Zukin, C. & Snyer, R. (1984). Passive learning: When the media environment is the message. The Public Opinion Quarterly. Vol. 48, No. 3. pp. 629-638

In search of supporting evidence for Clark (1994), I found abundant articles claiming media (or medium) is the message. Zukin and Snyer put together a simple study to prove a simple point— passive learning will occur as long as there is no resistance to it. In order for this to be accurate, the understanding is that motivation and interest are requirements for active learning, therefore passive learning must be the absence of both. This form of knowledge transfer is basically osmosis; unless you put up a barrier, it will be absorbed. Further, the information doesn’t have to be correct to be learned.

The evaluation of existing literature and data was limited. Previous data collection efforts thwarted significant studies due to lack of an available control group. Since their point was the presence of media created a saturation condition, it made sense the existence of the condition prevented them from proving it.

The scholars were able to find a geographic area where data collection was possible with a control group. They focused on local elections and were able to validate their thesis. (I expect the presence of social media would make it even more difficult to validate 30+ years later.) The takeaway from this piece towards further research is two-fold: 1) motivation + interest = active learning, and 2) absence of motivation, resistance, and interest = passive learning.