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am 7. Juli 2000
This fatally-flawed book is boundless in it's overgeneralizations and poor research designs. The authors refer constantly to a "growing body of research" on the topic of social interaction with media, when in fact they are only quoting themselves in previous publications.
They have presupposed the "equation" they purport to have discovered, and designed their experiments to try and uncover it. This book chronicles the worst example I have ever seen of what happens when you set up a scientific experiment to try and show what you want to find, rather than to collect unbiased data and then scour the results and draw your conclusions after the fact.
Reeves and Nass expect to find the Media Equation beneath every stone, and consequently they do. The experiments themselves, to anyone with a background in legitimate science, are a casebook of poor design. They ignore intervening variables, intercoder reliability, and representative sampling. They lean heavily on self-selected and forced participants, subjectively worded and loaded questions, and performing statistical tests on non-numerical data (what is the mean of "rarely" and "often"...? Reeves and Nass will base their results on it).
In many cases, they contradict their own results from earlier points in the book, when it suits the experiment at hand. Other times, it seems they will ascribe every reaction to the media equation, regardless of how preposterous it seems. Case in point: People remember a face on a t.v. screen better when it is a close up than when it is a long distance shot. No kidding -- but Reeves and Nass chalk this up to a "social reaction" to the face. I know quite a few information theorists *and regular people on the street* who will tell you they remember a close-up better simply because there is more detail to see. Reeves and Nass don't even recognize the possibility.
But worst of all is the grandstanding, overhyped supergeneralization of the results. None of these so-called experiments has any external validity (many are not even internally consistent), yet the authors' claims extend into every field, in every walk of life. The Media Equation, they believe, is the root cause of just about everything.
This is Bad Science. At It's Worst.
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am 28. Februar 1997
Anyone working in "new media" (writers, political consultants, market research, advertising, software designers, tv and movie makers, webmasters, cinematographers, etc.), not aware of how our "old," hunter-gatherer brains interpret the modern world, isn't working with a full tool box.

Authors Reeves and Nass show, through their experiments, that people (including programmers and many others intimately familiar with how media works) cannot disengage hard-wired caveman brains when working with software, playing a game, watching an ad, or seeing a movie. If we could, then why did that horror movie make our hearts race? And why did it make us jumpy afterwards?

So how do we treat computers like people? Here's one example from the book. In human interaction, one is likely to politely agree (a/k/a fib a little) with an acquaintance who says, "Isn't this a great sweater?" One also tends to be more honest discussing the sweater with a third party, "That sweater isn't my favorite color."

If people do treat computers like humans, then (substituting computers for people in the example), a person would agree with Computer A (out of politeness!), but tell Computer B the truth. And that's what happened in the authors' test lab.

People were quizzed by Computer A (programmed to perform poorly), "Aren't I doing a great job?" -- and they gave Computer A high marks. Then, in another room, Computer B asked about Computer A's performance... and people rated Computer A more honestly (and consistantly lower than they rated Computer A "to its face.") The pattern of response to the computers matched the way people interact with each other.

In example after example, covering many, many areas of human behavior (from politeness to flight-or-flight and even to how little it takes for us to perceive something as male or female and how that colors our thoughts), Reeves and Nash show us how our old brains are responding to our high-tech world .

The ideas in this book should provoke discussion, controversy, and more study. But, those in media need to adjust to the reality that if you want to talk to the 21st century human -- you better learn, first, how to appeal to the caveman. <P
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am 25. März 2000
This book presents a series of social psychology experiments which demonstrate that in almost all respects people treat media representations of people and places like the real thing. The rules and social cues which apply to interactions with other people subconsciously apply to interactions with a face on a screen, or a computer interface, or a disembodied voice. People interacting with a computer which praises them for their performance on a quiz will attribute the same characteristics to the computer as they would to a person who praises - the computer will be seen as more competent and its feedback will be more valued. Social attribution can even occur with an interface as technologically unsophisticated as text on a screen. Why we act this way can be explained by our brain's evolutionary past - during the evolution of the brain all entities which looked or behaved like people were exactly that, there were no artificial representations. Representations in media are therefore interpreted naturally, that is, as they would appear in the world. So while our conscious minds are sophisticated enough to tell the difference and may deny interacting in a social manner with media, our old subconscious does not make the distinction.
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am 16. November 1999
Reeves and Nass worked out well a previously less studied connection btw. pc's and other audio-visual media vs. humans. Equating the term "social" to computers paves the way to further understanding of ever graphically evolving interfaces.
In my opinion, one of their most unexpected investigation was that a perfect audio overrided the effect of an ordinary or even low-quality video...
Also the "self/other praising" stuff was intriguing. The unconscious perception of male vs. female voice deserves more worked examples as well as for "source orientation" ,"motion" and "subliminal images".
Everything is pretty well organized but through reading, I have been a little disappointed of early short-cutting of almost every chapter and controlled experiments are told with minimal technical detail. Also synthesis based on investigations would have required more insight. I appreciate that this volume aims a broad range of readers with little special background but the text "as is", seems a little way "dryed-out" of taste. Its readers deserve more, I think.
Anyway.... great work !
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am 13. August 1998
The authors explain their hypothesis that people tend to treat computers, television and new media like they would human beings, and that people react to media-based presentations as if they were real-life situations -- even when people consciously realize this is not the case. It's a really interesting premise and the authors do an excellent job explaining their ideas.
The only reason I didn't give this work 5 stars is that the authors do not provide enough data on the results of their experiments. They frequently mention "significant" results, but they do not offer the results themselves for the reader to decide just how significant those results may be. This book is clearly written for a large audience, most of whom probably prefer to have the authors offer an interpretation without padding the work with lots of charts and tables. I would have liked a footnote or two with the actual experiment data, but regardless it's an excellent and intriguing read.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in interface design or media studies.
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am 29. Juni 1998
Communicationswith the computer are becoming more and more human-like. Giving a computer a feminine voice affects how we respond to the computer's output to us.
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am 19. November 1998
Thsi book is the basis for the communication department at stanford university. it is a very easy read and a worthwhile read
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am 7. Februar 2000
Anyone who has anything to do with the design of computer software should read this book. It's interesting, easy to read, and WOW will it change the way you design your UI!
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