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Constructing our reality based on entertainment. Telling stories v. imparting information Most media studies, especially ‘effects’ research, see the content.

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Presentation on theme: "Constructing our reality based on entertainment. Telling stories v. imparting information Most media studies, especially ‘effects’ research, see the content."— Presentation transcript:

1 Constructing our reality based on entertainment

2 Telling stories v. imparting information Most media studies, especially ‘effects’ research, see the content we encounter as a bundle of information Tend to ignore narrative structure Usually treat each message as a unique piece of content without concern over its relation to other messages, the culture in general Gerbner et al. are concerned not with particular pieces of information, but with the dominant stories within the US culture They see ‘telling stories’ as a powerful cultural force People are socialized through the telling of stories

3 “Television has transformed the cultural process of story-telling into a centralized, standardized, market- driven, advertiser-sponsored system... the cultural process of story-telling is now in the hands of global commercial interests who have something to sell, and who in effect operate outside the reach of democratic decision-making.”

4 Why is this a problem? Television has no conscience Driven by market dynamics to provide content that is most likely to hold audience for advertising and to ‘travel well’ Research shows that this tends not to be most liked, but least objectionable Children are most vulnerable but everyone is to some extent US is almost unique in lack of government control over media content

5 Traditional effects v. cultivation Change v. stability Short-term v. long-term Individual messages v. message systems Aggressive behavior v. fear

6 Traditional effects theory

7 Misjudging the amount of violence in society is sometimes called the 'mean world syndrome'. Heavy viewers tend to believe that the world is a nastier place than do light viewers.

8 Cultivation theory


10 The evidence Cultural Indicators Content analyses (since 1967) of television programming “to track the most stable, pervasive, and recurrent images in media content, in terms of the portrayal of violence, minorities, gender-roles, occupations, and so on” Clearly shows heavy use of violence as a plot device Violence is ubiquitous—kids’ cartoons, daytime serials, Prime Time programming; comedy, action-adventure, reality TV Shows who can perform violence and who is a victim Middle-aged white males have right to engage in violence Women are victims


12 “Happy violence”

13 Extensive/graphic violence

14 Amount of violence across subgenres of children’s programming Source: Wilson, Smith, Potter, Kunkel, Linz, Colvin & Donnerstein, 2002 Journal of Communication SlapstickSuperheroAdventure/ mystery Social relationship Magazine % of programs with violence 10097894817 Number of violent PATs per hour Number of violent scenes per hour 14.911. % of time devoted to violence 28.724.412.93.11.2

15 Humor/fantasy

16 What is the impact? Use surveys to ask how much TV a person watches, how dangerous she thinks the world is (e.g., how likely she is to be attacked if she walks alone at night), whether you can trust people, and so on If heavy TV viewers give the ‘TV answer’ then Gerbner et al. conclude that cultivation has occurred TV answer is determined by projection from Cultural Indicators findings

17 Cultivation differential

18 Cultivation theory

19 Additional cultivation concerns The same ‘drip drip drip’ that is supposed to make us fearful also may make us devious, obsessed with material accumulation, bigoted, sexist, and so on Because it happens over time, slowly, and widely throughout the culture, it is hard to see it happening

20 Mainstreaming Dominant cultural ‘current’ “representing the broadest and most common dimensions of shared meanings” “Because of its unique role in our society, we see television as the primary manifestation of our culture’s mainstream.” “Mainstreaming means that heavy viewing may absorb or override differences in perspectives and behavior which ordinarily stem from other factors and influences.” Cultural, social and political characteristics of groups would otherwise lead to more ideological diversity

21 Mainstreaming

22 Resonance Where those who live in high-crime neighborhoods get a ‘double dose of messages that resonate and amplify cultivation’ Minorities “whose fictional counterparts are more frequently victimized on television”

23 Resonance

24 Cultivation research is very controversial Much more questioning of the premise and of the study methods within the scientific community than with social learning theory Most famous argument between researchers over a theory that can be found in media studies Gerbner v. Hirsch

25 Problems with cultivation research No clear psychological process specified that would produce the results of interest ‘Drip drip drip’ is not a theory No clear connection between individual fear and the development of an authoritarian society Levels of analysis problem Methodological problems Definition of what constitutes violence Accusations of ‘cherry picking’ high and low TV levels, which indicators of ‘cultivation’ counted, etc. Lack of control for third variables Heavy TV watchers tend to live in dangerous neighborhood

26 Problems with cultivation research Low correlations Limits on survey analyses—many are secondary data analyses

27 Strengths of cultivation theory It covers a broad range of social phenomena Violence Prejudice Consumerism It looks at a wide range of content the individual is exposed to rather than a small portion It does cover multiple levels of analysis (but note the problems here)

28 Factors affecting cultivation “Cultivation is dependent on and a manifestation of the extent to which television’s imagery dominates viewers’ sources of information.”

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