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Communicating with Technology

Communication is essential to most human activities, including business, and, as a result, the available means of communication can either facilitate or undermine the performance of a given company. Thanks to the advances in information and communication technology (ICT), today’s companies have a wider range of communication tools available to them than ever before, which creates a potential for efficient communication over great distances. The advantages of communicating with technology are numerous and impressive, ranging from its sheer speed to the possibility of working remotely and not wasting one’s time and money on commuting. However, one should also be aware of the potential pitfalls of technological communication and the challenges in its implementation that can undermine the process. Communicating with technology is a persistent historical trend, but it is necessary to address its specific drawbacks, such as privacy threats or the obstacles to focusing one’s attention, or psychological issues involved.

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There are many benefits to communicating with technology and, overall, this approach allows improving the performance of a given organization in many aspects. To begin with, contemporary technologies allow sharing information almost instantaneously over vast distances. As noted by Semuels (2020) – and likely known to everyone who is not a stranger to existing technologies – one can exchange not merely texts and audio messages but complex 3D models and other digital objects. This obvious advantage leads to another one: communication enhanced with contemporary technologies allows a considerable proportion of people to work remotely. As a result, workers can avoid daily commutes to and from their respective workplaces (Semuels, 2020). Since these can be costly and take the lion’s share of one’s time, this is a notable benefit as well – one that would not be possible without the technological know-how. Finally, communicating with technology can prove particularly useful in crises when direct physical contact is impossible or ill-advised – as in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (Semuels, 2020). With this in mind, it is hard to argue that communicating with technology offers considerable advantages in terms of speed, efficiency, and safety of communication.

Even though the recent surge of using technology for communication is largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is also important to note that it is a consistent historical trend. Communicating with the help of digital technology owes much to the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of personal computers, but there are also outside factors that make it a more and more compelling prospect. For example, after the events of 9/11, people could be reluctant to leave their homes due to their fear of terrorist attacks. Washington Post predicted – back in 2001, no less! – that telecommunication will ascend to another level due to this unprecedented demand (Semuels, 2020). A similar, if the less dramatic increase in the interest toward technology-enhanced communication happened seven years later in 2008. Due to the sharp growth in gas prices, people decided to avoid commuting, and this dedication to working remotely also led to a corresponding increase in communication technology (Semuels, 2020). As one can see, communicating through digital technology is a long-term trend that has been around for decades and is likely to continue influencing everyday life in the foreseeable future.

If a given organization, including business firms, aims to enhance its performance by relying more heavily on communicating with technology, it has a wide range of options currently available on the market. Simpler solutions range from e-mails and messengers to video conference software, such as Zoom. As noted by Semuels (2020), Zoom proved to be one of the biggest winners in the coronavirus pandemic, with its shares nearly doubling their price – a clear reflection of the application’s popularity. Other options are available for those firms that need more intricate solutions. For instance, software company Spatial allows communicating with the use of holographic images created in virtual reality. This approach allows creating an interactive virtual environment that mirrors reality more closely than simple video calls (Semuels, 2020). Moreover, it allows exchanging 3D models as if they were physical objects, which allows analyzing them from different angles and providing feedback in real-time (Semuels, 2020). To summarize, it is possible to find a technological solution for virtually every communication scenario that may arise in an organizational setting, and the current state of ICT allows addressing the companies’ needs effectively.

That being said, one should also be aware of the challenges inherent in the use of digital communication technology, especially when it becomes the primary or only means of communication. One serious issue in this respect is purely psychological: human brains are wired to perceive communication as an interpersonal activity that involves direct physical contact. According to Semuels (2020), people can synchronize their actions better if they make eye contact, which can be useful in a workplace context. However, the current state of video conference software that obliges people to look at the tiny dots on cameras to imitate looking in the eye does not replicate the feeling of personal contact. More advanced technologies, such as Spatial’s holograms, make it easier to emulate presence in s single, if virtual space, yet even they fail to imitate tactile experiences (Semuels, 2020). As a result, the brain feels tricked when handling a 3D model as a physical object but having no usual tactile response. To put it simply, the human brain perceives direct person-to-person communication as the most superior way of interacting with other people, and technological limitations in replicating it affect attention and immersion negatively.

Another issue inherent in communicating with technology is data safety. When communicating in a workplace context by using digital technologies, employees share all sorts of sensitive information. It can range from personal, such as names and addresses, through the data related to the firm’s ongoing projects to the trade secrets. Each piece of such information can potentially be used for a malign purpose if it ends up in the wrong hands. According to Higham (2020), data breaches are a common threat in technology-enhanced communication and occur considerably more often than one would like. Apart from damaging a firm’s performance if someone obtains sensitive information about its activities and uses it with criminal intent, data breaches also threaten the employees’ right to privacy (Higham, 2020). Moreover, there is no guaranteed remedy for the issue because digital technologies evolve at considerable speed, and safety measures can quickly become obsolete. Thus, while communicating with technology provides new opportunities, it also creates considerable new problems about data safety.

Finally, yet another issue with relying on technology too much in facilitating communication is psychological. As mentioned above, the human brain perceives communication as an inherently personal interaction, and socialization occupies a prominent place in the hierarchy of human needs. As Semuels (2020) points out, the need for socialization is purely biological: loneliness decreases life expectancy has damaging long-term effects on one’s physical and mental health. If a given company decides to rely exclusively on communicating with technology and minimize or altogether eliminate interactions in person – as might be the case during coronavirus lockdowns – it can encounter corresponding psychological problems. These do not amount to discomfort alone and can affect the functions that are directly relevant to one’s performance in the workplace. For instance, studies have shown that prolonged social isolation negatively affects the hippocampus – a brain region largely responsible for learning and memory (Semuels, 2020). Consequently, leaning too heavily toward technology-enhanced communication too much may prove harmful rather than advantageous for an individual and the organization alike. With this in mind, companies should be wary of relying exclusively on communicating with technology.

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As one can see, technology-enhanced communication offers a broad range of opportunities in numerous settings, including business, but one should be aware of its potential pitfalls to utilizing it effectively. The benefits of communicating with technology include the near-instantaneous exchange of information of all kinds and saving time and money if one is working remotely. It is also worth noting that communicating with technology is a steady historical trend that already offers numerous solutions and will likely persist in the future. However, technology-enhanced communication is still struggling to replicate the feeling of personal interaction, which human brains perceive as the most efficient type of intercourse. Moreover, digital technology is prone to data breaches, creating serious privacy concerns. Finally, if a given company relies on technology-enhanced communication too much, it leads to the risks of psychological problems. Considering this, communicating with technology is a necessary complement of a contemporary business operation – bit one that has to be organized and introduced properly.

Reference List

Higham, Patricia (2020) ‘Communicating with technology, computers and artificial intelligence: Are human rights and privacy being neglected?’ Journal of Data Protection & Privacy, 3(4), pp. 363-375.

Semuels, A. (2020) ‘Does remote work actually work?’ Time, 196(9) pp. 42-47.

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