Saturday, January 26, 2019

MA Research: Digital Dementia

Proposed Project Title: Digital Dementia
“Digital Dementia” is a term coined by German neuroscientist, Manfred Spitzer in 2012. It is a term to describe a mental condition prevailing among young people in countries with excessive usage of digital technology, how over-use of digital technology, reliance on technology and digital distraction can result in the deterioration of cognitive abilities, such as short term memory, lack of ability to concentrate, focus and to remember information.
Fig. 1: Digital distraction > fragmented information (LA Johnson) 

Research Context: 
How is this relevant to the study of design?
Memory has been closely related to Design. By understanding how people perceive things visually, how sensory inputs are processed by human cognitive system will allow designers to communicate better, enabling audience to better remember and understand messages. For UI/UX designers, they understand the ways human memory works and consider the factors of its influence (memorization, memory recall and forgetfulness) on design solutions for websites and mobile apps - easy-to-use interfaces, easily recognizable icons, shortcuts, emotional interactions, etc. Designers also learn how to utilise personal assets to stimulate memory in ways that resonate with audience – emotions and memory react before the mind processes. Architecture design can also engage human memory; it can tap into past meaningful experiences through senses and emotions. Architecture can relieve moments of adventure, awe, and bonding with others. Buildings do not merely provide physical shelter and protection; they are also a mental mediation between the world and our consciousness; architectural structures essentially structure and articulate existential space. (Moraru)

What is the underlying design problem/issue?
Constant digital distraction – social media, mobile apps, etc
Consistent use and dependence on mobiles > memory crutch > decreased memory performance > bad memory retention. Recent study has shown that people who took photos at events had poorer recall of  the encounters than those who were immersed in the experience. (Loveday)
Digital technology will continue to advance, young adults will continue to multi-task, be constantly distracted by digital pollution and struggle to concentrate and focus.
Technology allows us to have access to the world at our fingertips > desire for satisfaction without delay > instant gratification > spoilt society - impatient and demanding people  > short attention span > inability to maintain deep, meaningful relationships > affect resilience in careers > lack of job satisfaction which requires time and dedication to develop.
Instant gratification > TV, alcoholic drinks, addition to internet, online shopping, pleasurable food – the idea of 'we can have anything we want at anytime or whenever we want it'. > results in debt, clutter, health issues, distractions, etc.

Fig. 2: Easy accessibility for instant gratification (Rawpixel) 

How can it be expanded to a broader context (society, culture, other disciplines of study, etc)?
Digital Dementia has relations to mental health, dehumanization, false social media personas, idealised representations of people’s lives, lack of face-to-face communication, social isolation, shallow relationships, lack of human touch, disruption of normal family interactions, impulse society, materialism, consumerism, pleasure seeking behaviours, addiction, seeking shortcuts in life, bad sleep quality, pop culture obsession has never been greater, etc.
Fig. 3: Phones never leaving our hands - constantly checking and multi-tasking. (Tycho Atsma)

Research Question(s):
(What are the possible perspectives/queries to study this topic?)
  • How to delay gratification?
  • How to improve focus and concentration in this digital era? (Education/work)
  • How to better facilitate learning process? (Education)
  • How to improve mental muscle now that we often rely on digital devices for cognitive offloading?
  • How to unplug from the 24/7 connectivity lifestyle strategically?
  • How to aid information / memory retention - mnemonics?
Case studies:
The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment – Resist current temptation for better rewards in the long run.
Baker-Baker Paradox – Elaborative encoding, taking information lacking in context and meaning while figuring out a way to transform it so ‘information’ makes sense in the light of all the other things drawn from our memories.
Sans Forgetica – A font designed using principles of cognitive psychology to better remember study notes, created by multi-disciplinary team of designers and behavioural scientist from RMIT University.

Delayed Gratification – World’s first slow journalism takes their time to analyse and distil news into well-thought-out essays in months and not instantly. Today’s society demands ultra fast news being first above being right. It can tell us what is happening in real time, but barely what it really means - very surface level.
Moment - A balance screen time digital application that allows users to check screen time, understand device usage habits, encourage disconnection and reduce screen time.
Ikea Taiwan Phone-less Table - A special hot pot table that’s powered by smartphones—it requires everyone at the table to surrender their devices and place them below the pot. If someone removes his phone, the heat drops and the food will not get cooked properly. (Grossman)


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Didymus, John Thomas. “South Korean Doctors Warn Smartphones Cause 'Digital Dementia'.” Press Release - Digital Journal, 24 June 2013, 24 Jan. 2019

Gregoire, Carolyn. “How Technology Is Warping Your Memory.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 11 Dec. 2013,

Grossman, Samantha. “IKEA Taiwan Creates Smartphone Powered Hot Pot.” Time, Time, 1 Feb. 2016, 27 Jan. 2019

Jackson, Maggie. Distracted: the Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Prometheus Books, 2009.

Kaspersky Lab. "Americans Face Digital Amnesia as Connected Devices Are Increasingly Trusted to Recall Memories" Regional Business News. Business Wire (English). 07/01/2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2019

Loveday, Catherine. “The Impact of Technology on Our Memory.” The Business Times, The Business Times, 26 Jan. 2019

“Married to Google.” The Wilson Quarterly (1976-), vol. 35, no. 4, 2011, pp. 73–73. JSTOR,

O'Gorman, M. "Taking Care of Digital Dementia." 2015. CTheory. Web. 24 Jan. 2019

Richtel, Matt. "Attached to Technology and Paying a Price. The New York Times. 6 June 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2019.

RMIT University. “Sans Forgetica: New Typeface Designed to Help Students Study.” RMIT University,  24 Jan. 2019

Sparrow, Betsy, et al. “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips.” Science, vol. 333, no. 6043, 2011, pp. 776–778. JSTOR,

Team, DFH. “Digital Dementia.” Designs for Health, 10 Oct. 2018,  24 Jan. 2019

Wilmer, Henry H et al. “Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning” Frontiers in psychology vol. 8 605. 25 Apr. 2017, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00605.  24 Jan. 2019

Winder, M. "Digital dependence "eroding human memory". " Academic Search Premier. Education Journal. 10/12/2015, p11-11. 1/2p. . 24 Jan. 2019


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