Panic Architecture

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Panic architecture is a term used to describe a participatory architecture that demands compulsive interaction or attention. Facebook is the most potent form of panic architecture because families and friends can panic each other or be heavily affected by photo posts and status updates. E-mail, especially when attached to an audible update signal, is another form of panic architecture because it invites the user to obsessively click it.[1]

Digital panic generally occurs when multiple systems of intermittent reinforcement concurrently demand a user's attention. Intermittent reinforcement describes the urge to click on Emails and other cites of social interaction. The idea of intermittent reinforcement comes out of B.F. Skinner's theories on Operant Conditioning and Behavorism. His experiments that found that rats who got irregular rewards from food-bar-pushing were far more driven to compulsively push the bar.[2]


  1. Webb, Matt, and Tom Stafford. Mindhacks - Why Email is Addictive and What to do About it. Published Sept. 2006. Accessed Oct 2011.
  2. Author Unknown. Factoidz - Intermittent Reinforcement: Are You Addicted to Email and Smartphones? Addictions. Accessed Oct 2011.