Understanding the digital life

Cyberpsychology as Everyday Experience Across the Lifespan by Dave Harley, Julie Morgan, Hannah Frith (Palgrave Macmillan; Hb £79.99), reviewed by Robert Griffin.

The introductory chapter to this book notes that the Greek philosopher Socrates expressed concern about the impact the new technology of his day was having on people – he was referring to writing. Since then, how we present ourselves, complete tasks and interact with others has changed at an ever-increasing pace. New technology is introduced, and we don’t have time to consider the impact on people or society. Parents, educators, psychologists and the general public are struggling to evaluate best practice for their children and for themselves. A new application or trend is only a click away, so one can often feel overwhelmed trying to keep up.  

A solution to this problem is to provide people with enough digital literacy to evaluate how and why we interact with these technologies, so when the next new thing comes along we can critically evaluate it. This book provides a framework for that, following digital life from the cradle to the grave and everything in between.

The authors have written in an accessible style, with themes one would expect (such as young people online, self-image, trolling and dating).  However, there are also particularly interesting chapters not normally found in books about cyberpsychology – on older people online, loneliness and death/grieving.

There have been several books published in the last few years that bridge the gap between academia and the general public: readable and interesting while also providing depth with plenty of references for one to explore further. If you don’t want to look at detailed statistics or know what a two-tailed t test is but need more depth and understanding of cyberpsychology, then this book is a good starting point.

- Reviewed by Robert Griffin, Chair of the MSc in Cyberpsychology, Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

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