From Addiction By Design, by Natasha Dow Schüll, pg 16. I must read Shaffer, as I’ve tried in the past to argue precisely this, using the cumbersome critical realist terminology of ‘two sets of properties and powers’:
“The potential for addiction,” writes Howard Shaffer, a prominent academic researcher in the field of gambling addiction, “emerges when repeated interaction with a specific object or array of objects (a drug, a game of chance, a computer) reliably produces a desirable subjective shift.” Accordingly, he has suggested that addiction researchers should “emphasize the relationship instead of either the attributes of the person struggling with addiction or the object of their addiction.”
When addiction is regarded as a relationship that develops through “repeated interaction” between a subject and an object, rather than a property that belongs solely to one or the other, it becomes clear that objects matter as much as subjects. Just as certain individuals are more vulnerable to addiction than others, it is also the case that some objects, by virtue of their unique pharmacologic or structural characteristics, are more likely than others to trigger or accelerate an addiction. Their distinctive potency lies in their capacity to engender the sort of compelling subjective shift on which some individuals come to depend. “The most reliable, fast- acting and robust ‘shifters’ hold the greatest potential to stimulate the development of addictive disorders,” Shaffer has written. This fact is readily acknowledged by researchers of substance addictions, who rarely conduct their studies in the absence of some understanding of how a given drug affects its users.
I’d like to incorporate addiction into my analysis of distraction. But I’m still at the very early stages of thinking through the relationship between them.