Vol. 9:3 (2008) ► pp.458–480
The posthuman threat of self-service technology
Computer-facilitated self-service technologies (SSTs) have become ubiquitous in today’s consumer-focused world. Yet, few human–computer interactions elicit such dramatically polarizing emotional reactions from users as those involving SSTs. ATMs, pay-at-the-pump gas stations, and self-scanning retail registers tend to produce both passionate supporters and critics. While negative comments often center on unpleasant personal user experiences, the actual “abuse” related to such systems is really much deeper and more complex. SSTs carry with them a number of potentially insidious consequences, including the exploitation of consumers as uncompensated temporary workers; the sacrifice of our inherent humanity to delegate both skills and cognition to electronic helpers; and the enabling of a new type of posthuman consumer identity, where each transaction is completed by a cyborg entity constructed of the human on one side and the electronic mechanism on the other. As a result, we may ultimately lose the boundary between the human and the machine.
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