Seminar Reading | Adam Greenfield's Radical Technologies

Chapter 1 - Smartphone

The networking of the self

Nowadays, technologies keep enhancing our lives in various ways. Some old artefacts were disappeared. They invade the interconnected ecosystem of commerce, practices and experience in our life. We've overwritten those ecosystems with our smartphone. (Greenfield, 2017). In Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, Greenfield brings audiences an insightful question: "Whether this new everyday life is "better" or "worse"?". Even if technologies offer great potential to improve living qualities, we still need to take careful note of some potential risks and harms.

To create digital wellbeing, he starts telling his analysis of smartphone. Smartphone is definitely a signature artifact that makes our life become faster, smoother and easier than before. However, we also rely on smartphone too much. If you think you are controlling technologies, you are too confident to say that. Actually, technologies are controlling human and more than you expect.

My smartphone

In the past, we can finish some basic tasks without technologies. For example, you can use a physical map to navigate yourself even if you don't have internet and smartphone. However, people will only use digital map like "Google Map" on the smartphone to search and navigate nowadays. Therefore, we may lose the basic abilities for living and we are easily controlled by network and stabilities.

"Google Maps" App on my smartphone

On the other hand, smartphone pushes you to be the most updated ones. For example, if you want to get the latest camera functions of "Instagram", you need to update your application. In which means you're controlled by your device or application's operating system. It affects our behaviours and set limitations and requirements for accessing some so-called new information. Now, you're more difficult to settle down for specific stuff.

"Instagram" App on my smartphone

Most importantly, tracking is the most valuable design on a smartphone. Handset and operating system vendors, app developers, cellular service providers keep collecting your data from your usage of your smartphone. (Greenfield, 2017).

They track on your previous behaviours (Greenfield, 2017):

- Where you've been in the past

- The websites you've visited

- What you've searched for

- The specific apps you have installed

- Even who you've spoken with

Then, in order to give you so-called "The thing you want", they will be based on your data to analyse your digital behaviour. No doubt, they are using algorithms to control your decision making.

To conclude, I love Greenfield used Winston Churchill' quote:

"We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us."

in which means we create network and smartphone and now they are changing us. This chapter provides me with insightful information on how smartphone is changing our behaviour. Also, it helped me to think critically when I am being a designer. We need to be careful of technologies and find better ways to design for our future.


Greenfield, A. (2017). Radical technologies: the design of everyday life. Verso, pp.9-29.

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