A Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a way of considering information in order to form an opinion which is based in logic, humility, and research.

Critical thinking lets us decide how we feel about things. It is a practiced set of skills that helps us consider things thoroughly before drawing conclusions about them, and saves us from the assumptions, inferences, and irrational conclusions of anyone who isn’t considering all sides of an argument. Just as we would when forming an argument, we start with our opinion then look into why we think what we do, what others think, why others might think the way they do, and what other questions could possibly be asked about the topic. Then we go about trying to answering those questions (Weston, 2009).

QuestionsCritical thinking takes humility. We have to be willing to honestly consider the possibility that others have valid points, and ultimately be willing to admit that our initial opinion was wrong and adjust accordingly. And, what’s more, we have to be able to either trust that our sources are able to do the same or know how to sift through what in their argument is opinion and what is fact (Browne & Keeley, 2007).

We must either know, or be able to figure out, where to get information. We have to be able to sort through sources, deciding what is reliable and generalizable and what is not (Dowden, 2002; Paul & Elder, 2001; Weston, 2009). We have to understand what our sources are talking about and whether the context fits what we are researching. For example, when John Locke (1689) talks about human understanding, it helps us put his words into context when we know the zeitgeist. Another example is our need to take into consideration the effect that Richard Paul (2001) selling a product has on his discussion of the importance and nature of critical thinking. And when Dr. Dowden (2002) discusses skills needed for critical thinking, is he only targeting those seeking to go to college. Does that change the meaning of the argument for rest of us?

EternalA definition of critical thinking is only the first step in determining whether it is important to us, how to use it, and when to use it; as discussed above, progress requires questions. When researching critical thinking, is it important to know what the end goal is? In other words, does it matter why you want to be able to think critically? Does the definition of critical thinking change when considering media messages as opposed to considering what to eat for lunch? Is there a time when critical thinking becomes unnecessary or overly complicated? Is there a basic formula for critical thinking that can be followed? Does the way in which someone goes about applying critical thinking change the results of their analysis? These questions and more may lead us to making more well-rounded conclusions about critical thinking.

References:

Browne, M. N., & Keeley, S. M. (2007). Asking the right questions: a guide to critical thinking (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Dowden. (2002). A summary of critical thinking skills. Retrieved from: http://www.csus.edu/indiv/d/dowdenb/4/ct-def/ct-skills.htm

Locke, J. (1689). An essay concerning human understanding. In L. Pojman (Ed.), Classics of philosophy (pp 653-689). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001). Modified from the book by Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001). Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life.

Weston, A. (2009). A rulebook for arguments. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub.

*Cartoons can be found at http://faculty.spokanefalls.edu/InetShare/AutoWebs/jimp/Cartoons/arethere.gif and
http://faculty.spokanefalls.edu/InetShare/AutoWebs/jimp/Cartoons/questions.gif respectively*

Advertisements

Define ‘Scholarly’

Chris Nitz Photo: Crushed by Knowledge If we objectively define ‘scholarly’ as “concerned with academic learning and research” (Dictionary.com,  2012), we find ourselves with a vague definition. We may be tempted to immediately think of left-brained academics. However, discrepancies in what must be considered academic may change that definition. If, for example, we define academics as pertaining to sciences or literacy, we end with a very different result than if we define academics as pertaining to any subject which facilitates the further development of a particular skill. Sir Ken Robinson (2006) notes that a major short coming of academics now is that we define academics much like the former, but would be served better to treat it as the latter.

Chris Nitz: A Keyboard Kind of LifeHowever, in writing, the target audience is the one that matters. As such, if you are writing to a group of social scientists, the expectation is that the prescribed protocol will be followed (Polkinghorne, 2007), and so on. In this way then, scholarly writing should be defined more along the lines of writing which facilitates the communication of critical thinking and rhetoric within a given field, using the prescribed masteries of that field. This allows for all subjects regardless of the paradigm currently subscribed to in academia.

References:

Dictionary.com (2012). ‘Scholarly’. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scholarly?s=t

Polkinghorne, D. E. (2007). Qualitative inquiry: validity issues in narrative writing. Qualitative Inquiry13(4), 472.

Robinson, K. (2006, February). Ken robinson says schools kill creativity.. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

RPDR as Transmedia Storytelling

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is a reality television show in which the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul, seeks out the next generation of drag queens who are able to use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to champion the art and its rich history. The intended market for this brand is anyone over the age of 21; their biggest sponsor being Absolut Vodka.

The protagonist in this story is the winner of the drag race. That being said, every competitor undergoes the hero’s journey to one extent or another as they all endure a transformation due to trials within the competition which result in their either winning or being told to “sashay away”. Competitors start by going through a series of trials (i.e., application process, mini challenges, main challenges, and runway walks) designed to test their drag related skills as well as their personal development (e.g., social skills, personal conflicts, etc.). By the end of the competition, regardless of the outcome for the competitor, they have likely learned something about themselves and their skills. However, the only true hero’s journey, based on a real and tangible outcome, resolution, or change that is definitive is the winner of the competition; they have the crown.

The archetype of this story is that of the magician. Competitors learn the art of transformation and are motivated by achievement. There are other archetypes which, in one way or another, are also represented within RPDR (e.g., Jester or Outlaw), but the competition is about transformation in all its forms and masteries within the art of drag.

A variety of media are used to bring the journey of the drag queens, as well as their art, to life for consumers. RPDR itself is the flagship of Logo.tv. All episodes of the competition, as well as a show called Untucked, and one called Drag U, are located on the site/channel. Untucked allows consumers a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the competition; a way to connect more personally with the competitors. Drag U is a spin off which allows women to participate with RPDR competitors to undergo their own version of a hero’s journey using the principles and art of drag. Both Untucked and Drag U allow resonance with the brand, as consumers are able to identify with competitors as well as picture themselves in their shoes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another way in which consumers can see themselves in drag stilettos is through the Dragulator. This is an online application which allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and make themselves up in drag. They can then share the result via a variety of social media sharing options. In addition to the Dragulator, consumers can participate in live chat with competitors and fellow fans during the broadcast via LogoTalk. In addition to discussing the show as it airs, consumers are able to converse with and direct questions to the latest competitor to be eliminated via Elimination Lunch with Michelle Visage, also on LogoTalk. LogoTalk is a convenient way to participate in Twitter conversations which follow the given hashtags during the show, allow for stickers to be gathered on GetGlue (another achievement driven social media). One of the most prominent features of RPDR is the ability for consumers to participate.

While the hub of RPDR remains on Logo.tv, and links to all branches of the transmedia network, Facebook remains a more easily navigated and immersive place for participants to explore. Social media are used heavily within the network. While Facebook is an easy place to share photos, ask questions to promote conversation, and link to other elements within the network, Twitter is used heavily to connect consumers during the shows. Hashtags are given at random times during various segments of the show to promote consist discussion between viewers. Twitter is also used as a way for competitors to connect to their fans and promote their personal performances throughout the country.

Other media are used successfully to immerse consumers as well. An online game called Ru-Dunnit, allows consumers to play a choose-your-own-adventure mystery game with the fierce Michelle Visage as the gumshoe (or “gumstilleto”, as she says in the game). The goal of the game is to determine who stole Sharon Needles’s crown. The game includes product placement by Absolut Vodka, and clothing worn by suspects are consistent with drinks featured in the video. Another example of a game used in the story of the ‘Next drag superstar’ is the Best Friend Race. This is a game hosted by SocialToaster.com which allows for the collection of points which are earned by sharing elements of the network via social media, how many likes and retweets you obtain, and how many of your friends sign up to play the game. This allows those who are achievement driven (consistent with the goals of the Magician archetype) a goal related to the brand with inadvertently further promotes the brand and takes advantage of social networks.

RPDR uses transmedia storytelling to tell a variety of stories about what it’s like to be a drag queen, but also promotes an art form which tends to be, in and of itself, at the forefront of the acceptance of LGBT individuals and culture. By expanding the in-group inherent in RPDR supporters, a social cause is promoted as well.

References:

Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

**The trading cards in the slideshow came from The LogoTV Tumblr page. Thanks guys! Great pics!**

Do the Hustle!: JK [Wedding Dance]

The JK Wedding Dance video is interesting because it challenges our social normatives, much like iconic brands do. Jenkins, Li, Krauskopf, and Green (2009) note that in order for something to be spreadable (clearly, this video is an apt example of spreadable media), it must answer a question for us, speak a truth, make sense of something, or touch us emotionally. This video allows us to experience a ritualistically sober ceremony in a non-traditional way, and allows us to do so safely from the comfort of our own home. It shows us  that something we may have previously considered socially taboo, is actually fun and completely acceptable. It allows collective intelligence to demolish pluralistic ignorance.

Chris BrownBowrey (2011) explains that many cases of copyright infringement and related disputes do not actually have the backing of the law that may be assumed. She notes that most people make assumptions about what is actually enforceable, but notes that trademark and copyright laws (and processes) are meant to cover very specific items and not thematic elements (e.g., characters). Additionally, IP laws change with the culture, and interpretation is done with an eye on the current state of culture and conceptualized future progression. This is similar to idea that the medium is the message (Federman, 2004). IP laws are flexible enough to anticipate legal needs as culture and use norms change. By understanding what is underlying and looking for those issues which are not glaringly obvious, IP law can effectively maintain the freedom and cost-effectiveness of amateur material with the commercial and professional, as suggested and called for by Cunningham (2012).

Sony’s brand relies on the notion that using their products, individuals can create whatever they can imagine (Sony Global, 2013). In the case of Jill and Kevin, they imagined a wedding outside the traditionally accepted social norms. They created an individualized ceremony, using Sony’s product (i.e., the song), because they believed they could, and they made it happen: make.believe.

Sony ElectronicsNot only does Sony have a variety of options for promoting their brand, but it seems to be recognized by many consumers that they already have benefited from the video’s popularity. Deighton and Kronfeld (2012) explain that when the video was at the height of it’s popularity, a number of people challenged the integrity of the video, accusing Sony of creating the video to induce sales and reputation reparations. It stands to reason, then, that the perception is that there was an increase in sales, as well as a shift in the artists popularity, despite his domestic abuse arrest. Rather than focusing on the negativity of the personal experiences of the artist, Sony could instead focus on the phenomenon promoted by the video which encourages a happy and unique marriage. Jill and Kevin donated money made from the video’s unexpected virality to a charity in just such a way (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). Allowing the song to be representative of something more positive is one way for Sony to not only take advantage of the popularity of the song and the video, but also do something socially supportive while profiting in non-direct ways. This is one of the possible actions to be taken as pointed out by Deighton and Kronfeld ( 2012). Were Sony to do something to threaten Jill and Kevin, they risk not only alienating customers who purchased the song for their wedding in the first place (i.e., Jill and Kevin), but those who spread the video, as well as those who identify with and support the charity they support with the proceeds. They also risk lash back such as that exhibited by Lenz when she the Electronic Frontier Foundation about her YouTube video (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). And that is not even taking into account a possibly unfounded complaint which, according to Bowrey (2011), is a very real possibility.

References:

Bowrey, K. (2011). The new intellectual property: Celebrity, fans and the properties of the entertainment franchise. Griffith Law Review, 20(1), 188-220.

Cunningham, S. (2012). Emergent innovation through the coevolution of informal and formal media economies. Television New Media, 13(5), 415-430.

Deighton, J., & Kornfeld, L. (2012). Sony and the JK Wedding Dance. Boston, MA: Harvard Business College.

Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one): Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html

Sony Global. (2013). Sony group brand message “make.believe”. Retrieved from http://www.sony.net/united/makedotbelieve/

Sherpani: Part of Your World

The Little Mermaid (the original Hans Christian Anderson version) is an example of Campbell’s ‘monomyth’ (Vogler, 2007). As archetypes go, it is a story of the Lover as well as the Explorer (Mark & Pearson, 2001). This story speaks to both of these archetypes through the goals of the Little Mermaid; the love of the prince and an eternal soul (and in some analyses of the story, experiencing the unknown). A brand that resonates well with both of these concepts is Sherpani. Sherpani’s brand embraces the concept of “Breathe, Give, Stretch, Go.” The idea behind Sherpani is that women are unique, active, and should be able to have bags that embrace femininity and the outdoors. In their concept, breathe stands for “breathe fresh air”, give means “give your love”, stretch represents “stretch your mind and body”, and go reminds us to “never stop moving”. The Little Mermaid embodies all of these notions.

As such, one might harness the existing story in the form of a text-based novel for the main story anchor medium (Rutledge, 2013). The Little Mermaid could have an online journal (blog) which serves as a diary for collecting her thoughts, contemplations, events/experiences, and perceptions of what is happening. She could also post photos of the prince and links to dances she learns for him. And the Little Mermaid’s blog could allow for comments which could encourage readers to share stories of love, advice on how to interact with surface dwellers, princes, and/or general feedback on posts. This resonates with each of Sherpani’s core words.

The Prince may have an interactive online nautical map, complete with notes on trips, information about ships (e.g., costs, crew lists, photos, checklists for expedition preparations, etc.), information about the sea (from a surface perspective), and may solicit ideas about future trips from readers, as well as their photos, maps, and suggestions for gear. This, while not feminine per say, embraces the core concept of ‘stretch’.

An interactive game could allow readers to attempt to make it through the trial period of a Daughter of the Air to their rise to the eternal kingdom by allowing them to visit houses and collect smiles while avoiding tears. The game could be made as a downloadable mobile app or as an indie game on XBox or PS networks. The game could allow readers to accept the fate of the Little Mermaid as immortal, even after her loss, which assures the safety of the reader (Nell, 2002) regarding the immortality of his/her soul. This embraces, quite literally, Sherpani’s concept of ‘breathe’.

The Little Mermaid could also have an Instagram account on which she takes pictures of the adventures she has with the prince (i.e., exploring the kingdom). She could also have a Twitter account on which she posts observations about the trips, is able to post the Instagram photos, can mention the prince, and allow them to communicate (as she has no tongue). This resonates with Sherpani’s core concept of ‘go’.

The Little Mermaid’s five sisters could have a Vine account which would allow them to discuss hair care, the hottest products, and the latest trends in merfolk fashion as well as connect with surface dwellers (aka readers) and exchange fashion savvy. The fashion account allows the sisters’ sacrifice to be more meaningful, while allowing for immersion which carries on throughout the readers day as decisions about clothing and accessories are made. To this end, the sisters could even create a Postmark account and sell accessories by artists who have partnered up with Sherpani, as a means of supporting a social campaign like The Cove. This also embraces the core concept of ‘give’ in a variety of ways (i.e., giving love but also loving individual uniqueness and styles).

The Little Mermaid, as a fairytale allows readers to experience a roller-coaster of emotions, as she moves through her hero’s journey. Allowing readers to be involved in that journey by harnessing the innate archetypes contained therein, propels this timeless classic into its next evolution, and allows Sherpani the embrace archetypes and the telling of universal truths, an ability exhibited by icons (Mark & Pearson, 2001).

References:

Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

Nell, V. (2002). Mythic Structures in Narrative. In M. C. Green, J. J. Strange & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations (pp. 17-37). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum

Rutledge, P. (2013). Case study example: The three little pigs. Retrieved from: http://athinklab.com/transmedia-storytelling/case-study-example-the-three-little-pigs/

Vogler, Christopher. (2007). The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Third ed.). Chelsea, MI: Sheridan Books. p. 3-27.

Mountain Dew: Iconic Brand

PEPSICO HOW WE DEW CAMPAIGNIn gaming, before the energy drinks (Redbull, Jolt, etc.) came out, gamers seemed to reach for one drink above the rest to survive long gaming sessions. Even then, Mountain Dew was promoting a life of being who you are, being an unique, and taking it all the way. Brands, such as Mountain Dew, define who they are through the stories they tell (Fog, Budtz, Yakaboylu, (2005). Their new promotion, “This is how we Dew”, carries on that story using a creative collection of flavors (some solicited by fans), energetic images on their labels, and unusual colored drinks in see through bottles. Nowadays, Mountain Dew perpetuates that brand by telling the stories of a handful of x-sport athletes and musicians (Mountain Dew curates independent artists who represent the essence of their brand, Green Label Sound) “striving to “do how they Dew” with the help of Mountain Dew. Videos showing off collaborations, videos of the artists promoting the brand concept, a host of social media sites (including Twitter and Facebook) populated with contests, immediate acknowledgment of customer feedback and help where necessary, Instagram photos of the products in a variety of situations (e.g., with skateboards or video game controllers), and an interactive site that acts as the hub for all of the elements of the brand and is as unique and fun as the people Mountain Dew promotes.

avatars-000007909874-xmyrry-cropHolt (2004) notes that there are four steps to building an iconic brand. First, he mentions targeting a social tension; something that creates dissonance within a community. Second, the brand acts in a manner that alleviates that tension by bringing it to light and moving past the issue to solve it. Doing this may take the form of artistic expression, which is the third concept listed. Being a brand that people can look to for guidance or permission for expression allows the brand to stand out from the rest. Finally, the brand must be seen as having integrity. When a group expresses interest in something, or says they care about something, they must care and follow through (2004).

Mountain Dew has done these things by taking hold of the concept of individuality and the assertion that young people can break away from the social norm of desk jobs and more academically inclined careers and be expressive as a way of life. They support artists and athletes, assisting in the building of facilities for the cultivation of these skills, a site to promote music, and allowing these individuals to be part of Mountain Dew’s promotions as well (thereby getting the individuals more exposure). They’ve followed all of the concepts that Holt discusses aptly. Customers can send videos, write poetry, submit photos and create music to perpetuate the brand and discover others with similar interests, and even submit recommendations for new flavors of the soda, thereby co-creating the brand.

References:

Fog, K., Budtz, C., & Yakaboylu, B. (2005). Storytelling: branding in practice. Berlin ; New York: Springer.

Holt, D. B. (2004). How brands become iconic: Principles of cultural branding. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Nice! A Case Study of Transmedia—How “Fringe” Used Spreadable Media by Jason Ohler | Tracking Transmedia

See on Scoop.itComponents of Media Psychology

“When I speak about the Mega Makeovers That Will Change Everything Educational, one of those makeovers is certainly the transmedia phenomenon.
See on www.scoop.it

Argumentation Fuels Learning

Argumentation fuels learning. Weston (2009) states “Argument is essential, in the first place, because it is a way of finding out which views are better than others,” that “… argument is a means of inquiry” (p. xi).

Regardless of topic, the argumentation requires an understanding of the power of words and their structure. Just as Prose (2006) came to understand the value of close reading through an examination of Oedipus Rex, so too can we come to appreciate the richness of specifically chosen words through reading and analysis; learning.

Aggressive-ArgumentationBecause there are those who assume that we will mindlessly follow them and their causes, we must be adept in weighing empirical evidence, analyzing analogies, and considering reputability. In order to do this, we must develop and maintain the ability to research topics and understand principles of rhetoric. It behooves us to dive into the meaning of the words used, beyond the celebrity of the speaker, and consider every angle of that which we are exposed to.

Whether crafting a response to a political platform, commenting on the value of a product, or encouraging the patronage of a local business, the words we choose are compelling when used properly. Global activism thrives on powerful communication taking a variety of forms, but starting with purposeful words (de Jong, Shaw, & Stammers, 2005). It is up to those of us who are apt to share information and challenge assumptions, choosing our words carefully, and presenting a comprehensive examination of our view.

Weston (2009) says “Real argument… takes time and practice. Marshaling our reasons, proportioning our conclusion to the actual evidence, considering objections- and all the rest- these are acquired skills” (p. xii). Arguing requires learning.

References:

de Jong, W. de, Shaw, M., & Stammers, N. (2005). Global activism, global media. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.
Prose, F. (2006). Reading like a writer : a guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Weston, A. (2009). A rulebook for arguments. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub.

Monster High: Transmedia Education

Whole_monster_high_crewIndividuals learn in a variety of ways (Felder & Spurlin, 2005). One method for educating is storytelling. Storytelling is a way of communicating and processing events and information; taking away the lessons that life has to offer (McKee, 1997). Understanding that people learn in a variety of ways, and that storytelling is tradition of humankind, it makes sense to tell stories using a variety of media. Hence, transmedia storytelling (Jenkins, 2007).

An example of how transmedia storytelling can teach children is Monster High. Monster High began as a web series; short 3 minute videos which tell the story of a group of students in high school. The catch is that they are all the children of famous monsters (e.g., Dracula, the werewolf, zombies, the Mummy, etc.). From there, Mattel created dolls, games on both computer and DS, art projects on their website, teen paranormal novels, kits to create your own dolls, a wiki, and a whole host of other media telling different parts of the Monster High story. Tim Kring (2008) notes that transmedia includes a central world (he calls in the ‘mothership’) from which all other media branch and to which all other media reconnect. Part of the educational aspects inherent in Monster High come not only from the facilitation of media literacy development, but from the history which is included in the creation of its world. If a child wants to know more about Cleo de Nile’s background, personality traits, habits, and interests, they must research her father (aka the Mummy) and his origins (i.e., Egypt). The same goes for every character. Children who are immersed in this story are guided to topics such as steampunk, French cathedrals, musical theatre, and mythology.

Monster HighAnother aspect of transmedia storytelling which Monster High accounts for is collective intelligence and user-generated content. Countless YouTube videos feature tutorials on recreating the makeup looks of the characters, creating custom dolls, and fan fiction. Monster High has also supported pre-teen focused social marketing content, allowing social issues to be addressed first via web video, then via wiki.

Because of the expansive ways in which transmedia storytelling reaches its audience, it can be harnassed for education as well as entertainment. Monster High is an example of that combination, though many other examples may be found throughout history (MIT, 2006).

References:

Felder, R. M., & Spurlin, J. (2005). Applications, reliability and validity of the index of learning styles. International Journal of Engineering Education, 21(1), 103–112.
Jenkins, H. (2007, March 22). Transmedia storytelling 101. Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of HenryJenkins. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html
McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: ReganBooks.

Augmented Reality to Ease Social Phobia

Social phobia (aka ‘social anxiety’) has been described by psychoanalysts as fear which stems from internal anxiety. It’s commonly exhibited during interactions in which the person inflicted is performing an act during which they may be scrutinized by others. Examples of this include public speaking, writing, and social interactions (e.g., parties, classes, jobs). Symptoms almost always include sweating, blushing and shaking. Psychoanalysts suggest that social phobia is the displacement of some implicit feeling of shortcoming that is the result of specific experiences. Participants suffering from social phobia report feelings of inadequacy, fear of rejection, submit to more strict social behavior standards, and fear that others will notice their anxieties. (Liebowitz, Gorman, Fyer, & Klein, 1984)

Though social interactions have been facilitated with increasing frequency online, dealing with social phobia must still be a priority for those suffering from it. Phobias can become debilitating and begin affecting the patient’s ability to perform everyday functions. Chayko (2008) notes that online interactions facilitate increased levels of trust and intimacy between people and within social groups due to the anonymity inherent in them. Gackenbach (2009) describes the disinhibition effects that occur as a function of virtual interactions. Essentially, when individuals feel a level of safety, they allow themselves more freedom of expression. Boundaries which are typically very rigid may become broader and less strictly adhered to by those communicating virtually.

Studies have found this to be true of users of social media such as Facebook (Orr et al, 2009). Social media not only allows individuals to develop relationships with those whom they know minimally in real life, but they allow for the continued participation in existing offline relationships. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals who tend to be more socially inept, find social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) more attainable and less fear inducing (Cole & Griffiths, 2007). MMORPGs allow players to commit to common goals, form groups which work together to procure resources, plan participant roles, identities, and allow all interactions to be kept at a safe, anonymous distance if need be.

However, no one media is sufficient to resolve social phobia. As with anything, convergence means taking advantage of every media’s strength and using the collective group of media simultaneously to reach a specific goal. In this case, while social media allows for disinhibition and more frequent socialization, as well as control over one’s immediate surroundings during use, it doesn’t allow the individual to learn to cope with offline interactions. Games, while they allow for teamwork and identity expression, don’t necessarily allow for the development of these skills in offline situations either. Media which allow for the optimization of benefits from both social media and gaming, with additional support for transferring those skills from online to offline situations, present a possible solution.

One such media is augmented reality (AR). By definition, AR is the layering of virtual content over actual, present, reality. It is meant to enhance existing ‘content’ by allowing access to more information than is innately available. Imagine an AR application which someone who was socially phobic could take into a work party; perhaps in the form of a contact lens. Say this application monitored groups (e.g., how many people were clumped together), conversations (e.g., what they were talking about), gathered information about social norms for the group and suggested courses of action for the individual (e.g., suggested conversation topics, which groups may be more amenable to additional participants, which foods may be least messy to eat, etc.). This application could be programed to work in a number of social situations such as public speaking, shopping, dining out, and travelling. Additional functions could include situations under which users could practice the application and set preferences according to their personal fears and responses. The application could also be made to monitor autonomic arousal responses (much like a heart rate monitor on a treadmill) and alter suggestions based on the somatic responses of the user.

Augmented reality applications, though not perfect by any means, presents an alternative to specifically online or offline situations by creating a combination of the two. Though psychoanalysts may take issue with AR as therapy for social phobia, if an individual is given more control over their surroundings in the form of AR, there is every possibility that it can act as a sort of placebo which eases somatic responses to the phobias. The more open minded we as consumers are to augmented reality the more avenues open for therapy alternatives and psychological research in general.

References

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 575-583. doi: 10.1089/cpb.200739988

Gackenbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.

Liebowitz, M., Gorman, J., Fyer, A., & Klein, D. (1985). Social phobia: Review of a neglected anxiety disorder. Arch Psychology, 45, 729-736. Retrieved from: http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/

Orr, E. S., Sisic, M., Ross, C., Simmering, M. G., Arseneault, J. M., & Orr, R. R. (2009). The influence of shyness on the use of Facebook in an undergraduate sample. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(3), 337–340. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0214