The immersive use of technology and presence in cyberspace can easily lead a person to become unconscious of the amount of time spent, the side-effects of being online and the potential risks of taking actions in a hasty style due to a sort of irresistible impulse. Thus, we believe that providing measures such as interactive, real-time and intelligent warning messages and labels are a social responsibility, ethical and professional practice for technology developers to raise awareness so that people are able to make an informed decision about whether and how to use technology.
Our group believes in the power of intelligent and interactive technological approaches to enable people to make informed decision about their usage and regulate it in a way that minimizes their concerns, conflicts, relapse, salience and withdrawal symptoms in relation to technology usage. Examples include enabling users to model their ideal usage and track it and the deviation which may eventually happen, enabling people to set up a time limit and a reduction plan which can be then tracked and visualized. This offers them a designated online platform for agreeing and enacting their cyber social interactions protocols and habits collectively and other range of persuasive and software-based behaviour change technologies.
This requires novel design processes so that technology is not simply a utility software where users know what they want in a certain business but rather an affective computing where the potential side effects, risks, effectiveness and sustainability of the achieved behaviour change are main concerns.
Such software-based intelligent and interactive interventions are not only about informing the user of the amount of time spent on a digital device. It could also be a powerful precautionary mechanism to avoid entering a highly-addictive usage stage. This is most common in the case of games and social networks.
For example, the labels can raise self-awareness and also enlighten the user about other activities they can do as an alternative to being online based on their profile and interests. It could be also a mechanism to recover from digital addiction or regulate the usage style and moderate the preoccupation about it. For example, it could enable people to set up a limit, e.g. an amount of time of using a social network or friends to interact with online, and remind them whether and how they are adhering to the limit.
Another style of designing these mechanisms would be based on peer groups where peers keep track of each other's actions and put peer pressure on each other to adhere to a certain usage style. Thus, in contrast to traditional interventions and behaviour change methods, e.g. labels found on tobacco and alcohol, digital media can be designed to include a more intelligent, real-time and interactive incarnation of such method. While tobacco and alcohol cannot tell their “users” to stop, software fortunately can.