Digital Beard Stroking: Inertia – Overcoming the Inert 1

Digital Beard Stroking

Inertia – Overcoming the Inert

The fundamental aspect of human motivation is that it is, by it’s nature, self-starting.  If we’re not reacting to direct, threatening stimuli, we have to be able to generate this motivation to act from within. Granted, from a technical standpoint, it’s all external stimuli, but if we consider the reaction to those indirect stimuli as volitional, then we are faced with a conundrum regarding the driving force of human behavior.  “Why do we do?”

One of my biggest interests thought my academic career has been trying to pinpoint that specific thing.  The very spark that motivates people to do things.  It’s different in everyone, but it’s always there.  The biggest question is “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”.  From there, the question is how to synthesize that.  How to manifest it in our day to day lives.  Obviously, we cannot bottle motivation and sell it (yet), so what does that mean?  What would such an answer look like?  Fear not, such a question has been addressed many times over the history of humanity.


“To manufacture giveadamn” was the alternative title.

Where might we look for an answer to this?  Oh, right, that thing that defines this entire series, our handy microcosm for humanity: our media.   What makes you want to play a game? What makes a comic compelling vs “meh”?  There’s not really a silver bullet here, as there’s a lot of moving parts in that equation.  What we can do is identify trends and the psychological effects of them.  We know that challenges are important, but there’s a very fine line there because a challenge can be insultingly easy and not hold our attention, but it can also be impossibly difficult and thus cause us to simultaneously reduce our supply of game controllers AND glass objects.  For many, the collecting mechanism in games is a powerful motivator, but for others, it’s totally meaningless.  I won’t even get into the aspects of character creation and avatars (that’s a whole other article for later.  Heavy with philosophical names and stuff).


“Gotta catch ‘em all. Or, y’know, enough of them. Actually, nevermind, 20 is plenty”

“Passive” media, on the other hand, has a whole different implication in motivation.  As we’ve talked about before, with regards to parasocial interaction, we can transfer those accomplishments and perceived psychological motivations of the characters onto our own minds.  This sounds delusional, and can certainly become so, but on a less worrying level, it’s nothing more than cheering for your favorite sports team.  This relationship can have an interesting effect in motivation because we’re compelled to understand the motivations of these characters.  Sort of a meta-motivation on our part, to realize and understand what makes these characters tick.  Within that, our own quest to identify our motivating factors -our reasons for being- could be informed by understanding what causes our idols/avatars to act.  Yet again, we fall back to the social aspects of parasocial interaction as a means for learning what normalcy and societal expectations are.  In that sense, our motivation is almost self-igniting.


“Which is worse, the constant exposition and references to future articles or the number of times he conjugated “Society” in that sentence?”

We are inspired by the actions of those around us, including those who happen to be fictitious.  Just as we are inspired, though, so are they.  Our direct social group is affected by our actions in real life just as our peers in multiplayer games are influenced by our achievements.  This back and forth spans generations and media, continuing indefinitely back and forth all the way back to some mysterious beginning (Aristotle’s less talked about and totally misattributed “prime giveadamner”).  We are motivated to be who we are and do what we do because everyone else is doing it. And so, the great answer to human motivation is little more than a glorified recursive loop of inspirational actions by others, eventually bootstrapping folks to come up with things like integrated circuits, yeast that lasts forever and weird blogs regarding the philosophical implications of technology.


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