3. What’s in a word

Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, introduced her book Life on the Screen in 1996 by noting ‘when I want to write and don’t have a computer around, I tend to wait till I do. In fact, I feel that I must wait till I do’ (Turkle, 1996 p.29) – so compulsion or a sense of requirement at least to use the PC is nothing new. Around the same time, Dr Ivan Goldberg was one of the first to use the term ‘internet addiction disorder’ (Beato, 1995) – although he explained even at that time that ‘calling excessive internet use an addiction is a mistake’, and went on to say that ‘if you expand the concept of addiction to include everything people can overdo, then you must talk about people being addicted to books, addicted to jogging, addicted to other people’ (Goldberg, 1997).

Certainly this theme of addiction versus natural progression and development of technology has continued through the years since that time, and has been called a variety of things along the way, including ‘problematic internet use’ and ‘internet procrastination’. (Thatcher, et al. 2008).

Of course, any good educational situation will involve some element of enticement and reward – Steven Johnson noted that there are many forms of addiction, and said that ‘you can be rewarded by love and social connection, financial success, drug abuse, shopping, chocolate and watching your favourite team win the Super Bowl’ (Johnson, 2005 p.36) and James Paul Gee had said a year earlier that ‘amplification of input is highly motivating for learning and that good video games reflecting in their design good principles of learning he talks of enticement ‘the learner must be enticed to put in lots of effort’. (Gee, 2004 p. 65)

If you develop these arguments more fully, it is easy to believe that most developments in technology – including use of computer games -are beneficial, and it’s the way we view them that is flawed. One way of looking at the situation therefore, is that they are addictive in nature just because they are successful in involving the participant to such a great extent – as Steven Johnson put it, ‘the desire to see the next thing’. (Johnson, 2005 p. 37)