In this section, we have seen how psychological theory and practice in the early 20th century came to be applied in very significant ways in business and industry. Taylorism — the empirical analysis of workflow and labor activity (i.e., how many minutes does it take for a worker to shovel x amount of coal, and how many rest periods are optimal?) — was influential in the emergence of industrial psychology. Here, early industrial psychologists, as you have read, needed to discern the qualities and traits that would fit the worker to the task (or allow for modification of the worker’s behavior). Take a look at the videos here on Course Den (Ford and Taylor in the 1920s) for interesting visuals. Moreover, so many of the tests we take in our schooling — achievement tests, personality tests, vocational tests — are bent to this purpose: producing workers (or finding the appropriate ones) for a more productive business and industrial environment.
However, though, all of this is still very much part of our psychological/industrial landscape, other developments have occurred. First, the economy in the industrialized West has changed from one premised on production to one that is equally premised on consumer demand (or desire, in the psychoanalytic sense). Second, technology has changed as well, and we now live in an age of information and the consumption of information, and also in one where our social connections are mediated digitally (as I’m typing this, for instance!). All of this leads to another outcome — not only are our habits, traits, qualities, selfhood shaped by what business/industry needs from us, but also we are shaped as well by our what we want, desire, consume, etc. And, what we are needed to want, desire, and consume.
So — with conscious regard for the irony of posting this online — I will throw this out as a broad topic for comment and reflection: How do you see psychology, technology, and industry converging in the age of digital media (including social media)? How is selfhood mediated (changed, damaged, improved) in the digital world? From a psychological perspective, what are the dangers as well as possibilities? In a similar vein to the industrial applications of the early 20th century, what designs do these newer technologies have on us? What are we asked to become? (You may have your own points of reference, here, but one I’d mention is Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together; TED talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_connected_but_alone?language=en#t-1159304).