Media Theory for the 21st Century

January 29, 2008

Avatars, Fish, & Behavior

Filed under: Discussion — reneehudson @ 6:06 am

In this month’s Stanford Magazine, I came across the article “Seeing is Believing,” which explores the work of Jeremy Bailenson, an assistant professor of communication at Stanford. His current project deals with investigating the ways in which behaviors exhibited by people in virtual reality influence their real life behaviors. For instance, people who watch their avatars exercise tend to be more active than people who watch another person’s avatar exercise (52). These findings demonstrate that not only does virtual reality affect (at least short-term) one’s actions, but it can also be used as a tool to influence or change one’s behavior.

This topic seems related to our earlier discussion (which I hope we’ll continue to develop) on how the shift from print to digital culture will influence brain development. While we previously seemed to focus on the influence this would have on children, I think we should also think about how our digital experiences modify our behaviors as adults since changes in behavior will undoubtedly lead to changes in the brain (see Professor Fernald’s work on H. Burtoni fish, if you want a more in depth analysis of how behavior influences the brain). Bailenson does emphasize in the article that so far his group of researchers is only looking at short-term effects, but the implication is that there are potentially long-term ones as well. I realize that the issues I am raising do not correspond with our reading for this week, but I believe it’s an issue that we should continue to think about.

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