“Human — tool interaction” Principle — technologies undertake certain human functions, change their habits and behaviour.

Extension of man

Canadian father of media philosophy Marshall McLuhan considered technology as an extension of man. Any tool enhances the abilities of the human body. Hunting bow lengthen the hunter’s hand, car expands the opportunity to travel. Speech extends the senses potential, that is to say through stories you can keep the memories and through narrative — trigger and convey emotions.


According to the principle of “human — tool interaction” man gives shape to the instrument, and tool in response changes the man. People invented the cell phone and it modified our speech, pace of living and our mobility. The Internet expands the human nervous system, and it goes outside the human body. As written by Marshall McLuhan, “Now man is beginning to wear his brain outside his skull and his nerves outside his skin.”

The technologies not only extend man. Man delegates the technology specific functions and in time these abilities or skills die. Automatic literacy check takes out the need for orthography; the Internet transforms the principles of thinking, portable gadgets changes the memory, etc. These changes may have both pros and cons, but one thing is clear — new technologies breed a new man.

Technologies influence is not limited to the personal practices of a person. Technologies reform our society, politics, economics (supersystems), and intrude into areas such as conscience or feelings. Create an algorithm that will automatically make decisions for a human or will take on the role of commentator on the Internet, and the human’s conscience may eventually atrophy.

Personal practices

In our interactions with technology we have very much unconscious, “implicit”. In relationships with technologies, as in the language, there are explicit and implicit levels. When a person saves the document in Dropbox to return to it in the future, it is a conscious action and it obviously exhibits their culture. When a girl unconsciously pushes out her lips, when pointing at herlefself the smartphone objective — this fact refers to the unconscious, “implicit culture”. Most people are not even aware of the absurdity of many of their actions, which appeared thanking to the invasion of technology into their lives. These meaningless automatic reactions often take the form of dependence. Just a couple of years of evolution, and here we are unconsciously getting the smartphone, just to feel bored, or take selfie in the toilets.


Technologies sneak in quietly to our habits, slowly taking off our guard. As noticed by Alan Cooper in his book “The inmates are running the asylum”, “Computer literacy is that it is like anesthesia: the patient drifts slowly and gently into unconsciousness.” “Frog caught in a pot of cold water on the stove, is not aware of how deadly is the temperature rising. On the contrary, heat dulls the senses of frog.”

Technologies change our lives unnoticed by us. Like the frog we are experiencing slow anesthetic intrusion of technology into our everyday life.

Three stages of technology grasp — Shock, Fascination and Estrangement. These are three stages which an individual or society goes through in the face of a new technology (based on publications of Anton Gumenskiy).

Stage number 1. The Shock

Every new technology right after its launch usually gets cool welcome of the masses. Unknown technology startles, scares, confuses. It offers new forms of interaction, and if it also aspires to take the lead in person’s life, then it adjusts their habits considerably. People still don’t understand the technology essence, how to make the most of it and what hazards it conceals. Man is afraid of losing control over the situation and his habitual world perception. Person experience hostility and undergoes techno stress.

The first to begin to go and use the technology are the most educated innovators and the early followers. As a rule, they are opinion leaders, ambassadors for technologies, covered all over with new gadgets, and dashing off reviews for fashion magazines.

Stage number 2. The Fascination

Person starts to get the feeling of overall comprehension of the technology as they grasp it. There comes the period of heavy use. Imagine a child given a bike or a camera, and he or she would plunge into a new hobby. The crowd in front of the shop on the eve of market launch of the new phone model, millions users of the new social network, — are all a manifestation of this stage.

The user is hooked on and mesmerized by the technology, not able to think sensibly. This sometimes causes failures: selfie in the toilet, check for updates of news feed for every five minutes and ridiculous statements in Twitter from famous people who would never have taken the liberty to say such a thing in public.

At this stage the use of technology often has a ritual nature. The person still can’t make head nor tail of the technology working principles. Extreme examples of this are the cargo cults. Man treats the technology as a magic, being enchanted by the new opportunities.

So, the attitude of modern user to gadgets at this stage is not much different from the attitude of some aboriginal to his tool. Aboriginals were dependent on their spears, they felt attraction towards them, embellished them (just as modern users beautify their gadgets with colored cases), the wife of the hunter could be jealous to hunting weapons. To cut a long story short, there is every emotion and behavioral characteristic that can be seen in modern users of tablets or smartphones.

This stage is a heyday of all kinds of media and technology addictions. Technologies keep a tight rein on the behaviour of users.

Stage number 3. The Estrangement

If a person is aware of their user experience, they can consciously separate themselves from the technology. At best, person draws the line and halts the automatic reaction. This scenario may spring to life only on condition person opts for a conscious approach and views his actions in a sensible light.

The other way is almost impossible when technology is omnipresent — is a technology renunciation. Haven’t weathered the storm, person cuts off the technology, and “leaves for analog forests”. The desire to turn off the Internet, to be removed from social networking are the feelings related to the third stage. Complete unplugging is more of a loss than a step towards freedom and new experiences. Periodic digital detoxes are not the plasters for all sores, but may tune up the experience in some way, and clear the way to realization of your anxiety about technology use.

Both technologies users and technologies creators are expected to develop a completely different from the consumer’s or user’s attitude, but an ascetic one to the technical object. As stated by the philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon, “We should not be consumed with passion for technical objects; the attitude towards them should not be equal to a ridiculous affair. On the other hand, you should not be indifferent to them, treat them like slaves. We need to develop a friendly, correct form of co-existence with them in the same room.”

Magic perception of technology — perception of technologies as magic objects, since people possess both poor technoculture and comprehension of working principles of technology.

Erik Davis in his book “TechGnosis: Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information” notes, that technomania has magical nature and mystical faith in the omnipotence of the technologies.

Эрик Дэвис “Historians were wrong drawing the conclusion that magic disappeared with the coming of ‘quantitative science’. The last has just substituted the known part of magic. Electricity, fast transport, radio and television, aviation and computers have just fulfilled the promises first formulated by magic, becoming the result of supernatural creation of wizards. Technology […] embodied our ideas and wishes, first appeared in alchemical beakers of the sealed mysticism.” Erik Davis, american writer and journalist

Magic perception of technology

The fact remains that people do not understand the principles of operation of “techno-things”. Physics, chemistry and electricity for many remain “a thing in itself”, which functioning principles are unknown and which defy common sense. We easily let technologies into our life, use them for enjoyment and relaxation, or for maintenance of the essential life processes, but in most cases perceive them as black boxes. Person wants the bank card to give answer immediately, without understanding that the signal needs to circumnavigate the globe before the screen shows the desired numbers. There is a special word for this phenomenon — “automagically”. It describes the situations when something happens automatically but in unclear way.

The age of social networks combined the social and technological, letting magic perception into our relationships with others. Magic perception of social networks is revealed by the accurate observation of Soren Gordhamer noted in his book on the nature of social networking “Wisdom 2.0: Exploring Ancient Wisdom in Modern Life”:

“Refreshing your Facebook page today is like pulling the handle of a game machine. By pressing F5 we expect to hit the information jackpot, to see something that will change our lives”

Each update can be perceived as a personal conversion of the world to the user through their virtual presence: “So, let’s see what life has brought us this time.”

Soren Gordhamer is the founder of the conference Wisdom 2.0, which gathers programmers and managers of Facebook, PayPal, Google and the other services to discuss with psychologists and experts on meditation the principles which it is possible to build computer services on.


Have you ever noticed that you treat some technology around you as something magic?

“Digital Vocabulary” is an extremely time-sensitive project. A few years ago, warnings regarding new technologies could be considered far-fetched. However, today we understand that the principle “I’ll turn it off if I please” no longer works: technology has been long now deciding when it is time to switch us on and off — by operating cycles, TV-program schedules, alarm clocks in smartphones, mobile apps, games and wearable devices. An important thing is that operational guidelines go hand-in-hand with theory. Thus, it allows not only to adapt to the prevailing conditions but also to suggest how the situation will develop further. And then, apparently, the next initiative by “Digital Vocabulary” authors will be required — new technologies and social changes are not long in coming.

Anton Gumenskiy
Media Researcher, Lecturer Theory of Communication Faculty of International Journalism at MGIMO