NEWS29 October 2015

The anthropomorphism of technology

News Technology Trends UK

UK — As our reliance on technology grows, so too does our relationship with devices and we increasingly give them human attributes said Amanda Anderton co-founder of Hope + Anchor at the MRS conference Customers Exposed in London today.


Consumers are building deep emotional connections with their technology and as their attachment grows it is often now the first and last thing we see each day said Anderton as she presented her session ‘The Age of Technological Intimacy’.

But while we now have strong relationships with technology it is often a complicated relationship she said. ”It’s like the relationship we have we people.” So we enter a heightened emotional state as we connect with tech and it provokes powerful emotions, especially when it doesn’t behave as we want it to.

Hope + Anchor set up some consumer vlogs in a YouTube-style tech haul in the summer to understand people’s relationships with tech and found there was a strong Tamagotchi effect where consumers anthropomorphise their technology.

Anderton pointed to how the language used in connection to tech follows this, with terms such as ‘smart’ phone, ‘virus’ and that their phone ‘died’. “It has a positive effect on us and people anthropomorphise especially when they’re lonely,” she said.

The role of technology in the home is growing and consumers domesticate their new tech as quickly as possible (unpacking it, normalising it). It also plays a central role in household politics. She cited how research showed that the best Christmas day moments are often connected to technology.

However there are issues; people can feel discomfort when they see something that mimics humans too well. Anderton said this is why many people don’t like Siri – Apple’s voice activated personal assistant.

And the style of tech is growing in importance. “Tech is a powerful form of cultural capital – how we display ours and berate others for theirs. Consumers are very critical of poor looking design. They are more influenced by design than brand loyalty,” she said.