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Addictive By Design: How Our Phones Hijacked Our Lives and What We Can Do About It [Portland Community Design Thinkers]

Vacasa Office
850 NW 13th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97209, US (map)

Enter from 13th Street (under the Vacasa sign) and proceed to the lift. Go to the Fifth Floor, and exit into the Great Hall.



One thing that became abundantly clear in 2018 is that our relationships with our phones, and digital technologies in general, began to seem less like a partnership and more like an indentured servitude.

The zeitgeist last year was saturated with terms like “digital attention crisis,” “distraction addiction,” “mindful tech,” ethical technology,” and “time well spent.” When, in August, Facebook and Instagram introduced a new dashboard to tell us how long we’ve spent inside their apps, they were responding to a groundswell of concern that these apps are hijacking our attention in ways that are not aligned with users’ best interests but, rather, mainly with the interests of advertisers. “Engagement,” the chief currency of Silicon Valley since the first personalized ad appeared, has become inextricably linked with the hidden design practices that prioritize user time on platform above all other considerations. As a result, we’ve all begun to feel the pinch of “the cost of free.”

In 2018 some of us started pushing back. People like former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris and groups like the Center for Humane Technology sought to make our digital tools more human-centered, more accountable and maybe a little less less powerful -- and their views flipped from fringe to the mainstream in what has been called a “techlash.”

On January 29, we’ll gather for a hands-on look at how design is at the heart of this issue: the bottomless newsfeeds, the limited menu choices, the proliferating Autoplay function, notifications set to “ON” by default, and all the intermittent variable rewards that turn our phones into slot machines with dopamine payouts.

We’ll examine our own relationships to our devices and the apps we can’t stop looking at. And we’ll explore what a truly human-centered digital ecosystem could look like.

PCDT organizer Patrick Sharbaugh will be joined by Dr. Dan Rubin, a Portland clinical psychologist who specializes in mindfulness-based psychotherapy and is an adjunct professor of psychology of Maitripa College, where he teaches courses on the intersection of psychology and Buddhism. Dan and Patrick are both active members of the Community for Humane Technology, the outreach arm of the Center for Humane Technology whose aim is to align technology to humanity's best interests.

Bring your mobile device. You’ll need it!