Monday, April 12, 2010

New Media Research Proposal

Purpose of Research

At what point do our uses of a medium start slipping out of our control, and which psychological factors (or needs) lead it to do such? I propose that "slipping out of our control" includes actually compulsive behaviors, in addition to things we simply know we should not do but do anyhow. "Blind" behaviors may be taken into consideration as well, however that may be beyond the scope of this research. It is possible to argue that when we find a use for a medium that has such an impact on us, the true power and potential of that medium has been discovered.

I am conducting this research because it seems that the way we use a medium is not always within our own logical control. This research is aimed to support looking at new media from the perspective of technological determination, and is against Williams theory that "there is nothing inherent in a medium that dictates how we will use it" (Lister et al., ch 1.4.2). The idea that there are psychological factors that dictate the way we use a medium indicates that once the medium is created, it is only a matter of realizing the best way to fulfill these psychological factors before we discover the inherent purpose of the medium. The illogical aspects of its use further emphasize the power of discovering this inherent nature, and the absence of our own ability to determine how we will use a medium ourselves.

Specifically, this research is aimed at advocating for two points: One, that there is something inherent in the medium that dictates the way we use it, and two, that in many ways once this inherent use is discovered we start to lose control over our own usage of the medium.

Many things can be accomplished by this research. It can help us to prevent compulsive and self-destructive uses of a new medium, to predict the uses of a new medium, and to find ways to use the power behind these driving psychological factors in a productive manor.

Some questions that may be helpful to think about in this discussion and research are:

  • The basic question of the most popular uses of new media? What are trends among these uses? Which of these uses do we see as ourselves using counter productively, or without control?
    • Are there societal differences in these things? If so how extensive.
    • What is it about these uses that make them problematic, or take away our control?
    • How does the medium itself promote these uses?
    • How does the medium itself transform these uses (an essential question in this debate).
    • How content specific are these uses?
  • Are there historical ties to these uses? If yes, were these historical ties as consuming or counter productive? Why or why not?
  • Gossip, social hierarchy, attention and Facebook
    • Porn and ancient art
    • Drugs/alcohol
      • Legality and censorship
    • Fascination with the new and novel
  • Social factors which influence addictive use
    • How do people make money off of these behaviors? Is greed the ultimate enabler of these activities?
    • Would these activities be as consuming if we had less time on our hands?
  • How we can take control back? How does taking control back fit in with technological determinism?

Answering these questions also helps to tie the research back to the theories that this research is aimed at supporting.

Opening Statement

Chapter 1.6 of New Media: A Critical Introduction, Lister et al. invite us to ask if technology actually has the power to change us in itself. This question is based in the philosophies of two of the most influential writers on new media, Marshall McLuhan, who said that big cultural shifts can come about through new media technologies, and Raymond Williams, who said that we are the ones who decide how we use the medium, and thus create this change (Lister et al., ch 1.6).

In general, Williams' perspective is important in that it invites us to investigate why we use the medium as we do, however it seems to imply that we are in total control over its use. If Williams was right, a medium's use and effects on us would only lie within a fairly logical model, however that does not seem to be the case. Through this research, I hope to find that there are very basic psychological, often illogical, tendencies that we have which dictate how we use a new technology, and that the pull towards these tendencies is so powerful that we will accept or welcome most of the change that comes with acting them out through a new medium. This argument, while it uses Williams' theory in its analysis, leans away from it in emphasizing that in in a way there is something inherent in the way that we use the medium and thus the medium does have the potential to change us.

While there are many intelligent people shaping new media, I am focusing on on the mindless consumers of new media, since I believe that this research will prove that they have a very large role in the end uses for new media. Ultimately, I do believe that the responsibility for how a medium is used lies in our hands, however I believe that it is a mistake to talk about how we impact new media without having humility and understanding where our own cognitive control starts to slip away.

Expected Outcomes

I am expecting to see that people are capable of using new media in ways similar to drugs, alcohol, and other compulsive and/or self destructive behaviors. I am also expecting to be able to generate a list of specific factors that contribute to these types of uses, and that these use have exhibited themselves in similar ways and to different extents throughout history. I also am expecting to be able to illustrate how these findings help to validate the purpose in examining new media from the perspective of technological determinism by illustrating that there is something inherent in a medium that dictates how we will use it.

Summary of Internet Sources

Carbonell, Xavier, et al. "A bibliometric analysis of the scientific literature on Internet, video games, and cell phone addiction." Journal of the Medical Library Association 97.2 (2009): 102-107. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 10 Apr. 2010.

O'Keefe, Alice. "Goodbye telly, hello boredom." New Statesman 135.4789 (2006): 15. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2010.

Horvath, Cary W. "Measuring Television Addiction." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 48.3 (2004): 378-398. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2010.

Schell, Jesse. "Design Outside the Box." DICE 2010. Lecture. Web. 11 Apr. 2010 from

McGonigal, Jane. "Gaming can make a better world." TED Conference. Feb. 2010. Lecture. TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. TED, March 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2010.

Paskowski, Marianne. "CONFESSIONS OF A '24' JUNKIE." Television Week 29 May 2006: 8. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2010.

Sources Cited

Lister, et al. New Media: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

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