Thursday, March 05, 2009

Copycat behaviour: Missed Opportunities?

Monkey see, monkey do. Apparently. The pseudo-science equivalent today is mirror neurons, of course. But what of it?

Recent research shows that people are more likely to drink if they see people on TV drinking. (Actually, "people" should be more specific: the research was carried out on 80 "young people" - most likely students - so generalisations are difficult to make, as you would know if you've ever observed yourself as a student around other students, in comparison to yourself not as a student, around other non-students.)

The "spin" on this is alcohol-focused:

"He said the findings suggested there may be an argument for restricting advertising and introducing warnings on films.

"But he added there needed to be more research to establish the long-term implications on drinking habits."

But I'd like to turn this around, for as it stands, the argument is couched in the now-traditional British perspective of "STOP DOING BAD THINGS, you fool."

How about, instead of getting people not to do bad stuff, realising for a change that we could get people to do good stuff by, well, doing it ourselves?

In other (person's) words, "We must become the change we want to see in the world." Rather than focusing on the censorship of alcohol adverts, why not show more examples of people we respect doing things we wouldn't otherwise do?

Take musicians, for instance. Everyone wants to be a rock superstar - but all we see is the final gig, so all we end up doing is pretending to play shit through Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Samba de Amigo. The ideas of practice and learning to actually play have been relegated to an underground, smoky den where only the truly passionate and deranged actually bother to go through with the pain. Or so we would like to believe.

There are myriad other possibilities, but we've become blind to them, choosing instead to see our world in terms of what we shouldn't do. How dull.

We have a whole Internet here, and even greater than that, we have a whole World outside it. How can we start using them to think about things in the long term again? How can we get away from the notion of instant feedback, and doing things for the input, rather than the output?


John Powers said...

My comments always seem to be a bit askew, but here's my ramble.

Ask kids about how kids are portrayed in media and you'll likely hear grips: Kids are shown as doing stupid and hurtful things. Conversely the media kids like include kids doing admirable things.

Little ones pay particular attention to what kids just a bit older are doing. That's sometimes heartbreaking for parents and adults around "tweens" or not yet teens. Still kids are remarkably reflective about such patterning and can talk about it.

When older kids, even one who aren't up to grade at their school level tutor younger kids, consistently the older student's grade improve.

At YouTube there is a young Korean guitarist named Sungha Jung who is a huge YouTube phenomenon. He's great, I love to watch and listen to him play. It's struck me how YouTube is such a part of his learning. He follows great guitarists and does their songs. He's met several of them. Sungha is just the tip of a huge iceberg of the iceberg of guitar sharing at YouTube.

There are so many missed opportunities, but also people are well familiar with examples of what you're talking about. We will invent new ways.

Scribe said...

Hi John, thanks for the comment. What stands out for me is this idea of learning from peers, in opposition to learning from hierarchies, or from an established centre.

This probably ties in with the thought that social networking is learning - although I don't think this is a new idea at all. Rather, all learning until recently has been informal and socially driven. (Scientists would do well to remember this.)

I think this is why I love what sites like School of Everything are doing - breaking away from this idea that there is a single "curriculum" that must be learned in order to be successful, or "clever".