Link Ch. 2 – Revisiting Dr. Gerbner and TV Violence

By and large, most people who aren’t media scholars would be hard pressed to name a single media theorist who isn’t Marshall McLuhan. But the one possible exception would be George Gerbner because of his cultivation theory. Dr. Gerbner testified before Congress about televised violence in October 1981, and his cultivation theory is one of the top three cited theoretical approaches in communication research.

Dr. Patrick E. Jamieson and Dr. Dan Romer at the University of Pennsylvania took a fresh look in 2014 at Gerbner’s work to see how it would hold up to an examination of twenty-five years of data about televised violence and people’s fear of crime. Jamieson and Romer looked at 475 hours of television programming and Gallup interviews with more than 27,000 people. In their study, they found that while increased violent content on television did not change people’s estimations of how dangerous the world around them was, it did make people more afraid of violence.

 Also, below are two older readings by Gerbner.

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For my students – Covers, Remixes, and Mashups

Today in class I was talking about both cover songs, remixes, and mashups; and we looked at and talked about a number of videos.  Here are links to them:

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Link Ch. 2 – Applying the Spiral of Silence to Social Media

German media scholar Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, with her spiral of silence, has raised the question of why people become unwilling to express what they perceive to be a minority opinion. Central to Noelle-Neumann’s argument is that when people believe they are in the minority with their opinion, they will tend to stay quiet on the topic, thus feeding the sense that a particular opinion is held by a minority. Thus it becomes a death spiral of diversity of ideas, as more and more people come to believe that they hold a minority opinion.

While Noelle-Neumann’s work is fascinating, there are many cases in modern culture where people are more than willing to speak out with what they know to be contrary opinions.  But a recent study from the Pew Research Internet Project found support for the spiral of silence when it comes to discussing controversial issues on social media.  The researchers were attempting to find out whether social media such as Facebook or Twitter might make people more willing to express their opinions on political issues.  The Pew study looked at how willing people were to express an opinion about Edward Snowden’s release of classified documents as discussed in the opening vignette for this chapter.  Not surprisingly, the study showed that Americans were split as to whether Snowden’s leaks were a good idea and whether the surveillance policy was a good idea. But the study went on to show that:

  • People were less willing to discuss the Snowden case on social media than they were in person.
  • People were more likely to share their opinions about Snowden if they thought their audience agreed with their point of view.  This was true both in person and online.
  • People who wouldn’t share their opinion on Snowden in a face-to-face conversation were even less likely to share their opinion on social media.

Overall, the Pew study found a strong spiral of silence effect for controversial issues on social media.  You can read the whole study here.

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Ch. 2 Link – Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and the NSA

Here are links to several in-depth articles about the NSA whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who reported on Snowden’s documents.

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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Ch. 1 Links – Web comics round-up

NOTE: While none of the comics discussed here go much beyond PG-13 in art, they do sometimes have offensive language in them. This is a major update of a post I originally did about 3 years ago:

Regular readers here know that I’m a huge fan of web comics.

383270_10151153725154206_1656491671_nIn your textbook, there’s a discussion of Danielle Coresetto’s comic Girls With Slingshots.  She also has Twitter feed that can be a little on the raw side.  Especially on TMI Tuesday.

I’m also a longtime fan of The Devil’s Panties (It’s not Satanic Porn!), Questionable Content, Sheldon, Player vs Player, and Dumbing of Age.  But I’d also like to highlight a couple of fascinating comics that defy easy classification:

  • Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell
    Skittles the ManticoreThe central plot of this strip (written and drawn by Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan) is almost impossible to describe with a straight face.  As a teenager, Darwin Carmichael made a mistake so bad that he now has the worst karma in the entire world and is destined to go to Hell. (Never mind the theological mash up going on here.)  This incredibly charming strip tells the tale of Darwin, his immortal pet manticore Skittles, his minotaur landlord Pat, and a host of friends. If you go to see this comic, make sure you start at the beginning and read to the very end. (The comic came to an end in the summer of 2013, but you can now buy a gorgeous book of the entire series.)
  • Hark! A Vagrant
    Speaking of indescribable web comics, Kate Beaton’s
    Hark! A Vagrant has to be one of the most consistently brilliant ones on the web.  The comic  is a mix of history and pop culture stories.  Where else will you see comics about the French revolution, Nancy Drew, Lois Lane and Andrew Jackson?  Beaton’s published anthology of comics was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 10 best fiction books of 2011.
  • The Abominable Charles Christopher
    The Abominable Charles ChristopherKarl Kerschl’s story of the sasquatch with a binky and a heart of gold is the most beautiful web comic anywhere.  Which is not surprising given that Kerschl’s day job is drawing comic book art for folks like DC and Marvel.  In addition to often being very funny, it can also be absolutely heartbreaking.
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Link Ch. 1 – Paul McCartney’s Baseball Stadium Concerts

In 2009, Sir Paul McCartney played a concert at New York’s Shea Stadium, which was right across the road from Shea Stadium, where the Beatles played their first stadium show.

Concerts like this illustrate the huge range that group communication can take, going a from a few friends sitting around the table to tens of thousands of people at a rock concert.

(As a side note, I went to see Sir Paul perform at Fenway Park a few nights after this concert.)

Video of Paul McCartney at City Field (2009)

Sir Paul performing My Love at City Field (2009)


The Beatles at Shea Stadium (1965)

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NFL & Sponsor Trouble – Part 2

Another day, another look at the National Football League’s violence against women and children crisis:

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When the sponsors get involved, you know the NFL is in trouble

If you’ve been paying any attention to sports news for the last couple of weeks, you know that the NFL has a crisis on its hands.  A crisis of star players who have been caught committing a range of violent acts:

  • Minnesota Vikings running back Andrian Peterson has been indicted on charges of child abuse.
  • Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on surveillance video last summer hitting his then fiancé so hard she was knocked out.
  • 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence in August.

And these are just a few of the recent charges.  In the case of Rice, he was initially was suspended for just two games, but was eventually kicked off the team after a second, more explicit, video of his attack surfaced.

The problem the NFL is facing is that it seemingly does not want to discipline players any more than they have to, because, you know… winning games.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been accused of doing too little, too late, but until recently, there doesn’t seem to have been any consequences to the league for letting accused abusers play.

And it really isn’t a surprise.  After all, the NFL is the most popular show on television, and no one wants to do anything that interferes with that success, least of all the broadcast networks that carry those very profitable games.

abstatementBut today something happened that may get the league’s attention.  Anheuser-
Busch — the brewery that makes Bud Light, the most popular beer in America; the company that spends $1.2 billion on advertising as the official beer sponsor of the NFL — issued a statement that it was “not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code.”  As the sports blog Deadspin points out, the company hasn’t threatened to do anything yet; but when you get a $1.2 billion sponsor expressing unhappiness, something’s gonna give.

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A Motorcycle Ride to the United 93 Memorial on a Rainy Summer Day

This has nothing to do with the media. It’s a brief story about a ride I took on my motorcycle to the United 93 Memorial on a rainy June day back in 2004. It was written shortly after I had recovered from a fairly serious illness, and I was happy just to be back on the road. I’ve taken to posting on 9/11.

Me and my old KLRTook a short ride last Saturday. The distance wasn’t much, under 200 miles, but I went through two centuries of time, ideas, and food. Which felt really good after having been ill for the last month-and-a-half.

Headed out of Morgantown about 7:30 a.m. on I68. Stopped at Penn Alps for breakfast. Nice thing about being on insulin is that I can include a few more carbs in my diet these days. Pancakes, yum! (Penn Alps, if you don’t know, runs a great Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast buffet on weekends that is well worth riding to. Just outside of Grantsville, MD.)

Then off on the real purpose of the trip. Up US 219 toward the Flight 93 Sept. 11 memorial. The ride up north on 219 is beautiful; I’ve ridden it before. I always like when you come around the bend and see the turbines for the wind farm. Some people see them as an eye sore; for me they’re a potential energy solution and a dramatic sight. Chalk one up for industrial can be beautiful.

Continue on up to Berlin, PA, where I take off on PA 160 into Pennsylvania Dutch country. I start seeing hex signs painted on bright red barns, or even hung as a wooden sign. Not quite cool enough to put on my electric vest, but certainly not warm. Then it’s heading back west on a county/state road of indeterminate designation.

Now I’m into even more “old country” country. There’s a horse-and-buggy caution sign. Off to the left there’s a big farmstead with long dark-colored dresses hanging from the line, drying in the air. They may not stay dry, based on what the clouds look like.

The irony of this ride hits pretty hard. I’m on my way to a memorial of the violence and hatred of the first shot of the 21st century world war, and I’m traveling through country that is taking me further and further back into the pacifist world of the 19th century Amish and Mennonites.

A turn or two more, following the map from the National Parks web site, and I’m on a badly scared, narrow road that is no wider and not in as good of shape as the local rail trail. (Reminds me why I like my KLR!)

It’s only here that I see the first sign for the memorial. No one can accuse the locals of playing up the nearby memorial. Perhaps more flags and patriotic lawn ornaments than usual, but no strident statements. And then the memorial is off a half-mile ahead.

The crash site is to the south, surrounded by chain-link fencing. No one but families of the victims are allowed in that area. Off a small parking area is the temporary memorial, in place until the National Park Service can build the permanent site. There’s a 40-foot long chain-link wall where people have posted remembrences, plaques on the ground ranging from hand-painted signs on sandstone, to an elaborately etched sign on granite from a motorcycle group. The granite memorial is surrounded by motorcycle images.

The messages are mostly lonely or affirming. Statements of loss, statements of praise for the heroism of the passengers and crew. But not statements of hatred. It reminds me in many ways of the Storm King Mountain firefighter memorial. Not the formal one in Glenwood Springs, but the individual ones out on the mountain where more than a dozen wildland firefighters died several years ago.

It’s time to head home. When I go to join up with US 30, it’s starting to spit rain, so I pull out the rain gloves, button down the jacket, and prepare for heading home. It rains almost the whole way back PA 281, but I stay mostly dry in my Darien. The only problem is the collar of my too-big jacket won’t close far enough, and water dribbles down inside. It reminds me that riding in the rain, if it isn’t coming down too hard, can be almost pleasant, isolated away inside a nylon and fiberglass cocoon.

I’m home before 1 p.m.. I’ve ridden less than 200 miles. But I’ve ridden through a couple of centuries of people’s thoughts, actions, and food. And I’m finally back on the bike.

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