14.0357 impact of new media on social life

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 10/15/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 357.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
             Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000 10:47:14 +0100
             From: "Charles Ess" <sophia42@earthlink.net>
             Subject: re. Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 350
    Dear Willard:
    As I try to catch up on my Humanist mail after an _exceptionally_ busy
    eight weeks, I ran across your comment:
    Concerning the issue of online vs face-to-face, I thought that Sherry
    Turkle among others had shown that there was little or no evidence to
    support the claim for a causal relationship between use of the electronic
    medium and isolation of individual users. (Contrary scholarship, if you
    know of any, please!)
    Well, are you recalling both the Carnegie Mellon study of a couple of years
    ago, and the more recent one from Stanford - both of which find an inverse
    proportion between time spent on-line and social isolation?  Or do you mean
    that Turkle has effectively refuted these - including the most recent
    Stanford - claims?
    Perhaps relatedly - one of the more interesting insights I gleaned from
    CATaC 2000 was drawn from the keynote address by Duane Varan, a media
    scholar who researched the impacts of TV as introduced among the Cook
    Islanders.  Varan uses four mechanisms of erosion in geology as analogues
    suggestive of how media may affect societies and cultures. This analysis
    leads to the interesting argument that media research has focused on the
    wrong aspects of culture, namely, those core elements of culture most
    likely to resist "abrasion" - defined as the conflict between foreign
    values and local values - and thus least likely to change.  Media impacts
    are greatest, he argues, as agents of *displacement* - a more indirect form
    of cultural change that occurs as new media displace elements _not_
    actively reinforced and consolidated by the culture.  So, for example, the
    impact of TV is greatest not as, say, the Simpsons may threaten to
    encourage anti-social behaviors (which it apparently does not) - but rather
    as TV displaces other cultural activities (in the case of Cook Island
    culture, preparations for and participation in communal dance and its
    traditions).  In this way, the culture becomes more vulnerable to erosion.
    (Varan's keynote included material drawn from:  Varan, Duane.1998. The
    Cultural Erosion Metaphor and the Transcultural Impact of Media
    Systems.  Journal of Communication 48 (2): 58-85.)
    Hope this helps!  Let me know if you need the references for the CMU and
    Stanford studies (although you can almost certainly find them easily enough
    on the Web, of course, if you don't already have them).
    Cheers and best wishes,
    Charles Ess
    Professor and Chair, Philosophy and Religion Department,
    Drury University
    900 N. Benton Ave.                   Voice: 417-873-7230
    Springfield, MO  65802  USA            FAX: 417-873-7435
    Home page:  http://www.drury.edu/Departments/phil-relg/ess.html
    Co-chair, CATaC 2000: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/~sudweeks/catac00/
    "Life is short, and Art long; the crisis fleeting; experience perilous, and
    decision difficult." Hippocrates (460-379 B.C.E.), _Aphorisms_, 1.

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