The Media Equation

Overview

According to popular wisdom, humans never relate to a computer or a television program in the same way they relate to another human being. Or do they? The psychological and sociological complexities of the relationship could be greater than you think. In an extraordinary revision of received wisdom, Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass demonstrate convincingly in The Media Equation that interactions with computers, television, and new communication technologies are identical to real social relationships and to the ...

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Overview

According to popular wisdom, humans never relate to a computer or a television program in the same way they relate to another human being. Or do they? The psychological and sociological complexities of the relationship could be greater than you think. In an extraordinary revision of received wisdom, Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass demonstrate convincingly in The Media Equation that interactions with computers, television, and new communication technologies are identical to real social relationships and to the navigation of real physical spaces. Using everyday language, the authors explain their novel ideas in a way that will engage general readers with an interest in cutting-edge research at the intersection of psychology, communication and computer technology. The result is an accessible summary of exciting ideas for modern times. As Bill Gates says, '(they) … have shown us some amazing things'.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fresh evidence of human gullibility never fails to entertain. Stanford professors Reeves and Nass provide plenty of cocktail-party ammunition with findings from 35 laboratory experiments demonstrating how even technologically sophisticated people treat boxes of circuitry as if they were other human beings. People are polite to computers, respond to praise from them and view them as teammates. They like computers with personalities similar to their own, find masculine-sounding computers extroverted, driven and intelligent while they judge feminine-sounding computers knowledgeable about love and relationships. Viewers rate content on a TV embellished with the label "specialist" superior to identical content on a TV labeled "generalist" (they even found the picture clearer on the "specialist" box). Reeves and Nass, who combine expertise in fine arts, communications, math, sociology, television and computers, were consultants to the world's foremost software corporation on the creation of the Microsoft Bob software package. Not surprisingly, their breezy tone and emphasis on the benign practical applications of their discoveries give their discussion an optimistic bias. Why not make media easier to use and more fun? Yet, their more important contribution may lie in alerting us to specific media dangers. The evidence of our suggestibility offers particularly powerful new arguments for monitoring children's television. And if the mere number of rapid-fire visual cuts in political advertisements really correlates with an impression of honesty, intelligence and sincerity, the more viewers who are put on guard, the better. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Reeves and Nass (Ctr. for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford Univ.) have written a fascinating book on how humans interact with computers and other media. Their media equation, "media=real life," means that people respond to the mediated world and the real world in the same fundamentally social and natural way. The authors explain that since the human brain has not evolved to respond to 20th-century technology, it processes media as if they were real life. To prove their equation, the authors combed through existing social science and psychology experiments that tested person-to-person responses in social interactions but changed the experiments to test person-to-computer interaction. In all cases, the results supported the media equation, demonstrating that people interact with media just as they interact with other humans. Maintaining a jargon-free, readable style, the authors share their obvious enjoyment of the humorous situations that often arose during the experiments. In their conclusion, they call on engineers to heed this media equation and improve the design of computers for more effective human-to-media interaction. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries.Ann Babits Grice, East Brunswick P.L., N.J.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781575860527
  • Publisher: C S L I Publications/Center for the Study of Language & Information
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Series: Lecture Notes
  • Pages: 317
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
1 The Media Equation 3
2 Politeness 19
3 Interpersonal Distance 37
4 Flattery 53
5 Judging Others and Ourselves 65
6 Personality of Characters 75
7 Personality of Interfaces 89
8 Imitating Personality 101
9 Good versus Bad 111
10 Negativity 119
11 Arousal 131
12 Specialists 143
13 Teammates 153
14 Gender 161
15 Voices 171
16 Source Orientation 181
17 Image Size 193
18 Fidelity 203
19 Synchrony 211
20 Motion 219
21 Scene Changes 227
22 Subliminal Images 241
23 Conclusions about the Media Equation 251
Chapter References 259
Author Index 299
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