How technology is changing the way we think: Exploring the implications for society and for the research industry

Sheila Keegan
Campbell Keegan, UK

INTRODUCTION

When the British physicist and computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, launched the World Wide Web in March 1989, technology took a seismic leap. In twenty years, the world changed in ways we could not then have anticipated, as technologies transformed how we live, communicate and work. The internet is fast becoming the universal medium; the conduit for most of the information that we absorb. Statistics on the use of digital media are out of date even before we read them, such is the speed of their adoption, but there are a significant number of surveys which point to the same conclusion; we spend huge – and growing – amounts of time online.

Don Tapscott, author of Growing up Digital (2008), claims that a US student nowadays will have been exposed to 30,000 hours of digital information by the time he/she is aged 20 years. Similarly, a Kaiser report (2005) that surveyed 8-18 year old American young people on media consumption found that the total leisure time spend on ‘media’ was the equivalent of a full time job. Six years on, it is probably greater. Richard Watson, in his book Future Minds, quotes a report which claims that 52% of Korean infants aged 3-5 years regularly use the internet, spending an average of four hours per week online, and also quotes an Ofcom report in the United Kingdom which claims that by the age of 12, British children are spending eight hours a week online (Watson, 2011:28).