The Media Equation - #5a

The authors of this book offer an intriguing concept that is counter-intuitive to what we normally think – i.e., media equals real life. I was fascinated by some of their examples and quite frankly, can agree to a certain extent. However, much of the tone is so “pop-psychology” and market-driven, that I’ve less faith in the conclusions. My other major concern with the premise of this book is the shaky research ground on which they based their experiments. Their laboratory situations for observation of this behavior seemed false, segmented and unrealistic for the conclusions drawn.

That said, there are some interesting observations made that many of us can relate to anecdotally. For example, I know I would react physiologically, if not psychologically, to a large image on the computer screen increasing in size and “moving” towards me. Almost like an optical illusion, it would appear that the image would jump right out of the screen. I would interpret that as an invasion of my personal space and thus be reacting as if it were ‘real life.’ Thus, could some of their observations be important information for software and web designers? Are we “not evolved to twentieth-century technology?” (Reeves & Naas, 1996, p. 12) or for that matter to twenty-first century technology?

Interestingly, since this book was written a decade ago, there has been a huge increase in ‘media’ tools of all sorts. The growing use and development of social software (i.e., blogs, wikis, podcasts, web 2.0, etc.) with its interactive and personalization components certainly help to promote the ubiquity-like connection of the media equation. Wikis, as a form of media, can be very reality-oriented. Wikis provide an avenue for collaborative communication which can be personalized and modified, though asynchronously. This media is “actively encouraging to use, share and edit each other’s content” (Carvin, 2006, PowerPoint slide 22) – conversational and social.

Carvin, A. (April 10, 2006). Podcast of my CISOA presentation. (link to PowerPoint) Andy Carvin’s waste of bandwidth. Retrieved April 10, 2006 from http://www.andycarvin.com/archives/2006/04/podcast_of_my_cisoa.html

Reeves, B. and Naas, C. (1996). The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places.


At 7:47 PM, Blogger Joshua O said...

Good observation on how much technology has evolved since the article was orignally written, Marie. In the past ten years it has become possible to give a computer or software application a mind and personality of its own.

I would like to read a follow-up article from the authors that provided research on the effectiveness of customizing the personality of a computer platform or layout to the user's specifications. Would they be more productive using a sympathetic computer? If so you may be able to customize a Wiki's design and possibly content to a user's login. User's would collaborate with each other as they share ideas and information and may eventually feel like the Wiki has taken on a personality of it's own.


At 12:43 AM, Blogger Julie Romey said...

Marie - I agree with you that their research seemed a bit shaky, but it was such an interesting idea.

I can't help but wonder what the results would be with today's technology. I also wonder if there is a difference between the reactions of young children, teenagers and adults. Would it be possible to try a mini-version of this experiment in our classrooms?

At 4:20 PM, Blogger M. Yates said...

I hadn't realized that this article was ten years old either.

You are right in saying that some of the technologies (wikis, blogs) reflect reality well. These items recreate in-person collaborative settings. Here true discussion and interaction are really taking place. Personality is definitely involved here.

I have to say that I think we (humans) actually like to personalize the items around us. Who didn't love and relate to the "Brave Little Toaster" ? I also think of Disney movies like "The Lion King" or "Bambi" I think we like to surround ourselves with people or things we know and can identify with. This is for some reason comforting to the human mind. The media equation is just another way of doing this.


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