[Air-l] Internet = toaster = habitual use

Robert Luke robert.luke at utoronto.ca
Mon Jun 2 19:54:03 PDT 2003

This is a really interesting thread.  Ulla I like your explication of the
habituation and ICTs.  I agree that we unconsciously incorporate technology into
our daily routines as a matter of habit.  I would add that, generally speaking, we
are encouraged to do to - to not look too critically at the technologies that
surround us.  I have encountered this in Greg Wise's book about Technology and
Social Space, as well as an article he wrote published in Cultural Studies (see
below for citations).  In my own research I connect this idea of habituation with
Bourdieu's notion of habitus (and Dewey's ideas on habit and education, for good
measure).  I term this the habit at online, and try to use it to describe the general
enculturation and habituation processes you talk about:

"The habit at online is the digital habitus: the ways in which people are encouraged
to use technology, based on informal learning structures and the formation of
associated with technology use. In the habit at online, communication habits are
socially constructed, mediated, and transmitted through learned behaviour and
emulation." [reference]

Also, Denise's point about "a kind of invisibility (habituation) - which could tie
back into the story of the telephone? as it became a habitual technology" is also
interesting.  I think we are very nearly at the point of the computer becoming
transparent (until such time as they crash, anyway).

I would be interested to hear thoughts on how we can cultuivate the kind of
critical awareness we are speaking around here, in terms of circumventing
habituation (though this is at least partially necessary). At what point do we
encourage/discourage habituation?  I see part of habituation as being necessary
when we are dealing with the amelioration of digital divides and the necessaity to
engage people with ICT who might not otherwise be inclined or able to do so.  But,
as Wise (and Dewey) point out, the danger is when habits slip from active,
critical view. This slippage can be easy when we are encouraged to enter the
habitué of the wired world and take up the technologies that promise us
convenience. If convenience is our dieu du jour, then it is a sometimes faustian
bargain we settle on, I think.

Up until now I have looked at the habit at online with a critical eye towards
discourses of desire and affect that congrue with current technologies (web
portals, mobile phones).  But now I am contrasting this with the community
construction of online portals, and the necessity to encourage, as I said, those
in using ICT as we try and work towards a broader conception of digital literacy.
Specifically I am looking at the enculturation processes invovled in constructing
a community learning network, and how a community organization is seeking to
encourage its constiuents to use ICT, and what tools they are making available for
them (a portal - hence my contrast with the commercial portal).


If anyone is interested, I have a couple of articles here:
habit at online: web portals as purchasing ideology (a version of which was delivered
at AoIR 2.0)
The Phoneur: Mobile Commerce and the Digital Pedagogies of the Wireless Web
You can also view the "Coles Notes" version here: "Dial In, Sell Out"
Signal Event Context: Trace Technologies of the habit at online
(they're all bits of my thesis - I would welcome any criticisms)

Wise, J. M. 1997. Exploring technology and social space. London and New Delhi:
Wise, J. M. 2000. Home: Territory and identity. Cultural Studies 142: 295-310.

Ulla Bunz wrote:

> <quote who="jeremy hunsinger">
> >  and i think many people have begun to think of
> > the personal computer as an  appliance like the toaster....
> >
> As an aside to Jeremy's original inquiry, the above statement reminds me of
> something I just heard at the International Communication Association and
> thought quite interesting. Robert Larose was making the argument that much of
> our Internet/technology use is habitual, rather than guided by active choice
> following uses and gratifications theory (a mass communication theory many of
> you are probably familiar with). Larose was saying that, i.e., we don't
> actually choose consciously to check our email in the morning, it's just
> something that we do automatically because it's part of our routine - like
> popping two slices of toast into the toaster in the morning (unless you're the
> corn flakes kind of person, of course, but I'm sure you see the analogy one
> way or the other).
> I think this is an interesting perspective and certainly seems true for some
> of my personal Internet and technology usage. It also goes back to the point
> Charles Ess brought up on this list just a short time ago when he shared with
> us that his students don't really exprience the "wow" effect about the
> Internet and related technology anymore. Some of the people responding to that
> thread had said that it's probably because younger generations have grown up
> with the Internet and thus take it for granted. They know no different than
> the Internet being part of their everday life. Introducing the word "habit"
> and "habitual use" to describe some of these phenomena may be stating the
> obvious, but I certainly had never heard it stated quite that openly before
> and thought I'd share this with you, since Jeremy's statement reminded me of
> it.
> Comments? Anyone else encountered this before? Are there theories in other
> disciplines that address this?
> Ulla
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