The Media Equation By Byron Reeves

Amazing! Alternate history People know computers are not social beings, and say they know. Still, experiments show they treat computers (and other media like movies) as if they were real social beings. This book does a good job of describing their hypotheses clearly (e.g., People will believe that they did better on a task when they are flattered by a computer than when the computer doesn't give any evaluation.), and the experiments they conducted to test the hypotheses. Alternate history Potentially more useful to the proverbial Martian anthropologist, the interesting bits of this study were found among unfortunately increasingly dull case studies. Nevertheless this is an important topic and the authors explore it fairly comprehensively. Alternate history



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'. The Media Equation

To be honest, comparing the inanimate media to humans in terms of psychology and social interactions may not be the most interesting topic to read about. What makes this book a real treat however is the clear structure and the comprehensive, methodical and analytical style in which the experiments and conclusions thereof are presented. Alternate history This marvelous little academic book describes the results of studies the authors did that determined -- wait for it -- that people treat computers, TV and other electronic media as if they were human. In other words, we're polite to computers when we address them directly, and less polite when we're talking about them behind their backs. The whole idea seems obvious when you think about it for more than 5 minutes, but I'm sure it didn't when the authors set out to study the matter, and anyway the studies tell you how and why. And it is interesting. But I think the material could have filled one very respectable article in, say, Psychology Today. Nonetheless, this is a seminal work in our understanding of how we related to machines, and illuminates (without directly addressing it) a larger issue of how our brains work: we attach emotions to memories (images) in our brains in order to remember things. The stronger the emotions, the stronger the memory. So it's not really that we're personalizing TVs; rather, we emotionalize everything. This insights comes thanks to recent brain research -- after this book was written -- so the authors can't be blamed for only getting a piece of the picture. The larger point (that we emotionalize everything) has a thousand implications for all sorts of fields and common-sense misconceptions, such as testimony in law, education, politics, and so on, but most of the implications are so surprising that experts in those fields have so far resisted bringing them into their thinking. Alternate history Very nice book that shows we treat media and computer interfaces as real people. That we do this automatically even if we know it is fiction. Alternate history Interesting information. Presented in a ponderous, academic style that puts the answer last. Alternate history The concept of this book is a simple question: Media = Reality? As the title describes, these researchers set out to examine whether computers, televisions, and other media follow the same social and natural rules as humans. The findings were interesting, such as how a masculine voice from a computer is responded to in the same way as a masculine voice coming from a human, or how people respond to visual stimuli on a computer screen similarly to if the object were really present.

When I had this book recommended to me, my friend told me to read the introduction and just skip around to the chapters that I thought would be interesting. Unfortunately, I'm incapable of starting a book without reading cover to cover. I would give the same advice my friend gave me, as that would keep the book interesting without seeming repetitive or drawn out. That said, it has an interesting premise and some great insights not only about media, but social constructs as well. Alternate history