Drone Shows: A new behavioral trend for Independence Day


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

B.F. Skinner devoted a healthy portion of his writings towards culture, cultural practices, and social issues, from a behavioral perspective, heavily overlaid with biological metaphors, as was his signature style.  To Skinner, practices are “selected” based on their ability to deliver reinforcers to practicing members.  Practices undergo “mutations” or variations, much like biological traits.  Though not all mutations are adaptive, those that facilitate reinforcement for its practicing members are selected by the culture and carried into the future.

This 4th of July we see a prime example of a cultural “mutation” taking place before our eyes. Across the western U.S., traditional fireworks displays are being replaced by drone shows.  Elaborate, choreographed dances of light across the night sky by hundreds of robotic flying machines, but without the explosions.

According to USA Today, previous high profile drone shows, as took place at the Winter Olympics and previous Super Bowl, functioned as setting factors for the current trend.  More immediate stimuli that evoked the change in tradition were the annual dry season in the west and associated risk of fires that come with the incendiary tradition.

USA Today quoted Anil Nanduri of Intel as saying “For 12 centuries fireworks were the only way to light up the night sky. Now we have technology that  allows us to do precision animation and storytelling – we can write words and draw objects in the sky.”

Will this cultural “mutation” become a lasting tradition in the U.S.?  To the extent that the shows draw crowds, are economically viable, and sufficiently quell fire concerns, signs point to “yes.”

Suggested Reading:

B.F. Skinner’s About Behaviorism, Beyond Freedom & Dignityand Walden Two.

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org.  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]

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