Recently, an article in the New York Times reported how according to data and social scientists, “screen time” no longer tells us how much we’re shaped by digital experiences. Today, our digital experiences capture a greater part of our existence, making them a more appropriate means for analyzing human behaviour. With smartphones, laptops and Ipads gulping from the faucet of Netflix and YouTube, we are now more likely to switch easily between contents and create a unique sequence of experiences. In a bid to developing a new method of analyzing how technology shapes and affects our individual personalities, Social scientists have come up with a new term and idea, “Screenomics”.
WHAT IS SCREENOMICS?
Like a “genome” that tells us everything about a person’s genetic inheritance, a “screenome” gives us a more personalized and eccentric analysis of how each of us interacts with screens and how they have helped shape our behaviour. According to Nilam Ram, screenomics is a study of records of individual experiences represented as a sequence of screens that people view and interact with over time. The system includes software that collects screenshots, extracts text and images, and — allows a large but previously unobserved portion of peoples’ lives to be observed and assessed.
PARENTING WITH SCREENOMICS
Now more than ever, children pick up devices early and spend not less than five hours daily on screens. This only means that Parents need to be on their guard. Gone are the days when standard monitoring like “daily Facebook or Twitter usage” were relevant. Today, that amazing kid of yours may spend just twenty minutes on screen, switching from reading emails to playing a video game, buying a movie ticket and taking Snapchat selfies without even stopping by on Facebook or Twitter. This brings us to one realization — that screen time is fast becoming a way of life; one that requires a comprehensive knowledge of how that new way of life can shape an individual’s entire life experiences.
Screenomics is no doubt a very welcome development. Since no one has the slightest idea of what anyone is doing on their screen, this new concept will enable us to flick through our children’s activities, digitally speaking and record everything on every device that they use, from what they see to what they typed. Incorporating screenomes would most likely shed light on whether or not online experiences really affects people’s moods, emotions and personalities. In short, by monitoring our children’s daily screenome, we can regulate their behaviours and emotions and balance each piece of information with amusement in our own unique ways.
THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
This brings us to the question of privacy. Would our children be happy for us to monitor their behaviour through data-driven screenomics? What amount of screenome would be sufficient to analyse children’s personalities? What about the preservation of data privacy and data manipulation? Questions like the ones posted by Benedict Carey in her New York Times article are also yet to be answered. If perhaps, we were able to keep tabs on our children’s daily screenome, what patterns of screenome activity are problematic and for whom?