|B Y N A N C Y A L L I S O N|
|Are you polite to your computer? Are you careful not to hurt its feelings?No?That’s what you think! By the time you finish this book, you may think differently. In addition, you may reconsider the appropriateness of minimalist design philosophy for online communication. The authors examine how human beings respond to such qualities in media as politeness, flattery, negativity, arousal, gender, voice, image size, and motion. Test participants often included sophisticated computer professionals, so results were not the product of naivete. As a result of their studies, the authors posit the media equation: “People’s responses to media are fundamentally social and natural.” (page 251) In other words, people respond to computers, TV, and other media just as they respond to people and events in the natural world.|
|The social response||The authors demonstrate that people respond positively to flattery from their computers. They also try not to hurt their computers’ feelings (when asked to evaluate their computers’ performance).|
|The natural response||People respond to events on a computer screen just as they do to events in the real world. For example, people pay closer attention to peripheral motion onscreen than they do to motion that is visually centered. “The evolutionary significance of this is easy to see,” the authors state. “Motion that we aren’t directly looking at (motion to our sides) is potentially more harmful than motion that we stare at.” (page 225)|
|Implications for technical communicators||Implications for Technical Communicators The authors say that “social science research doesn’t just diagnose the characteristics of media; it can also provide direct guidance on how to create media.” (page 96) So, does it seem too goofy for words to write flattery into your help system? How about creating a scapegoat character to deliver error messages and other bad news, so that users will direct their anger at the scapegoat, not at the product! What if usability studies show that these design changes increase user satisfaction and task completion?After you read this book, you may find yourself seriously considering such design elements.|
Home » BOOK REVIEW: The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places By Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass. Cambridge University Press, 1996.