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Saturday, November 5, 2011

EME5054 Book Review Podcast

Please note that I tried to upload the podcast to Podomatic but I was having HTML issues so I hope this video upload works!
Angelica Rossi
University of Florida
Professor Dawson
Podcast Transcript

Hello and welcome to my book review podcast.  My name is Angelica Rossi and I am a graduate student of Educational Technology at the University of Florida. Today I will be reviewing Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass' The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places.

The authors of the Media Equation are impressive academics, researchers and writers. Byron Reeves is a professor of Communication at Stanford University.  Besides teaching, Reeves is the co-founder and co-director of H-STAR, the Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute and its industrial affiliate program, Media X. Reeves is an expert on the psychological processing of media in the areas of attention, emotions, learning, and physiological responses.

Clifford Nass holds Ph.D. of sociology from Princeton University. He founded and directs CHIME Lab, the Communication between Humans and Interactive Media Lab, which focuses research of automobile interfaces, mobile interfaces, human-robot interaction and several other social-psychological aspects of human-interactive media interaction. Nass is also the author of over 125 papers on the psychology of technology and statistical methodology.

Nass and Reeves, began work on the Media Equation in 1986 while both working at Stanford University.  At the time, Reeves was a professor researching television and film; while Nass was interested in responses to computers. Back then they thought that their two research topics had nothing in common but the more they discussed their work the more closely related they believed computers and television to be.

The Media Equation seeks to answer the questions:
·      Can people confuse media with real life?
·      And do we interact with media, computers, television, films, and various other forms of media the same way that we do with other human beings? 

The Media Equation comes from a research project called Responses to Communication Technologies.  The authors believe that their research shows that individuals’ interactions with computers, television, and new media are fundamentally social and natural, just like interactions in real life.

The experiments use the same methods that psychologists use to determine how people respond to each other in the physical world.  The authors picked social science findings on how people respond to each other or natural environment.  Then they identified the social or natural rule within the report. Such as, “People like to be praised by other people even if it undeserved." They then cross out the word person or environment in the study and substitute with the word media. “People like to be praised by media even if it is undeserved.” The researchers would then reconstruct the experiment to test their new rule using a human/media interaction rather than human/human interaction. 

Evidence of the media equation is found in the 35 experiments that make up this book.  The authors tested the human media interactions across many phenomena such as: politeness, interpersonal distance, flattery, judging others and ourselves, personality of character, interfaces, imitating personality, negativity, arousal, good versus bad, and media as several social roles and forms.

The authors arrived at 8 conclusions based off of their extensive research:
1.   Everyone responds to media socially and naturally. 
2.   Different forms of media are actually very similar in the human responses they elicit.
3.   The media equation is automatic and unconscious.
4.   The media equation encompasses many different responses passive and overt, all very broad and deep.
5.   Perceptions derived from media are far more influential than the truth.  This may mean that the smart-phone in my hand doesn’t have to be smart really; we just have to think it is.
6.   People respond to what is present and what they can see.  They do not pay attention to the complicated stories about who created or sent the message.
7.   People like simplicity within media.  The easier to use; the more freedom from endless confusing choices we have. 
8.   Social and natural media is easier to digest and use. 

Whether we are an expert or novice of media, the media equation is inescapable.  Our subconscious reactions are in a sense being used against us to elicit desired responses. So often we are told that media are tools rather than the actual players in real life.  However, media has evolved to capitalize on fundamental human responses. We can benefit from understanding and acknowledging the media equation.  This theory can help improve the design of media as well as help outsiders become better evaluators of media. 

I am giving this book a 3 out of 5 stars because while the topic is interesting, the information is presented in an uninteresting way. 

In their defense, the authors use many relatable examples and conversational speech patterns that the reader can identify with. The amount of psychological studies that the authors undertook is quite amazing yet very overwhelming for the reader.

I also thought that the title is deceiving.  I thought it would be about how humans project their feelings and attachments onto their technology but this was not the case.  I feel that Reeves and Nass told us things that most people may already know but are just afraid to accept when it comes to media.

This book would be most useful for those who design technology, software, or are in the graphic design and film industries.  People who shape our perceptions and experiences with media would be able to use this information.  Overall, the book was a decent read but it just wasn’t for me.

Nass, C. & Reeves, B. (1996). The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places. CSLI Publications: Stanford, CA.

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