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long time, no post

Just a couple quick thoughts on a spring afternoon…

Last week, I was watching the Phillies wallop the Nationals & I had a brief moment of clarity regarding media effects. For decades, communication researchers have worked to clearly and definitively capture and depict the effects of media exposure. It turns out this can be very hard, especially when scholars try to prove real-world effects that go beyond controlled, laboratory environments. Do kids really benefit from watching Sesame Street, or are the kids that watch Sesame Street just being raised in homes that would otherwise cultivate language skills, sharing, and so on? Do people buy Budweiser because of the funny commercials, or do they like cheap, well-made beer? Etc…

Trying to answer questions like these is hard enough, but when the topic of concern is controversial it becomes even more challenging to show media effects. Take, for example, the case study of mediated violence: Does consumption of media that depicts violent acts contribute to violent behavior? For decades, scholars have studied this question as it relates to TV, film, and more recently video games. Generally speaking, the academic consensus is: yes. (There are occasional voices of dissent.) Meanwhile, media producers stridently deny any responsibility for the content of their programs. Media, they say, reflects and does not effect society. This, to me, has always seemed like a flimsy & convenient response. The public isn’t comprised of lemmings, but…watching thousands and thousands of acts of dramatized violence doesn’t seem to have any possible positive outcome to me. Anyways, after watching that Phillies game, I have one question for these media producers: If the public isn’t affected by media content, why are streakers so carefully excised from sports broadcasts?

On another, perhaps slightly more sober note, I had the somewhat bizarre pleasure of writing direct quotes from myself in a press release out today from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The folks at AEJMC selected the article, Citizens’ Local Political Knowledge and the Role of Media Access, that I contributed to the current issue of Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly for a project that publicizes academic research to the media (and, hopefully, general public). As a bonus, the whole article is made available online for free. Check it out…

There are 5 Comments to "long time, no post"

  • Jason T says:

    It’s possible that the people behind the shooting/editing of the game don’t think streakers will have any effect, but the FCC certainly does think so, and broadcasters get fined for showing unexpected nudity.

    Incidentally, I think that the consensus about media violence among researchers who conduct media effects experiments is pretty different from the consensus about media violence among researchers who know how to read experiments but don’t study “effects” per se. (But the research on regular porn consumption is pretty damning and pretty well done.)

    • lee says:

      True – the FCC is an issue. But this game (and most games for that matter) are on cable – which is essentially unregulated. And, not all streakers are naked…but they’re not shown as a rule. (Tacitly, it’s understood that this could encourage copycats.) I’m probably a little glib about effects researchers – and I know that lots of people feel like the experiments are not indicative of real-world outcomes. Still, it’s hard to imagine that exposure leads to good things (or catharsis)…

  • Jason T says:

    Let’s not dismiss the catharsis theory so quickly. Every time I see a streaker, I am filled with an urge not to streak. (Though I will concede that this might involve other effects.)

  • lee says:

    You may be the exception to the rule…

  • pablo says:

    I have given up streaking because they didn’t show my efforts on the TV.

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