Multimodal Research Essay


My multimodal research essay discusses the impacts of technology on family communication and bonding. After thorough research I found that negative consequences outweigh the positive ones. Therefore, I make the claim that technological advances take away from face-to-face interaction between family members. To show this is true, I provide statistics, study results, a comparison of before and after family interaction, and an example of a family affected by technology addiction.

The purpose of this paper is to persuade my readers that technology is indeed a negative effect on family dynamics and I believe many would be interested in the topic of this paper because they can easily identify with.  I kept my professor and classmates in mind while writing this multimodal essay, however, I also imagined a greater audience reading this essay, since I planned to include this project in my portfolio. I think this project demonstrates effective use of multimodal exposition. From the five modes of communication, I have used the linguistic mode, spatial mode, visual mode and aural mode.

For this essay, I had the opportunity to get valuable feedback from Scott and Justin. They liked the use of my images, and suggested to include some more, which I did.  I have also provided sources that include hyperlinks for a YouTube video and a TED talk. With more time on my hands, I would have looked into some graphs or charts. In my opinion, they play a big role on how the audience reads and understands the context. Below i have the final draft of my multimodal research essay.


Technological Growth:

A Threat to Family Dynamics

Technology has become an integral part of our lives with many benefits such as instant access to information and means of communication. Without a doubt, electronic devices are making our lives much easier; however, studies show we are spending more time interacting with technology than with our family. Today, “the average American child grows up in a home with 3 televisions, 2 music CD players, 3 radios, 2 VCR/DVD players, 1 video game player, and 1 computer. Teens, age 13 to 18 spend 72 hours a week interacting with electronic gadgets.  Only 45% of teenagers spend at least 9 hours each week with their family” (Bowman). Even though technological advances are correlated with many positive benefits, they have also negatively impacted family communication and bonding. Family values seem to disappear as technology becomes deeply embedded in our lives.

As all members of society are exposed to modern day technology, one-on-one communication between family members falls through the cracks. Dr. Jeffrey S. McQuillen, from University of Texas-Pan American examines the impact of technology on interpersonal relationships. In doing so, he takes a look at the influence of technology on social life. Second, the influence of media on interpersonal relationships and finally, the implications of computer-mediated interactions for relationships initiated online. He concludes that “as the distance between cultures and countries shrink, the distance between interpersonal interactants appears to be expanding.”  In other words, he believes that the use of media devices has brought the world closer by making communication across long distances easier, however, it is hindering face to face communication between family members.

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By looking at a family from the pre-digital age and comparing it with today’s modern family, the impact of technology on family dynamics is very evident. Families used to play traditional board games together and entertainment was focused on people’s interactive social skills. In the modern day, moms are following celebrities on Twitter, dads are busy answering work emails and kids are playing video games or chatting with friends on social media. Even though this family is physically together, their attention is focused somewhere else. Dr. Jim Taylor believes that this divide has grown due to the increase use of technology among children which limits their availability to communicate with their parents. In turn,“parents have attempted to counteract this growing divide not with actual face-to-face communication with their children, but by joining their children in cyberspace.” (Taylor). Therefore, parents can be equally guilty of contributing to the distance that appears to be increasing in families.

An article, “Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement And Psychological Well-Being” describes a detailed research study about the impact of the internet on participation in community life and social relationships. For this study, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University studied a sample of 169 people from 73 households during their first 1 to 2 years online. From this sample, greater use of the internet reflected declines in participants’ face to face interaction with their families. The study also showed declines in the size of their friend circle and increases in depression and loneliness. Similar consequences are illustrated in the article below where a family member deals with technology addiction. His addiction ultimately leads to a decrease in family dynamics.

Technological developments have created the opportunity of working from home and many were happy for the chance to spend more time with their families. But in reality people who work from home find it difficult to manage their time effectively and can spend more time working than if they were in an office. A good example of this is a New York Times article, “Attached to Technology and Paying a Price”  which tells the story of a family whose father is addicted to electronic gadgets. Mr. Campbell’s life revolves around computers missing out on quality time with his family. His home office has expanded to three screens, at times adding a laptop and an ipad.  His wife Brenda replies “It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment.” Their 8 year old daughter Lily thinks her father favors technology over family. Researchers say, the kind of disconnection the Campbell family experiences typify what many families experience and what many more will, if trends continue.BRAIN-articleLargeThis picture portrays a typical morning in the Campbell’s family. Technology use is growing for Mrs. Campbell as well. She admits checking her e-mail very often and sometimes gets lost in texting and social media.

With social media, blogs and forums on the rise, connections all around the world are being made. People can now pay their bills, shop or even take online classes, all from the comfort of their own house.  Many families appreciate the convenience of technology, however  they also admit it comes with a cost; it is a distraction from family time. A study shows that families are in conflict about how much technology is appropriate and the amount of time spent using it at home. They are also in conflict about whether or not the immediate access to information is worth the distraction (Huisman, Catapano, and Edwards). This study focused on four families with different technological access. Participants were asked to document the use of technology at home for two weeks. After the tracker was completed, families had a follow up interview.   The Anderson family said:

While Technology has so many great opportunities, it also can take away from the simple things of life;  not only the expense, because you have to keep up with every new thing in technology, but also just time away from family (51).

Some experts have argued that technology is essential in our daily lives no matter what  the relationship is. So embracing it and learning how to use technology in what ever we do is very important and recommended. Pew Research Internet Project believes that “technology is enabling new forms of family connectedness that revolve around remote mobile phone interactions and communal internet experiences.” This survey finds that those with the most technology are more likely to share moments and check in with their families while online. Finally, Pew Research concludes that “ownership of multiple gadgets and communication tools is a standard feature of family life.” Ultimately, this study supports the idea that technology is inevitable in family communication.

Yet Henry Rubin, an american filmmaker and director of the movie called Disconnect believes that “it’s all about the power of human communication” and not technology itself. In a YouTube video shown below, Rubin ultimately answers the question “Is Technology Disconnecting Us?” Henry says that technology can bring us closer but it can also tear us apart. Furthermore, technology is just a reflection of our own actions and/or personalities and it cannot be positive or negative by itself.  His conclusion stems from the idea that easily distracted people, were distracted people to begin with, while others are calm and centered and do not get overwhelmed or addicted to electronic gadgets. So technology can have a negative effect only if you lack self-control. For those interested, the movie Disconnect came out in 2012 and it is a drama about the modern society and technology overload.

On the other hand,  Sherry Turkle, professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology disagrees with the idea that the impact of technology is a reflection of ourselves. In one of her TED talks Turkle says “these devices are so psychologically powerful that they not only change what we do, but who we are.” Furthermore, texting, emails, social media posts allow us to control the self by editing and deleting what we want to say but they don’t really work for learning about each other and understanding each other. The feeling that no one is listening is what makes us spend time with technology.  In her most recent book “Alone, Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other” Turkle argues that due to the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we confuse postings and online sharing with authentic communication.

Considerable debate continues to take place over whether or not technology has negatively impacted family communication and bonding. Technological advances have created great opportunities and significant life improvements, however, many studies found that the negative outcomes outweigh the positive ones when it comes to family dynamics. People use technology to protect themselves from being interactive with others or to simply occupy themselves in a situation that is not very interesting. I urge you to turn off your devices next time you go to a dinner or hang out with friends and engage in conversations the old fashion way.

Works Cited

Amy, Bowman. “How Family Time is Affected by Technology.”  Prezi. Prezi Inc, 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 1 Jan. 2015.

Family Games. Digital image. WordPress, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2015

Kraut, Robert, et al. “Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement       And Psychological Well-Being?” American Psychologist 53.9 (1998): 1017-1031. PsycARTICLES. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Huisman, Sarah, Susan Catapano, and Allison Edwards. “The Impact of Technology on Families.” International Journal of Education and Psychology in the Community 1 Jan. 2012: 44-62. IJEPC. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.

McQuillen, S. Jeffrey. “The Influence of Technology on the Initiation of Interpersonal Relationships.” Academic Journal Article 123 (2003): n. pag. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.

Richtell, Matt. “Attached to Technology and Paying a Price.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company 06 June. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.

Rubin, Henry Alex. “Is Technology Disconnecting Us?” YouTube. YouTube, 17 May 2013. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

Turkle, Sherry. “Connected, but alone?” TED. Ted Conferences LLC, Feb. 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Taylor, Jim. “Is Technology Creating a Family Divide?” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

The Digital World Is Full of Possibility and Worry. Digital image. Hearst Seattle Media, 6 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

Wellman, Barry, Aaron Smith, Amy Wells, and Tracy Kennedy. “Networked Families.” PewResearch Internet Project. Pew Research Center, 19 Oct. 2008. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.