Left to Our Own Devices
Outsmarting Smart Technology to Reclaim Our Relationships, Health, and Focus
Unexpected ways that individuals adapt technology to reclaim what matters to them, from working through conflict with smart lights to celebrating gender transition with selfies.
We have been warned about the psychological perils of technology: distraction, difficulty empathizing, and loss of the ability (or desire) to carry on a conversation. But our devices and data are woven into our lives. We can't simply reject them. Instead, Margaret Morris argues, we need to adapt technology creatively to our needs and values. In Left to Our Own Devices, Morris offers examples of individuals applying technologies in unexpected ways—uses that go beyond those intended by developers and designers. Morris examines these kinds of personalized life hacks, chronicling the ways that people have adapted technology to strengthen social connection, enhance well-being, and affirm identity.
Morris, a clinical psychologist and app creator, shows how people really use technology, drawing on interviews she has conducted as well as computer science and psychology research. She describes how a couple used smart lights to work through conflict; how a woman persuaded herself to eat healthier foods when her photographs of salads garnered “likes” on social media; how a trans woman celebrated her transition with selfies; and how, through augmented reality, a woman changed the way she saw her cancer and herself. These and the many other “off-label” adaptations described by Morris cast technology not just as a temptation that we struggle to resist but as a potential ally as we try to take care of ourselves and others. The stories Morris tells invite us to be more intentional and creative when left to our own devices.
As with any powerful and transformational change, technology has been both glorified and vilified. Margaret Morris has written the most balanced and illuminating book I have read on the subject. Put into practice the off-label uses of technology that she describes so lucidly, and you will likely be happier, healthier, and more successful.”
Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside and author of The How of Happiness
Everyone's eager to chide you for how you use devices like smartphones. Instead of wagging a finger, Margaret Morris offers a way to form alliances with technology to make your devices a part of you and your life, rather than an external force acting upon them
Ian Bogost, Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and Professor of Interactive Computing, Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology
Morris is a skillful storyteller. This book is a good read for today's digital health initiatives and for clinicians hoping to keep up to date in current trends in mental health technology.