Due to the degree to which we are surrounded by media content, the way media content dominates many of our lives, the amount of money and power tied up in multimedia corporations, and the potential for media to influence people on a mass scale, the optimization of media content might very well be one of the most effective ways to maximize wellbeing and reduce suffering.
How might one evaluate the effectiveness of a given use of media to maximize wellbeing?
There are two components that constitute effectiveness. Firstly, the most effective projects are those with the greatest, broadest, and most lasting impacts. Secondly, effective projects must have largely positive impacts. If the effects are largely negative, then we should want the strength of impact to be as small as possible.
Quality of impact x Strength of impact = Effectiveness
How might one evaluate the impact of a media project?
I’ve come up with this list of 5 questions we can ask ourselves to determine a work’s impact. In answer to each question, we might answer “High,” “Medium,” or “Low.”
- How many people does the project reach?
- How significantly does it impact the people it reaches?
- How likely are the people it impacts to spread this impact?
- How long lasting is its impact?
- How grave was the issue pre-impact?*
[*The fifth question is only relevant to some consequentialist views, but many effective altruists would value this question as an indicator of the value of a media project.]
Answering these questions gives us a rough idea of the degree to which a media project can impact the world. But none of these answers tell us whether the impact in question is positive or negative.
How might one evaluate the goodness or badness of a media project’s impact?
I’ve come up with this list of 3 questions we can ask ourselves to determine the quality of a work’s impact. In answer to each question, we can choose a value from a 7-point scale: -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3. This is because we don't want to just distinguish between very good and slightly good initiatives. We also want to distinguish between good and bad initiatives.
- How much does it increase the accuracy of people's models of reality?
- How much does it improve people’s quality of life?
- How much more likely does it make people to act altruistically toward others?
This is a very rough method of determining effectiveness but at least reduces the problem to answerable questions.