adults)
  • Whilst Fareed believes we just need to be more conscious with where we are giving out attention … and he challenged us to try for just one week to reduce our phone use by 50% 😱

And with that we officially wrap the 2021 Night Nomads. It’s been a huge series … not only for the topics we covered … but also to run three sold out events three weeks in a row (and not have any Covid silliness mess with us) … it’s been a pleasure.

A huge thanks to our 15 local legends, and our 2 international thought provocateurs, who have taken to the stage over the last 3 weeks. To our current 2021 partners CSIRO and Vmation. To the venue for hosting us and of course to our digital ecosystem for coming out and joining us and being such an active part of these HUGE discussions.

Over and out.


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