The Science Behind Technological Moral Panics

By Jason Fitzpatrick on November 2nd, 2012

Why do some new technologies cause ripples and reactionary backlash in society but others slip into our daily lives almost entirely uncontested? It turns out there’s a rather specific combination of things the new technology must do to upset the public.

At Wired they highlight the work of Genevieve Bell and her studies of how society reacts to new technology:

Genevieve Bell believes she’s cracked this puzzle. Bell, director of interaction and experience research at Intel, has long studied how everyday people incorporate new tech into their lives. In a 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal‘s Tech Europe blog, she outlined an interesting argument: To provoke moral panic, a technology must satisfy three rules.

First, it has to change our relationship to time. Then it has to change our relationship to space. And, crucially, it has to change our relationship to one another. Individually, each of these transformations can be unsettling, but if you hit all three? Panic!

Why We Freak Out About Some Technologies but Not Others [Wired]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/2/12
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