Thursday, June 27, 2002

Mark has tried a touch-typing teaching program, and he's annoyed at a little viking jumping around on the page as a substitute for intelligent responses. By the sound of it, the developers of that program have read the book Jill has ordered from the library and which I have right here on my desk-The Media Equation. According to this book, we should react positively to a smiling, active and positive person on our screen, particularly one that gives us positive feed-back, tells us how smart we are and how well we are doing. According to the studies of Reeves and Nass, Mark's response to the program: perceiving it as unintelligent and a waste of time and energy, is not a normal and polite response. They found that people tried to avoid hurting the feelings of computers, they agreed with computers that flattered them, and were more open to criticism when it was wrapped in flattery.

Apart from the serious flaw of this book of being culturally biased - not to say blind - towards the USA-American culture where "normal and polite" means a particular flavour of US normality and politeness, the very annoying habit the writers have of not quoting other people's research in the text but just mentioning it in annotated end-notes, and the consequent muddling of the distinction natural/naturalised, this book totally lacked a critical and self-critical aspect which might have made the book appear intelligent rather than polite. And that's the American version of polite - flattery breeds suspicion in Norway, not liking. I am very suspicious of that book.

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