Friday, October 12, 2007

Technologies with personality

Hey there 203. The discussion on Monday about how people are increasingly anthropomorhising technologies got me thinking. Although I had experienced it myself I had never thought very deeply about how a person could ascribe human emotions to an inanimate piece of technology. When I thought about it more the example of the man getting angry at the computer (prime example here by the way haha) seemed completely absurd. I began to wonder what kind of creature qualities, if any, do these technologies have to justify this emotion?

This question instantly reminded me of a report I had seen on TV recently (20/20?) about Tamagotchis or digital pets. I had long ago forgotten about these strange little egg shaped toys from my primary school years. But apparently the little bastards are making a comeback. The report discussed a variety of issues surrounding the seemingly harmless digital pets.

By their very design tamagotchis are made to be anthromorphisised. They are fed, housed, walked and basically share all the attributes of a real life pet (with the exception of physical form of course). This is where the problem lies. Children would take them to school in order to make sure their virtual pets were being cared for. Some versions of Tamagotchi would reputedly die if they were neglected for more than 30mins, therefore they required constant attention. many schools have attempted to ban the product entirely. However the more disturbing issue is when the tamagotchi 'dies'. Because many children treat them as real they are naturally devasted when it passes away. One mother claimed that her son even became clinically depressed after the death of his Tamagotchi. When asked why he did not just buy a new one the boy replied "because it just wouldn't be the same." This is evidence that people really do feel that their technologies can possess personalities.

I believe that the resurgence in popularity of the virtual pet is closely linked to the overall trend of people becoming more accustomed to the idea of technologies with personalities.


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