Dopamine and humanitarian aid

Boomers had the zipless fuck. We have the clickless give.

With a line like that, you know the article you’re reading is going to be irreverent, intelligent and incisive. How Twitter + Dopamine = Better Humans by Scott Brown on Wired is all three. It is also a cogent critique of the generation of humanitarian aid using technology. Brown notes,

Our brains release congratulatory hits of dopamine when we engage in selfless behavior — which we’re moved to do the instant we witness something awful. Melissa Brown, associate director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, calls this our “immediate altruistic response.” But, she notes, the IAR impulse is easily blunted by delay: “Generation X and the Millennials don’t want to go through the trouble of entering a 16-digit credit card number to make a $25 donation.”

This is in fact an aspect I have dealt with on this blog and in my work. In December 2009, I delivered a presentation today at a workshop organized by South Asian Women in Media looking at media coverage of disasters. In the first part, heavily influenced by Nicholas Kristof’s Advice for Saving the World, I suggested story ideas and angles better able to generate and vitally, sustain, audience interest in disasters and their aftermath, resonating with the submission that the ‘immediate altruistic response’ rapidly diminishes over time.

The presentation above is available as a full colour, high resolution PDF here. Not sure how references to zipless fucks and dopamine would have gone down at this workshop though…

A huge thanks to Bill Warters for sending me this link.

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