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Galit Ariel: Digital Mark and Ethics

On how digitalisation transforms society
07.28.2020
Galit Ariel: Digital Mark and Ethics

Modern technologies are changing the world. They make it possible for a person to go beyond real space. Galit Ariel explores the wild and creative aspect of technologies creating a presence effect, its impact on culture, behaviour, and interaction of people. As part of the Startup Village international conference for technology entrepreneurs, the expert spoke about what reality awaits the world soon and what challenges humanity needs to be ready to face.

Galit-Ariel_T.jpg Galit Ariel
Founder and Creative Director of WondARlands – Spatial Innovation Lab

Galit Ariel helps create human-focused technologies. She is the author of ‘Augmenting Alice: The Future of Identity, Experience, and Reality’ and ‘Things I Techtivist’, a notable keynote speaker (TED), and a thought-leader in the field of immersive interaction. Ms. Ariel calls herself ‘space discoverer’ and compares the study of digital space with the exploration of space. 

There are huge opportunities in the hands of humanity. Today, we can create technologies that will change the world. They have already started transforming it. Digitalisation is gradually influencing all areas of society’s life, even the human brain.

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To understand technologies, we need to understand how people interact with space as a whole. 

For a long time, there were two basic concepts of space. The first concept, physical reality, is related to everything that a person can see, hear, touch, and feel. The second concept is the mental space in people’s minds and imagination. It is formed based on information coming to the brain. It is impossible to carry out mechanical interaction with physical objects in that space. 

In many respects, people’s worldviews depend on their prejudices and attitudes. Being in a good mood, people can perceive things positively and think about a better future. If they are immersed in sadness, they look at the world from a completely different perspective. “The ability to control our prejudices and emotions affects our lives. Sometimes, under the influence of obsessive beliefs, we may even be cut off from reality, thus ceasing to perceive reality objectively”, emphasized Galit Ariel.

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Today, the situation is complicated by the fact that the third space, the digital one, is being formed together with the development of technologies. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it exists everywhere and nowhere simultaneously, interacting with the real and mental world. 

In both the physical and the digital world, people can their mark. They influence everything they contact with one way or another. In turn, different spaces also have an impact on people. Even though the digital world is still quite new to society, it has already shaped certain behaviours among users. For example, they now have the habit of thinking about how they are perceived on the net. 

People’s behaviours have started changing due to the rapid development of technologies. That has also affected the physical space. For example, some countries have already installed traffic lights that project a coloured beam onto the road. Such innovation is caused by the fact that modern people have stopped looking upwards when crossing the street. They more often focus their attention on the smartphone and look downwards.

“We started transforming the physical world to make it comfortable for people to immerse in a virtual one. Is that good or bad? It’s hard to say, but that’s a fact”, comments Galit Ariel. 

Today, there are two types of content: physical and digital. The latter can only be experienced in a virtual space while playing video games or watching videos. However, technologies have already reached a level where both types of content can interact with each other. The intersection of physical and virtual space gave birth to the mixed or so-called hybrid reality. Through VR glasses or a mobile phone screen, a person can add digital objects to the world around them. For example, 360-degree videos creating the effect of full presence during viewing them are especially popular today.

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“All three spaces are gradually blended together. They are layered on one another. The interaction of physical atoms, neurons in our brain, and digital pixels gives birth to The WORLD wide web - a real virtual world. I believe that is where we will live soon. Our understanding of space will change completely”. 

“All that inspires and motivates very much. However, any medal has two sides. The development of technology offers us amazing opportunities and at the same time sets new challenges for humanity”, comments Galit Ariel. The expert started reflecting on the real virtual world in the near future with positive forecasts. 

First of all, according to Ms. Ariel, people will be able to interact with the new mixed space actively. Some of today’s technologies already make it possible to interact with digital objects through gestures or gaze. For example, one can move objects in augmented reality with a wave of one’s hand. In the future, such interaction will become more complex and people will be able to transform objects or create new ones quickly and easily. 

Masks and filters are now extremely popular on social media. Thanks to them, users can change their appearance in a photo or video. People experiment by applying ‘digital makeup’ or even changing gender and race. According to the expert, the next step in the development of these technologies will result in choosing the space around people, for example, changing colours and architectural elements using special glasses or gadget screen. 

Artists are gradually entering the digital field as well. They create art objects in the virtual world or supplement physical reality with them. According to Galit Ariel, that’s an interesting trend that will take world art to the next level. 

“The idea of boundaries will be perceived in a completely different way. The augmented space will erase the physical and mental limits of our perception. It will be important to shift the emphasis from the question of the possibilities of science to the question of the preservation of people and their human qualities”. 

To let technologies work, it is necessary to collect new data constantly. And here comes the issue of digital authoritarianism. Humanity faces a new threat because people and corporations having huge data sets get opportunities for manipulation. According to Galit Ariel, power is gradually being concentrated in the hands of owners of technology companies. In the future, they will be able to control the world, to shape the thinking, habits, and moods of society by managing augmented reality. That is why it is so important to talk about the ethical side of technology development and to bring up a certain culture and correct human values in people today. 

Many social platforms already have a huge impact on people’s behaviour. In pursuit of attention, likes, and reputation, people start caring more about what they look like on the net, compare themselves with other users, and become dependent on social acceptance. 

It is important to remember that this kind of online activity does not generally make a person’s life more fulfilling but only generates the illusion of that. 

Smart cities are emerging in many European countries. Their streets are equipped with technologies capable of videotaping, recognizing the faces of people passing by, reading data from phones, and many other functions. On the one hand, all that makes the life of citizens more comfortable and safe. On the other hand, that makes it possible to control the population constantly. 

Another challenge is the quality and reliability of the information. Modern information space is overfilled with content. The amount of data on the net is only increasing every second. Today, many technologies make it possible to falsify textual materials, audio recordings, or even videos. 

One of the major challenges for people set by the new digital world is to learn how to discover the truth and analyse all the coming information.

A crisis is a time when the old has not yet disappeared and the new has not yet appeared. That is the state of today’s world now. “People already have the knowledge and capacity to change the reality around them fundamentally. However, it is necessary to understand: what our world will be in the future depends only on us and on how we use existing technologies”, emphasizes Galit Ariel. 

Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency 

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov


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