Human Behavior and Media

Media – n. (1) : a channel or system of communication, information, or entertainment   (2)  : a surrounding or enveloping substance

My background is in the study behavior.  Once called behavior modification, the field is now generally referred to as Behavior Analysis, mostly for PR reasons. (I assume the name will change again when it becomes clear people don’t like being analyzed any more than they like being modified).  Behavior analysis tries understand how external forces (our environment) influence actions. The field prides itself on measurable observation, use of empirical data and training pigeons for battle.

The Pigeon Bomb, one of the greatest achievements by Behaviorists

The Pigeon Bomb, one of the greatest achievements by Behaviorists

Behavior Analysis has done little to understand what role the media, an enormous part of our environment, plays in our behavior as a species or as individuals.  I think this should be rectified.

As you can see from the definition above, media can cover a broad area and lends itself to a variety of interpretations.  Could a cave painting from 36,000 years ago be considered a form of media?

Message? Doodle? Status Update?

Message? Doodle? Status Update?

Personally, I believe it is.  Even if it was not conceived to communicate, it became a form of communication.  People placed messages on walls, pottery, fabric and many other media, leading to the use of paper and the creation of books.  For a very long time, all of these forms of communication were individually unique and had to be sought out.

There is no doubt to me the ability to communicate is the greatest asset of mankind.  Passing information from one person to another; from one continent to another; from one generation to another has allowed unimaginable progress.  It took 36,000 years to progress from cave paintings to printing press,

In 1450 Johannes Gutenberg made his first tweet.

In 1450 Johannes Gutenberg made his first tweet.

but only 600 years to go from the printing press to the iPhone. What has motivated mankind to progress so rapidly with in this area?  That’s what I would like to better understand.

Media, once limited to static words and images on objects, has transformed into a moving, talking, dynamic collective consciousness.  We are able to carry a museum worth of images and information on a device available 24 hours a day.

A key to omniscience, omnipresence and Angry Birds

A key to omniscience, omnipresence and Angry Birds

Media now surrounds us; enveloping us in a bubble that influences what we think and how we act.  It informs us and entertains us.  It can show us the best way to work in current traffic conditions and let us travel to a galaxy far, far away in the span of a few minutes.  What can be delivered to us has changed not only in the last 10,000 but in the last 5 years.

What, no Xbox?

What, no Xbox?

The evolution of media greatly intrigues me.  How has media affected our behavior?  How have we affected how media is made and delivered?  Was the cave painter motivated by the same need to express him/herself that influences people to post videos on Youtube?  I think it can be argued, “Yes, the same need for attention through self-expression and attention was the motivational force.” I hope to better understand the relationship between our modern environment and our behavior.

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