Monday 2 December 2013

Overview of Case Studies

In Determining Media Effectiveness, I developed a methodology for gauging the effectiveness of given media uses. I've now applied my methodology to 8 case studies which can be found on this blog. I tried to make my case studies as diverse and as representative as possible. In this post, I do an overview of my case studies and explain their purpose.

For a quick refresher, the questions are here:

Strength of Impact:
  1. How many people does the project reach?
  2. How significantly does it impact the people it reaches?
  3. How likely are the people it impacts to spread this impact?
  4. How long lasting is its impact?
  5. How grave was the issue pre-impact?
Quality of Impact:
  1. How much does it increase the accuracy of people's models of reality?
  2. How much does it improve people's quality of life?
  3. How much more likely does it make people to act altruistically toward others?

The first thing to note is that my case studies don't prove anything. I'm applying to the school Research Ethics Board to let others use my method on these examples and see if their answers differ from mine. My feeling is that most people will generally agree on how to score these media uses. One person might give a +1 where I gave a 0 but I don't expect to see anyone score a -2 where I scored a +2. For the moment, my ratings are not proof, but merely a way to clarify my intuitions, expose trends, and figure out what areas I need to find more research on.

So what can this table tell us about media effectiveness? Four things!

Firstly, notice that there are no negative numbers in the QoI section. I expect that trend to hold up for most cases. I think that almost all works of art and entertainment are net good, but that almost none of them approach optimality.

Secondly, notice that works of art and entertainment have a lower QoI than do the other uses of media I've covered. This is misleading, however. The only non-art and entertainment media uses I've covered are good ones. I haven't yet looked at Fox News or propaganda or religious texts or Toddlers and Tiaras. We should conclude that non-art and entertainment media uses are more likely to have erratic QoI scores, while art and entertainment works are likely to hover around 0 and +1.

Thirdly, SoI-5 is a reliable predictor of effectiveness. Even though I don't think SoI-5 is a morally relevant question, it is a very good rule-of-thumb for picking out effective media uses. This holds true for all the examples I can think up.

Fourthly, in the evaluation of the more artistic pieces I wasn't able to justify giving them higher scores than I gave Avatar. This could reflect a gap in my three QoI questions - maybe there is some kind of way for a movie to have good effects on people that my questions don't cover. But I don't think this is the case. I think the potential benefits of "artistic greatness" are likely to be covered by my three questions, but there simply isn't any evidence demonstrating that these benefits exist. There needs to be more research done on whether traditional criteria for artistic greatness are reliable predictors of good consequences. It may turn out that things like timelessness, popularity, originality, and complexity are good indicators of effectiveness but it could also turn out that they are useless. I suspect that each individual criterion has a different story.

My focus for the present is on finding this research if it exists, as mediocre effectiveness ratings of "great works of art" may be the most controversial result of my method.

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