SOSC 118

Week 5 Lecture

Understanding Violence in the Media, Agendas, and Theory

In Week 5 we’ll explore violence in the media, we’ll investigate the various agendas of media outlets and we will also take some time to revisit theory.
Have you ever heard the old question of “What came first: The chicken or the egg”? In many ways this is the central question that sociologists reflect on when determining if the media influences violence. We see that a myriad of factors may come into play when debating the influence of the media (including age, education, psychological issues etc.). That said, overall, we see that the media likely can influence violence –but- it cannot be conclusively correlated.

Observational Learning is a form of social learning. It takes place when one observes and repeats the behavior of others. For example, a child might see a caregiver put on makeup and later try to do the same thing to themselves. In your experience, can you think of any times that you have seen or experienced observational learning?

In the classic “Bobo the Clown” experiment children were asked to sit and view video of violent actions. These ranged from kicking, punching, hitting and so forth. Next, the children were taken into a room with an inflatable clown (Bobo). The clown was made from a punching bag type of material and had a friendly, welcoming expression painted on it. Within moments, the children began hitting, punching and kicking the clown. Some repeated verbal threats heard from the video. This classic experiment and has been repeated and time and time again. In some of its most recent incarnations, we still see the same outcome: Exposure appears to affect action.

Reviewing news stories, we see many occurrences of violence linked to media exposure. One such example is that of an eight-year-old Louisiana boy who shot and killed his elderly caregiver. The child was engaging in violent video games then committed the act. The maker of the video game has alleviated responsibility for the action by stating that blaming them, “both minimizes this moment and sidesteps the real issues at hand” (Russel, 2013). In your opinion, do violent video games lead to violent actions in children? Does the manufacturer hold any ethical or moral liability?

For information on violence in the media, click the following links.
The Bobo Beatdown - Crash Course Psychology #12
Children See Children Do Observational Learning
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In the classic film The Wizard of Oz, we hear the line “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. When we watch TV, it’s interesting to consider whose agenda the network is following, that is, who is the man behind the curtain? Large companies like Disney own an array of TV stations (ABC, ESPN etc.). When we turn on the nightly news, it’s unlikely that we think about who owns the programming. That said, this information can be important when determining the accuracy and validity of what we are exposed to. Take a moment and think about some of the major news networks. What differences do you see between the reporting on CNN and Fox News? Does there appear to be differing tones and/or agendas between the two?

When we consider parent companies (like Disney), we see that these can influence the content (and advertising) seen on the networks they own. The media is a highly profitable market. For example, “cable networks were the driving force behind Disney’s earnings, responsible for 57% of the company’s total operating income” (Badenhausen, 2012). Disney has made headlines throughout the years for being discerning in the content it will allow on many of its major stations. While being a megacorporation, they still hold true to their mission statements and corporate culture. In your opinion, does the type of programming we watch affect our behavior or interactions with each other? We learned this week that the media may have an influence on violent behavior (especially in impressable demographics). Do you think that the converse can also be true? That is, can responsible program influence positive behaviors? In closing, reflect on if networks have an ethical obligation to provide a morally acceptable standard of programs. It’s an interesting area to ruminate on.

For information on media objectivity, click the following links.
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Earlier in the term we touched on Agenda Setting Theory. Agenda Setting Theory is the ability to, “influence the salience of topics on the public agenda” (Scheufele, 2000). That is, the more that we see something being present as important, the more likely we are to believe that it is important. The theory came to fruition in the early nineteen seventies and was developed by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw. Their theory proposed that the media could influence or “set” the public agenda and tone. McCombs and Shaw utilized this information in political campaigning. When thinking about our most recent elections, what are some of the key areas (or platforms) that you’ve heard delegates mention? Did you see larger trends of these issues being mentioned on social media and mass media? Public interest tends to spread like wildfire. Once the media presents an objective we often see increasing awareness and concern.

Take a moment to think about what we discussed on the agenda of networks. We saw that many stations are owned by larger conglomerates; meaning that a very small group of power elite influences what is shown to the masses. How might Agenda Setting Theory apply here?

For information on the Agenda Setting Theory, click the following links.
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We’ve explored many interesting topics so far this term! As you know, we’ve worked on various areas that we will apply to our portfolio project. When you work on your draft, you’ll want to stay organized. I suggest jotting down a quick outline before you start writing. It will help to keep your thoughts aligned and will make the process much easier. Also, keep the audience in mind. Consider “who” you are writing to and “what” are you trying to convey. Below you will find some tips on composition.

Please view the link below on composing your paper.
This week we explored violence in the media, we investigated the various agendas of media outlets and we also took some time to revisit theory. We learned that violence in the media may influence violence in the real world. Additionally, we learned that media outlets may not all be as objective as they would lead us to believe. In closing, consider the ethical implications you have discovered this week and how they relate to your observations and encounters with the media.

Key Points

  1. We see that a myriad of factors may come into play when debating the influence of the media (including age, education, psychological issues etc.).
  2. Observational Learning is a form of social learning.
  3. Observational Learning takes place when one observes and repeats the behavior of others.
  4. In the classic “Bobo the Clown” experiment children were asked to sit and view video of violent actions. The children repeated these actions on the clown.
  5. Large companies like Disney own an array of TV stations (ABC, ESPN etc.).
  6. Understanding ownership and agenda can be important when determining the accuracy and validity of what we are exposed to.
  7. The media is a highly profitable market.
  8. Agenda Setting Theory is the ability to influence the salience of topics on the public agenda.
  9. McCombs and Shaw are accredited with Agenda Setting Theory.
  10. Agenda Setting Theory proposed that the media could influence or “set” the public agenda and tone.

Challenge Yourself

  • Consider the key points from our week. Which did you find to be interesting?
  • Locate two resources in our Virtual Library (or from an online source) that relate to the key points you selected.
  • Reflect on the connections you find between these resources and your own life/career goals.
  • Discuss your findings with a friend, family member or co-worker.

References

Text:
Badenhausen, K. (2012). Why ESPN is Worth $40 Billion As The World’s Most Valuable Media Property. Retrieved on September 15, 2016, from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2012/11/09/why-espn-is-the-worlds-most-valuable-media-property-and-worth-40-billion/#3cf3a323244a

Russell, L. (2013). 8-year-old Shoots and Kills Caregiver After Playing Video Game. Retrieved on September 15, 2016, from: http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/25/us/louisiana-boy-kills-grandmother/index.html

Scheufele, D. (2000). Agenda setting, priming, and framing revisited: Another look at cognitive effects of political communication. Mass Communication & Society. 3(2), 297-316.

Images:
Slapping Woman. Digital Image The Great Fitness Experiment. The Great Fitness Experiment. Web. September 15, 2016.

Reporter. Digital Image. Huffington Post. HuffingtonPost. Web. September 15, 2016.

Vintage Teacher. Digital Image. BookSnob. BookSnob. Web. September 15, 2016.