Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Channel Expansion Theory as an Online Biological Extension of Urges

Technology has huge impacts on our daily life and has encouraged new ways of communicating. Such technology is the natural extension of our biological capacities within the environment. Whether we are discussing education, government, social relationships, business development or international relations this technology now dominates our evolutionary developmental process as a powerful new tool. As this technological ability grows in society people will naturally start using this technology in new ways. According to channel expansion theory people will communicate using these new methodologies in order to expand their capabilities of reaching out in the environment.  This reaching out creates new influences on human behaviors through the process of imitation.

Most of human behavior is not within our awareness and we have a hard time reflecting on such behavior. Such behavior is below our level of conscious understandings (Barkow et. al., 1992). This means that most people act in manners and patterns without full awareness that such behavior is driven by a need to achieve certain results in the environment. Each person is driven by biological urges that manifest itself in the virtual world.

Our social behavior is learned by copying each other even when we are not aware we are doing so. Memes, or cultural transmission, are mimicked until they spread to a larger group of people (Henrich, 2004). This behavior grows and develops aspects of society through various communication mediums. In other words, technology creates expanding networks of people that form virtual communities which continue to collect new members.

Virtual communities use these same methodologies when spreading information to be emulated to other group members. Porra and Parks (2006) have used a broad model of sustainable virtual communities based on the properties of natural animal colonies. That such groups take on the form of animal colonies much like people with physical interaction taking on societal norms. The same patterns in natural are also seen online when the virtual world is an extension of the natural order. 

Such groups develop and grow in manners that help them overcome environmental challenges. Virtual groups progress in manners that copy the underlying logic of biological evolution (McElreath and Boyd, 2007). Therefore, whether groups are in virtual society or in physical society, they grow and evolve following the laws of nature. These same entities also communicate with each other, create societal norms, and adjust to new influences.

In order to foster this copying activity and societal structure the human mind has developed new methods to transferring information in human-to-human interactions. Such development is from the biological evolutionary push for survival (Kock, 2004). Even with such a push, it is possible that these same mechanisms are used in the development of virtual understandings inherent in digital information transference. In other words, our previous communication methods have adapted to an online environment.

According to channel expansion theory as people gain knowledge about particular technologies they are more able to use them for stronger communication tactics. As users become more accustomed to specific forms of communication like email, chat, video conference, etc… they also develop better methods of creating meta-language (embedded language) to communicate and receive subtle meanings (Carlson and Zmud, 1999). Thus new forms of communication methods result from the use of virtual technology that expand communicative effectiveness.

 This virtual technology has made its way into the school systems, our social affairs, and our businesses. As people become more accustomed to technology, they begin to use such tools in more efficient methods that expand the bandwidth of such mediums (Carlson & Zmud, 1994). Through this creation of expanding communication networks, higher levels of information are transferred to maintain and develop group members to certain social structures.

In modern times it is possible to develop entire societies in the virtual world that have certain orders maintained by group norms. These societies develop their own way of communicating that perpetuates their methodologies and lifestyles. Virtual colleges are testimony to the creation of rich information used in new and unique manners with multiple forms of media that can create higher forms of learning. Such communication tools become more effective over time developing new methods of satisfying biological needs and maintaining social rules that extend human capacities. As nations move into the virtual realms they may find that their societal influence grows by using existing communication channels in new ways that develop higher forms of communication methodology. The more people who become accustomed to this technology the more likely they will be attached to certain societies that resonate with their personal belief systems.

Barkow, J. H., Cosmides, L., and Tooby, J. (eds.). 1992. TheAdapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture, New York: Oxford University Press.

Carlson, J. & Zmund, R. (1994). Channel expansion theory: a dynamic view of medial and information richness. Academy of management best papers proceedings, pp. 280-284.

Carlson, J. and Zmud, R. (1999) Channel Expansion Theory and the Experiential Nature of Media Richness Perceptions. Academy of Management Journal, 42 (2) pp. 153-170.

Henrich, J. (2004). “Cultural Group Selection, Coevolutionary Processes and Large-Scale Cooperation,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (53:1), pp. 3-35.

Kock, N. (2004). “The Psychobiological Model: Towards a New Theory of Computer-Mediated Communication Based on Darwinian Evolution,” Organization Science (15:3), pp. 327-348.

Porra, J., and Parks, M. S. (2006). “Sustainable Virtual Communities: Suggestions from the Colonial Model,” Information Systems and e-Business Management (4:4), pp. 309-341.

McElreath, R., and Boyd, R. (2007). Mathematical Models of Social Evolution: A Guide for the Perplexed, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

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