The Modern Cyborg: McLuhan Today

Cyborg is derived from the 2 English words cyber and organism. Google describes a cyborg as “a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.” When I was growing up, Cyborg was my favorite team member of the Teen Titans, and I always wondered how long would it take for society to be able to make me a cyborg so I could be just like him. According to McLuhan, we’re already there and we’ve been there for a while now. I don’t mean that in medieval Europe, people were running around with half their bodies made out of technology. However, since then, and maybe even before that, technology has been evolving human ability from the way we talk, to the way we work, cook, sleep, and everything in between.

Bandura taught us that our aptitude for technology, like most things, is created through social cognitive theory. We learn through observation and we  improve self-efficacy by doing over and over again. McLuhan looks at media/technology as the main component of our evolving society. McLuhan shows us that technology has been the driving factor in the development of human ability and interaction. Technology isn’t just a machine we use, it becomes a part of us, and extension of ourselves, integrating itself into every aspect of our life and changing what traditional looks at. For proof of this, you can look at things like radio and tv which are late 19th century/early 20th century inventions that completely revolutionized how we see and hear the world. However, those born and raised in the late 20th century/early 21st century will be raised in a world where radio and tv are relatively prehistoric and the seeing and hearing experience has been propelled into high definition music and video streaming applications that fit cozily on a mobile phone.

Yes, in Today’s society, we have redefined the harmony between technology and human beings. What was once a fantismal concept of a majority robot and part human being, is now a normal human being with the ability to enhance their sensory input/output through technology in their lives that have become second nature. In today’s society, it’s important to note that technology has become the buffer for traditional communication, and according to McLuhan, this is the new traditional. Having a cellphone was just the start, and for the fact, so was texting. Now popular social media platforms have become the primary means of communication between multitudes of individuals. Your profile is no longer a hobby, but has evolved into your social media presence. Instagram and Twitter accounts are being asked for during job interviews. You don’t have to talk on the phone to order food anymore, instead technology has evolved so much that you can have door to door grocery and meal delivery with just the push of a couple buttons.

The ability to live and survive is being compacted into these tiny  devices that we grab off of our side tables and dressers without even thinking of. When my generation were hitting their early teens, we were heckled for being so attached to our mobile devices, but now, members of society who don’t own one are closer to off the grid than on.  Continuing to hound “millennials” about excessive technology use is futile because the next generation is inherently plugged into the world with the amount of technology in society now. What’s normal and traditional will continue to be revolutionized by new technological advances and we, as a society, will continue to be the new Cyborgs.

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Society vs. Self-Efficacy: The Box Theory

Okay, so the first disclaimer is that I’m not a psychologist, but naming my opinion on how Society limits our view of Self-Efficacy in relation to Social Cognitive Theory “The Box Theory” makes me feel pretty great. This is definitely a thought piece on the relationship between our environment set by pop culture, the US Government, the current political climate, etc. and our ability to recognize our potential and strive for greater heights.

 

Let’s start with the basics. As an African-American male, I’ve been taught growing up that no matter what happens to me, where I come from, who tries to bring me down, I always have to be better than my environment to improve my environment. As an individual, I observed the actions of my parents: I watched my mom hold my family together and strive towards higher levels of education to increase her ability to provide for her family and in turn herself. I watched my father make many mistakes and completely turn his life around to become reliable and a provider for our family, while following the example of my mother, achieve higher education, and level up in his profession. This was the behavior I observed, imitated, and are currently in the process of executing.

 

I am not ashamed to be labeled a millennial but I am a huge advocate for labels no being the equivalent to stereotypes. I view the term “millennial” as a classification, not necessarily as a way of life.  I am more apt to technology than most, I text quickly, I use google for everything, but none of these things hinder my growth as  a human being or limit my ability to grow beyond what the media has tried to limit me to. There you have it. I said it. I believe today’s society tries to limit our Self-Efficacy to fit the labels they’ve created. This is my box theory.

 

As I continue, I understand that this is starting to feel a little conspiracy-theory-ish, but stick with me. Social Cognitive Theory informs us that human behavior is learned and can be changed through cognitive observation, empowered models, beneficial environments, etc. Well in today’s society, our models are starting to evolve into similar people. Our celebrities and politicians, once very separate fields, have merged. Our environment is evolving, and the dreams we are being sold are evolving too. Labels are becoming more relevant than ever and are starting to seriously limit the mind’s scope of what we as individuals can and cannot do. In other words, Self-Efficacy is there but is still limited to our labels. Society is putting us in boxes, and telling us to dream inside of them.

 

Sticking with my own experiences, representation in popular culture, media, politics, government occupations, etc. is very important to me. As an African American Male, I want to be able to see myself in movies, but also be able to see myself running the country. It was important to have models like Barack Obama flourish and never falter to society’s negativity, while also seeing the likes of Mahershala Ali, Jordan Peele, Drake, etc. take the media by storm, succeeding in their perspective areas. While black people have been fighting the good fight of representation for a very long time, we are still fighting, alongside latinos, asians, the LGBT community, women, and so many others. My issue lies in the fact that I now see a trend that media is limiting the popularization of certain models in certain areas that allow us to dream, but only in a certain direction/lane, thus emphasizing a box we’re to stay in.

 

I believe an even smaller box is being enforced on younger generations. Even if the representation is there, my generation, and the generations that follow see these things, begin to work for them, and then get stuck in a vicious cycle surrounding money. We see people drop everything to succeed but are faced with the reality that without money, there’s no way you’ll make it. So we work and go after occupations that we have to struggle in before we can rise and make the big bucks, but society sells us the dream big, go big, risk everything, and succeed model. Still confused? Let me break it down for you.

 

I went to a Creative and Performing Arts middle and high school. They were public schools with arts magnet programs, allowing students to have regular academics coupled with rigorous studies in an art form of their choosing. I studied musical theater in middle school and vocal/voice in high school. I’ve always dreamed of making it big, whether that be on a big stage selling out concerts, or on broadway, selling out shows. The school advocated for self-efficacy. We practiced day and night, went to audition after audition, built repertoires that spanned from german to latin to italian to spanish to hebrew, and we believed in ourselves and each other. When I left my Pittsburgh CAPA, I was told by so many people in “Real-World Jobs” that my dreams just weren’t realistic. My environment shifted and I tried to become a lawyer. That was a failed dream (although now I feel like I’m going after a real world occupations I love.) We as a society have brilliant artists all over the world, but we are limiting our future by forcing younger generations to conform and aim their hardwork and dedication, their self-efficacy in a direction.

 

After typing this, I thought to myself, “can the box be broken?” The answer is an obvious yes. People do it every day. Ashton Sanders, 21 dropped out of school to film an independent movie and that movie went on to win an Oscar for best picture while his costar, Jharrel Jerome, was only 17 at the beginning of filming. But these instances are becoming more rare, because, also, as a society we are putting way too much emphasis on money. If we continue to go down this road, Money will become the biggest influencer on our cognitive ability to believe we are able to succeed. Many would argue we are already too far gone. I believe that there is still a possibility to end this cycle, and that a generation will stand up for dreams and hard-work coexisting hand in hand.

 

SCT, Self-Efficacy, and the Reinvention of Myself

First, a consideration for the reader: I am very happy with who I am and am thankful for the opportunities that have lead me to be the person I am today. This connection of SCT and Self-efficacy was not written to induce any reaction other than that of a recollection and attribution of these concepts to my life.

Without going into much detail, who I am today is not who I was ten years ago. This can be said of nearly every person (with a few exceptions) and I am aware that the claim is not a radical one. SCT is often simplified to the concept of Reciprocal Determinism, the relationship and dynamics between an individual’s person, environment, and behavior. In my life, all three of these (in my own self-analysis) were consistently negative. From the angle of the person, I existed as someone with exceedingly low self-esteem (low self-efficacy), which was especially clear on a social level. My environment was one that involved high amounts of stress (not that I was in any physical danger) and underwent several changes in my physical and social environments during my teen years. My behavior fit within the textbook predictions of someone existed within the person and environment that I described, and as I mentioned earlier, the clearest example of this was in my social (lack of social rather) life. Upon reflection of how I saw my reality at the time, it is understandable that my self-efficacy was low and how my self-efficacy really dictated my responses to the stimuli in my life. My behavior accurately depicted my current emotional/mental state and a physical record of this could be found on my first social media accounts (which are now, thank God, deleted and lost in history.) My first posts/tweets were more negative, vague, and mostly held a sense of dissatisfaction. Now this is not to say that I was posting for the sake of recognition or feedback, but with the introduction of these new mediums, it became an opportunity to express the negative view of my reality and be rewarded by a slight release of endorphins. This pattern went on for several years, and really hindered my self-efficacy to grow in a direction that was healthy. It wasn’t until I made a conscious decision to attribute my reality (person, environment, behavior) as an opportunity to grow that I saw a shift in my self-efficacy. I started to read more, enter difficult social situations intentionally, and made a habit to learn about my environment from micro and macro levels. This meant that when I was interacting at all on my social media accounts, I would create a conscious effort to post more positive content. Essentially I was training my person and behavior to become more prepared for the inevitable environmental factors that would have crippled me before. This transformation is an ongoing process that I still work on today. I still will catch myself posting/tweeting content that is not in some way positive to myself, and I still will struggle with certain social situations if they are unfamiliar or uncommon. But I can look back and see a change in how my self-efficacy is now at a more stable and confident level, as well as recognize that I can attribute negative influences in my reality as positive learning opportunities.

 

In reflection of the film “We Live in Public,” I think that many thoughts that I have had about the online world and especially social media were confirmed and laid out on a physical stage that may never happen again (legally.) Josh Harris’s unique ability to gather talent and personality from all ends of the spectrum for his websites and especially the small “city” he developed really point to how influential and intoxicating online membership can be. I believe that after all of the information was brought out about his projects, people saw the signs of some of the serious repercussions of living in an online-immersive environment. I do not think that today, it is thought of as often, or is rather joked about considering the obvious chokehold that online relevancy has on our American society. On the surface, it would appear that self-efficacy is high among those who interact online, but upon any further research, it is clear that depression, aggression, and defensive tendencies are at the peak of this new generation that has been brought up in both a physical and virtual world. Nearing the end of the filming of Josh Harris’s project, it becomes clear that emotionally, members (rats) of his society were less confident and much more willing to carry out the requests (commands) of those in charge.

“If you walk up to someone and tell them to take off their pants, they won’t do it. But if you walk up with a video camera and ask ‘Take off your pants.’ They’ll do it. The eyeballs that perceive that moment give it power.” This quote from on of the filmmakers accurate describes today’s online world. “Do it for the Vine!” and other pressures make the online world now a place that can almost incite anyone to do anything, simply because others are watching. SCT’s “reinforcements” are evident as soon as you enter any online profile, where now the rewards of the virtual world are now more important (or rather perceived as more important) than that of the physical world. We are creating an environment that is often not mentally healthy, but is also dangerously Orwellian.

Facebook killer leads to increased self-efficacy. But how? … just trust me

“High speed car chase with a white Ford Fusion. Self inflicted gun shot wound.”
That sentence is what started the day that I connected social cognitive theory to the most – both personally and professionally.

April 18, 2017 began as any normal day at JET 24. However, it quickly changed when a high speed chase with a white Ford Fusion, which ended with a self-inflicted gun shot wound, came across the police scanner. However, we all remained calmed, adrenaline pumping – absolutely – but as calm as we could be. A reporter headed to the scene. The rest of us began posting on social media. TV news is dying in the sense that people don’t watch it on TV anymore. Everyone watches on their phones now. Facebook Live was our go-to for everything that day. The irony in that story was unbelievable – a case that started on Facebook, ended on Facebook. However, that day all of us reporters used a large amount of cognitive control to develop our new course of action, reassessed the day, and then prioritized the stories for the order of the show based on what we thought people would be most interested in first.

http://www.yourerie.com/news/local-news/mcdonalds-employees-lead-police-to-alleged-murder/693832446?searchType=ALL&compId=693873175

Steve Stephens was not a good man, but he was good in the sense that he helped to increase my self-efficacy by adding to my confidence in my career. I feel more confident in handling big breaking news, chasing down the story, talking to hundreds of people and pulling myself together to go on air at 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m. This is just like the first source of self-efficacy discussed in the reading “Self-Efficacy.” “The most effective way of creating a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences.”

Also, along with social cognitive theory, the day Steve Stephens killed himself on Buffalo Road in Erie, PA helps to motivate me to get up and go to work everyday, like motivation process discussed in, “Self-Efficacy.” Days like that day are the reason reporters enter into the career field. Not because everyday is that exciting. Not because we wish people would commit murder or die. It’s because those are the days everyone flips on their TV, turns on their cell phones and relies on you to provided the latest, up-to-date, accurate information. Those are the days self worth and self reflection, also discussed in this week’s readings, are established. I laid in bed for the next several nights, even to this day, reflecting on that story. Not just the positives (helping my self-efficacy), but the questions, “How could I have made it better? How could I have do the story differently?” run through my head. Motivating me to make the next story, the next breaking news scenario even better.

“Perceived self-efficacy occupies a pivotal role in the social cognitive theory because it affects action not only directly, but through its impact on other classes of determinants as well.” stated in “Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective,” reading. That’s probably the quote that resonated the most with me throughout this week’s readings.

I think the less self-efficacy a person has, the more observational learning, also discussed in “Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective,” and “Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication,” people will do. The less people believe in themselves or what they’re doing, the more they’re going to turn to other people to watch, listen and mimic.

In fact, I think life begins with observational learning. From peek-a-boo with our parents, to having older siblings copying what they wear, how they talk, etc.

I think most careers begin with observational learning, also. I know mine – a reporter – does. Studies, surveys and focus groups have been done in the world of broadcast television to see how people react to certain stories and their attention spans to see how long stories should be. Therefore, that has set a standard in television news that “if it bleeds it leads,” and no story should be any longer than one minute, 15 seconds. However, there’s a million and one ways to create a story. Everyone asks different questions, writes in a different style and edits the video to the story in a different way. That’s where young reporters, like myself, watch the professionals on World News Tonight, Good Morning America, CNN, etc. We watch other professional’s styles and we incorporate those to create our own. Reporters appear to not only have a high level of self-efficacy, but actually need one. This is because everyday they put themselves in front of thousands of people and could possibly make a fool of themselves, but also because of their ability to stay calm when situations go awry or news breaks.

Everyday, reporters walk into work with no idea what is going on that day (not all the time, but most days), or any idea what could pop up. The word reaction would be our buzz word if we had one. Everyday we are forced to react to situations, whether it be breaking news, the people/person we need to interview for our story is unavailable, the weather doesn’t corporate and an event gets cancelled, etc., etc., etc. This concept discussed in “Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective,” much like the Steve Stephens day.

So how do I related social cognitive theory and self-efficacy in my personal life? The best example I can give is a topic that has recently become a big part of my life.

 

Self-efficacy is also a major role in the fitness world. Many people walk into a gym and are intimidated,. They do not know how to work machines, they do not know what certain things are or how to use them. So maybe they just go to the treadmill because they’ve used those before or at least seen people use them (observational learning). I feel that’s how everyone starts out. However, through watching others use machines or weights, people may pick up on a few new exercises to try or tips and then start to feel more comfortable at the gym.

This was me when I first became interested in changing my lifestyle. However, I hired a personal trainer to teach me new things. Then I hired a coach to map out all my workouts for me. I took what I was taught and ran (no pun intended) with it.

Also, the use of technology has helped me tremendously when it comes to working out. YouTube makes it like everyone has a personal trainer in their pocket. Now I’m much more comfortable in the gym. I have a good idea about what I’m doing, alternatives if something goes wrong and an overall good sense of knowledge and self-efficacy.

However, this sense of comfortably takes a long time to get to and a lot of hard work. I started at one of the end of the spectrum and am no where near the other end, just inching toward it slowly. This motivates me to go to the gym more. When people are intimidated or do not feel like they know what they’re doing (low self-efficacy), they less willing or excited to go and do something. It’s a domino affect in this scenario. The more you know what you’re doing at the gym … the more motivation you have to go to the gym, … the more you actually go to the gym … the more results you see. This in turn motivates you even more to continue to workout because it appears it’s working – again, resulting in higher self-efficacy. The motivation effects, discussed in the “Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication” and “Self-Efficacy,” readings, in the social cognitive theory are the driving force behind making big life changes, especially physically. This also resembles the cognitive process also mentioned in “Self-Efficacy.” “The stronger the perceived self-efficacy, the higher the goal challenges people set for themselves and the firmer is their commitment to them.”

Josh’s experiment in the documentary of the pods I think is exactly what the internet is now. One of the women in the video said, “There was a real sense of freedom even though you’re also chained by the concept of being watch.” I think people feel they are free to say and do whatever they want on social media, hiding behind the keyboard. I do think the concerns of the internet have been realized, but I do not think people will change or care. However, I think most people almost consider it like a virtual reality, not real life. That’s the way people in the pods started to feel – “detached” from themselves. I think the people who loved being watched in the experiment are like people today who love to have thousands of followers and post obsessively on social media sites. “Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame,” quoted in the documentary. I think that’s true when it comes to the internet. However, I do not find this to be true when it comes to my job. I always joke the camera attracts the crazies or is like the black plague – more often like the plague and clears out a room quickly.

The fact this was the first “reality” TV show makes me feel differently about reality tv shows. I never thought about reality TV shows in the way it’s put in the title “living in public.” I think the “Real World” emulated this concept. However, I also think when Josh put the cameras in his home, it was almost like Facebook Live now – being able to watch something in real time and interact directly with those in front of the lens.

Josh I think is the social cognitive theory in real-life form. He literally put people in one room and observed their social interactions and experiences. Outside of that, he created an opportunity for the outside world to observe this group of people’s social interactions and behaviors. Josh’s self-efficacy was at an all-time high, I think, throughout the experiment in the bunker and when his relationship was going well in his own “Living In Public” world. But once the cops raided the bunker, and the relationship went south, Josh went through a depression. His self-efficacy crashed, hitting a low and not knowing what to do with himself. So what do most normal people do? Go to Ethiopia. Okay, maybe not. But Josh did. I think most people when they hit that low self-efficacy have a motivational process and try and find something or somewhere else to go to get their life back on track.

However, I will never look at Gilligan’s Island, or clowns (not that I liked them before) the same.