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Scholars Symposium 2023: Business Administration

To advocate and advance the scholarly work of students and faculty at Cedarville University

Business Administration

Are You the Alpha of Your Technology Pack? Some Antecedents and Consequences of Digital Dominion

by Phoebe Tsai (Faculty)

Wireless technology such as smartphones and Internet of Things has permeated daily life at work and at home. Due to fierce competition in the marketplace, wireless technology developers apply various tactics to influence technology users’ consumption decisions and behaviors. The design of its interface, features, and functionalities can become dark, if the design serves the technology developer at the cost of the user. Dark patterns, or deceptive design, are widely incorporated in wireless technology because they are effective for achieving key performance indicators. For example, choice architecture (i.e., the way in which options are presented to decision makers) is engineered to maximize the total amount of tips at restaurants, based on the tendency that people favor options positioned in the middle of a screen. Human-computer-interaction researchers have established taxonomies to identify and organize deceptive design attributes that may infringe on technology users’ free will and trick them into doing things that they would not have done otherwise. Meanwhile, technology users may be oblivious about falling for digital manipulation. For instance, the autoplay feature, commonly used by streaming platforms, undermines a person’s agency; that does not motivate everyone to disable such feature. Even in the absence of malicious intent from its developer, wireless technology can have adverse effects on users’ well-being. Fitbit, for example, is known for boosting users’ commitment to regular exercise and awareness of their own physical health. The motivational aspect of wearable devices is reported to foster compulsive tracking and obsession in some people.

Benevolent or malice, wireless technology does not have the same level of influence on every individual. Through the lens of the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion (Petty and Cacioppo 1986), we propose digital dominion to describes a person who is vigilant in ensuring that the technology serves the person and not the other way around. People of a higher level of digital dominion are less susceptible to digital manipulation and exploitation. This research project aims to establish a nomological net of digital dominion to theorize some antecedents and consequences of digital dominion, with future research directions to establish empirical validity of the theory.