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Touchy Feely

The central idea of Media Ecology is that the tools and media we surround ourselves with and use to extend our natural abilities deeply affect how we think about and interact with our environment. Marshall McLuhan framed this concept as, "We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us." A folksier way of thinking of it is, "When you're a hammer, the world looks like a nail."

Researchers from Ohio State University and Illinois State University have added evidence to support McLuhan's observation. In their study, they held an auction for a simple coffee mug. The bidders were divided into two groups: one was allowed to examine the mug for 10 seconds, the other for 30 seconds. The results of bidding suggest that those who held the mug longer formed a stronger attachment to the object. According to ScienceDaily:

The average bid in the open auctions was $2.44 for people who touched the mug for 10 seconds and $3.91 for those in the 30 second experiments. This finding was also consistent for those in silent auctions, with people in the 10 and 30 second experiments bidding $2.24 and $3.07, respectively.
On two occasions, bidding among those who held the mug for 30 seconds reached $10, even though the mug's retail price was less than half that.

So, it turns out humans are tactilely oriented creatures, and we're ruled by emotional attachment at least as much as reason, which Wes Anderson Spike Jonze brilliantly satirizes in his 2002 Ikea commercial.

Apple certainly understands this human tendency—all of their newest products not only beg to be fondled but have to be in order to work. It's also why the book has dominated as a medium for centuries and will continue to survive (albeit on a much smaller scale) amidst digital technologies. What book lover, after all, doesn't speak warmly of a book's heft and feel and smell?

How is this understanding of human nature and our interaction with objects something that we, as librarians, can use to benefit our libraries and provide better services in all media to our communities?


Stephen T. Varol said...

I think that was actually Spike Jonez that did that commercial.

patti said...

Setphen's right, that is a Spike Jonez ad. Still, though: best. commercial. ever.

librarian@play said...

One of the best things about blogging is that it enables others to help us get it right. Though Wes Anderson has written and directed several commercials, including at least one for Ikea, this is not it. It is Spike Jonze's. Even research ninja librarians need their community's help.

Thirty Nothing said...