July 5, 2015
Does cultivation theory expand beyond television and violence? Choose 2-3 websites, digital platforms, digital technologies or media, etc. Then, using concepts from Cultivation theory, explain how these platforms do or do not change the reality experienced by their users over time. How might the major tenet from Baran and Davis (2014) discussed in lecture apply? Be specific and offer examples where possible.
Within the cultivation theory, I think the two websites, platforms or technologies that have the potential to change a user’s experience over time are Facebook as a web site and smartphones as a platform.
First, looking at Facebook, the penetration of the site’s users within a population has already been established, but the platform overall lends itself to creating an environment that can shape or conform its participants based on the participants’ actions directly. The environment of “friending” people you know therefore implies an indirect non-friending of people/individuals with which a user does not want to connect. Additionally, the artificial positive self-assuring action of “liking” posts, shares, and other content both immediately provides a self-gratification experience for the user, but also triggers the website’s algorithms on what to display to you next.
A recent experiment by Mat Honan from Wired magazine, where for two days he liked everything he saw on Facebook, even if he hated it, had profound results. As his experiment continued, the nature of the content that was served or delivered shifted based on what he “liked.” Based on the major tenet, if a typical user fell within this algorithm, it’s likely the environment, messaging, and therefore the site itself evolves or morphs to the individual user based on their behavior and interactions, thereby creating the reality around the user, regardless of its accuracy.
The second platform that may fall within the cultivation theory is smartphones. A recent Pew Research Center study found that nearly two-thirds of homes in the United States have a smartphone, up from 35 percent in four years. This growth rate has rivaled that of overall broadband access, with the survey indicating that 10 percent of Americans have a smartphone but don’t have broadband internet access at home.
This platform differs from general internet usage in that smartphones allow for even greater environmental control through user-downloaded apps and custom programs. With more nearly 1.5 million smartphone apps for each of the two major platforms, the ability for users to create an experience unique to them on their device, with content generated or curated through these quick one-touch, interactive programs, has the potential of creating a self-serving artificial reality for the user, positive or negative, especially if that source of information is limited only to their mobile device beyond any other traditional media.
What’s interesting is the potential amalgamation of the two examples above into one artificial reality. My colleagues and friends have noted that the same user’s Facebook account can have three different experiences; one from the website, a second from a tablet, and a third on smartphone, each curating the content not just on the user, but the user’s unique behavior by device and access. Without knowing the details of how many users cross device or platform, it’s unclear as to if these separate experiences could diminish the artificial reality by making it more obvious and transparent, or if the majority of users stick with one experience and therefore one “universe.”
Cultivation Theory, MMC6400, Web Theory,