prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Violence and Media

Posted by prof e on February 16, 2013

Correlation does not prove causation. That is research-speak that calls into question the claim that watching violent movies or playing violent video games makes the player a more violent person. But despite the difficulty of finding causal links, the events at Newtown and other  scenes of gun violence will likely increase  funding for research that attempts to uncover connections between violent media consumption and violent behavior.

Here’s a video clip that frames the issue…

Even though most gun deaths are suicides and gang-related shootings, it is the mass shootings, such as the ones in Aurora and Newtown, that focus the public’s attention on violent video games and movies.

However, despite concerns about the media’s contribution to gun violence, most of the response from politicians has focused on certain types of guns and large-capacity magazines…much to the chagrin of 2nd Amendment absolutists. There are several reasons that may explain this. The first is because the media-violence link is still not conclusive in the minds of many researchers. And the other reason is something called the 1st Amendment and Freedom of Speech. Attempts to limit speech (content of TV, movies and video games) results in some pretty difficult legal challenges. Even before you consider the competing interests of the 1st and 2nd Amendments this is a difficult issue.


12 Responses to “Violence and Media”

  1. Jeebus Christopherson said

    I‘ve thought a lot about the social science perspective of media effects over the years. The clip above clip demonstrates perfectly how in the same breath psychologists invalidate their theories about the effects of video game violence on the youth and still insist on a connection. This only shows how social science is a form of religion in disguise, for believing video games correlate/causate to mass killing is parallel to tossing one’s hat into a political arena and then screaming “the truth” of one’s convictions at bystanders. And it’s why the pseudo-sciences i.e. sociology, psychology, and media studies have made ZERO concrete scientific progress with isolated research, such as the effects of violent media on the youth, over the years. However, it has become clear that the fields of biology and neuroscience have enabled those weak intellectual playgrounds to piggy back on the work done by neurological researcher’s like Robert Sapolski and others allowing psychologists to hijack a small semblance of credibility. In short, we can say that media do have adverse effects on our culture but human biology and the larger environmental context need to be considered in totality, whereas the simplistic focus on a single stimulus like violent video games ends up being a waste of time and money.

    I myself am still fascinated by this ongoing debate and have wondered why it never really gets discussed openly and honestly in public forums and have my own conspirational theories as to why. That aside, I’ve come to understand that media consumption, especially heavy use of one form or another is indicative of at least a low-grade addiction suffered by an individual. Similar to nicotine or sugary foods, media stimuli have bio-chemical effects on the brain, and relative to the tastes of the consumer, marketers have learned how to exploit these compulsions rather masterfully over the years. Media seem to be a simple way of introducing stress on to the consumer psyche. All of this goes without saying, but only biological studies have produced EXPLANATIONS about the effects of stress on the brain and behavior. Therefore, studying video games to answer the question of why that kid shot up the elementary school will NEVER produce results worth taking seriously. Knowing the specific environment and the immediate influences that kid experienced while growing up is the only way to undergo a meaningful study of that case, and is probably impossible due to the limits of retroactive study. Too many privacy concerns and the potential to introduce the biases of a given researcher onto the study exist, especially now that the issue is hopelessly politicized.

    Anyhow, I’ve included this short 8 minute video that introduces a bit of Robert Sapolski’s thinking on the tiresome Nature VS Nurture debate. Though it doesn’t directly relate to your media studies topic, I imagine that you might begin to search out other material produced by Sapolski available on the interwebs, especially his Stanford college course lectures pertaining to stress and depression found on Youtube. His books are great too.

  2. Mark Rizzo said

    For somebody that has played violent video games since early childhood, and has no desire or intent to cause harm to others, this whole argument kind of goes right over my head. I will say that video games can induce rage and stir up some emotion in you, but never so much so that it spills over into reality, in my case at least. Whenever a shooting like Newton or Aurora happens everyone scrambles to think of what we can do to stop this from ever happening again. So politicians go out promoting gun regulating legislation and companies run anti bullying advertisements in an effort to prevent future tragedies. The focus, by the media at least, is almost always in the wrong place. Rather than sensationalizing the event for ratings and talking about possible laws to change to make us more “safe”, we should focus on what it is that makes an individual feel that going to an elementary school and essentially slaying innocent children and then yourself is an appropriate course of action to take. By getting in the heads of the individuals, we might be able to learn cues or behavioral signs of having such a dangerous potential to harm and living up to said potential. In reality, without any warning signs, there is virtually no way of preventing a kid with access to a gun and the courage to carry out the act from doing so. It takes a lot more than a violent video game to make somebody be able to calmly execute strangers. The problem is within the head of the individual, not the game in his xbox.

  3. Karle Cordova said

    Controversy over violent media promoting violent behaviors in people have been around for nearly 100 years. In Media Today, Turow talks about how research has been done since the early 1920’s on how violent media (shows, video games, movies, etc) can influence children to act out in violence. The experiments and research that was done had suggested that the social environments, attitudes, and interests of the kids played a larger role on if that child was violent or not. I personally don’t play video game and don’t watch violent movies but my 15 year old brother does. He has never been violent and was taught the differences between right and wrong from a very early age. I think that the people who have violent tendencies would regardless of the types of games or movies that they watch.

  4. Mark Rizzo said

    Turow Correlation:

    Turow defines media relations as “All dealings with reporters and other members of media organizations who might tell a story about a client” (576). Media relations is something that the video game industry is certainly used to, especially the public relations department of Rockstar Games, who created the Grand Theft Auto series. When putting out a game that depicts a fictional city in which the goal is to take over the city as its top criminal essentially, combined with the ability to do almost anything the player wants in game, it is bound to stir up public out roar. Although the game has a Mature rating, the amount of media relations that they deal with upon the release of a game is substantially higher than most other games being released.

    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  5. Vanessa M. Torrez said

    This has always been a hot topic in our society involving video game media, my feelings are kind of on edge about the subject. I’m kind of on both sides of the debate. I think that video game violence, such as Action games ( games that raise challenges that emphasize combat or attempts to escape being captured or killed) teaching kids how to shoot, stab, steal cars, commit crimes, rape/have sex with women, etc. are very disturbing and I don’t understand how many parents can let their children play these games or even adults (Turow). I think overall, the concept of it is just wrong. Just because it’s not real, doesn’t make it any less disturbing. I think it’s sad that people get a thrill or joy out of playing these sorts of games, it makes me wonder if they would get that same excitement if they were to do it in real life as well? Shooting and competitive fighting games have always been around. Mortal Kombat, for example, is a popular, well-known fighting game that has been around for awhile now. I don’t see a problem with Mortal Kombat, I actually really enjoy the game. But it’s game such as Grand Theft Auto that just make me question the reasons behind it. But also, it’s how a child is raised and what type of home he lives in that really has the strongest impact on how violent he/she will be. The debate can go either way, but I don’t think the video game industry will ever change this, there is so much profit being made off of these games and although it raises debate and controversy, it’s always going to be around.
    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  6. Anthony Marshall said

    Reading this article about violence in video games and movies this has been a topic for years researchers has been trying to find a solution for and still haven’t find related that shows video games a result of why a person killed somebody. I play all the violent games from Grand Theft Auto to Call of Duty to Resident Evil and many other games. You can go way back in time violence has always been around and some people enjoy thrill of seeing this kind of acts, the world revolves around it and blaming video games is not the solution. Turow in Chapter 3 explains the control of media content and every game and movie has a rating, and that chapter also explains self-regulatory you can control what you see and do.

  7. Holly Fransua said

    Since the start of violence video games this topic has been widely talked about for years. Many universities have tried to understand why this type of media has such a large affect on today’s population. There is really no clear evidence that a killing can be traced back to a video game or movie. I feel that the reason people play video games is for the fun of it. To see all the C.G.I. scenes and to make the video game seem real. Violence has been around long before video games were ever even created. I think it is irrelevant to relate video games into real life crimes. The ratings that are posted on the product are designed to give consumers information about the content that is in the content of an interactive video games. (Turow pg 109) However, no matter what the rating is, if the consumer wants the game there will always be a way that is will end up in his or her hands regardless of age or rating.

    Works Cited:
    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  8. Matt Marchena said

    Every time this a young person involved in a shooting, there are always speculations of it being caused by violent video games. I disagree with this because anything can cause you to be upset and think thoughts like that. Yes, there has been studies about video games being the main reason but I still think that that is not enough to solely blame video games. I myself play video games that are violent and I haven’t had any such thoughts to hurt someone else like in video games.

    Matt Marchena

  9. Cassidy Glass said

    Video games that show a great amount of violent content has been a very talked about subject now. In experience with these kind of video games, which is very little, I do see where parents could be against their child playing. The game makes killing, rape, and stealing very casual subjects, when in reality they aren’t.

    Violent video games correlating with real life violent crimes, like mass shootings, in my opinion may or may not have a significant link to one another, but like Turow said in Chapter 3 “The gaming industry created an independent rating system of it’s own…It’s ratings are designed to give consumers information about the content of an interactive video.” As a person you have the choice to either read the rating content or ignore it, but no one is shoving the video game down your throat. If you are a parent and you don’t want your child to play those kind of games then don’t allow him or her to.

  10. Timothy Rivera said

    As video games become for popular and realistic the violence in these games are increasing. I do think there is some sort of correlation between violent video games and how people may become violent, not to say that they are join to reenact their entire video game but they may pick up negative things from them. Video games always come to thought when there is a violent act but on the flip side of that the same thought can be said that maybe these violent video games are like an escape for some people who may be violent and video games can be their release On page 98 Turow talks about the different protection policies of media and it is no different for video games because video games are rated just like movies so violent games can be avoided for children. I’m not completely sure what affect if any violent video games have on reality but to say someone killed someone else because of a video game is a hard idea to believe.

    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  11. Cassidy Glass said

    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

  12. Boluwatife Olayinka said

    Video games are becoming more violent these days. I agree to an extent that the content of a video game could make you want to act out what is in it. It can actually be addictive and kids these days want to have fantasies but only can get them in games, so after playing them they go ahead and act them out. Basically video games can cause harm to the society. Joseph Turow said in the dysfunctions/disadvantage of media, one of them is the negative uncensored content it releases to the public.

    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

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