Working World 4.0: Team work and problem solving permanently online?
Permanently online and permanently connected: The new “normal”. Smartphones are social tools that change our behaviour in everyday life. Yet, we do not know exactly how they influence our inner feelings and our relationships due to the permanent connection with each other. But already today “being offline“ is an uncomfortable emergency situation for many. In the past, there was no technology that conquered our lives so quickly as smartphones and tablets did. To find fulfillment in the future requires permanent connection.
Prof. Peter Vorderer, leader of the Institute for Media and Communication Sciences (Institut für Medien und Kommunikationswissenschaft) at the University of Mannheim and Prof. Christoph Klimmt, leader of the Institute of Journalism and Communication Sciences (Instituts für Journalistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft) at the Hochschule Hannover, are researching the consequences of permanent online communication for our daily lives and thus came across interesting results. In the article “The New Normal” („Das neue Normal“) in the “Zeit” (No. 5, January 2016), they critically assess the new patterns of behaviour that are created by the permanent connection.
Cooperation and relationship: Less obligation and boundary expansion?
The presence in working groups, help offers for colleagues or the accepting of invitations are quickly done per smartphone and even taken back quickly and on short notice if it seems necessary. Will the reliability of the past be more unreliable in the future? “I'll send you an E-Mail“ – the phenomenon to keep options open, is seen more and more. Will the willingness to fix agreements be less in the future? Surely there is also a great part of new independence and high flexibility in it. If the glass was half empty, that would mean a loss of loyality and less willingness to take responsibility. Smartphones in workshops, conferences and meetings are typical nowadays. Today, permanent availability and communication in parallel worlds are normal.
Not only in the job but also in the private life there are no boundaries. Our authors assume that this does also change our idea of intimacy. Conversations take place constantly: interrupted every now and then, to be continued any time. This creates the impression to be able to (re)establish a contact anytime and anywhere. It could reduce unity, coherence and efficiency but could as well enhance the feeling of closeness and constant togetherness in daily life.
Sharing experiences as an important aspect in relationships is relocated to the mobile device. This also due to the fact that the experience is testified in a much more spectacular and visual way (e.g. by video) than in an oral report. Today's users are happy to get attention. Do anonymous likes and emoticons mean more than personal esteem nowadays?
Today, I can see how quickly the addressee reads my message, I know when he or she was online. I can be happy or worried about that. Is that more social control than in the past?
Problem solving: Loss of intuition and creativity?
The communication researchers Vorderer and Klimmt doubt that Big Data and nontransparent data presentations and interpretations are the solution to every question. Intuition and gut feeling were lost by that, a blind trust in colourful pictures could take over.
Access to Google and other connected users is possible anytime: So, how much I know myself will not be that important in the future but rather how I use and consider the information offered.
When I can ask 100 contacts with their collective intelligence in real time, why should I be innovative myself?
The highly connected user never does nothing anymore
The new “bio” is being unconnected: There are Apps that make sure that one is disconnected. Being different is becoming a high art. Doing nothing is becoming more and more difficult for highly connected people. The phone is a time filler and mood regulator.
The media experience is replacing the daydream. A never-ending amount of news, information and sensations is permanently flowing over us and is always present. There is always something added, the bar of our satisfaction is raised step by step. Deliberately choosing is a thing of the past, nowadays everything is always with us.
Approval and performance instead of authenticity and a personal standpoint: are we going to change?
To comment other people's positions, to like something means to passively take a stand – the own opinion does not have to be formulated. I just agree or I don't, I join or I just don't.
There are hardly any Facebook pages where people present themselves negatively, with their weaknesses. Information on success, nice photos and experiences are in the focus. An ideal world of performance and success. To fill those online profiles is hard work.
The authors also point out that highly connected people would rather give away secrets in order to get social capital such as image, attention and admiration in their social networks.
According to the authors, the new “normal” of being online increases our problem solving ability, swarm intelligence, the amounts of data and speed bail us out in working teams or in private life. Thinking autonomously and with it also the taking of responsibility could be pushed to the background.
For the future, both is probably true: technology will replace a part of out thinking and the wisdom of many will accelerate our problem solving.