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Addictive De-Vices: A Public Policy Analysis Of Sources And Solutions To Digital Addiction

Pierre Berthon, Leyland Pitt, Colin Campbell

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We spend our days looking at them, talking to them, and touching them. We sleep with them, work with them, and play with them. They increasingly consume our time, attention, and money: we are addicted to our digital devices—or, more precisely, the digital experiences they enable. This addiction is both akratic (we are aware of the negative consequences) and engineered (designed on purpose). Marketers are complicit in this engineering: through digital networks and big data they ubiquitously monitor and experiment on consumers. This knowledge is used to create ever-more addictive digital experiences enabled by devices, their platforms, and their content. In this article, the authors explore marketing’s role in the rise of the phenomenon: from product design, through advertising and big data, to the dynamics of ubiquitous distribution and “free” pricing. The authors then turn to policy solutions and discuss how informing, guiding, and restricting can help ameliorate the problem and promote the public good. The article concludes by outlining multiple areas for marketing and public policy research.