Saturday, September 1, 2012

Moral Worries and New Mass Mediums

While reading Czitrom's piece, "Early Motion Pictures," I was struck by how he brought up the many different moral worries that the advent of moving pictures brought to the forefront of society. When taking a media studies class in a previous semester, this was also a point that one of my Professors brought up - that the creation of almost any mass medium / technology is almost always met with an uproar because of its potential "negative" effects. Nevertheless, the worries of Simon Patten when he "found the library church and schools, 'the conserving moral agencies of a respectable town' all closed" in relation to "throngs at the nickel theater" were not just exclusive to the creation of moving pictures, but are the same kind of worries that are brought up time and time again today in the form of interrogatives such as, "Do violent video games cause violence?" and "Are today's youth deteriorating because they spend too much time watching television?" Recent articles have also popped up that talk about entertainment addiction, pinpointing inflammatory and extreme stories such as the teen who died after playing Diablo 3 for 40 hours straight.

There are no obvious answers to these questions. But while in Czitrom's article, Patten talks about the need for "traditional cultural institutions...[to] compete" with "commercial amusements," I would perhaps argue that for the modern day, rather than competition between institutions, open conversation about media is a necessity. As Professor Retzinger stressed, media permeates our everyday existence, and hence, it is not something that can be eradicated or even ignored. I have often come across parents who keep their children from reading, watching, or even hearing certain things because they are not deemed "appropriate." However, on the other hand, a few years ago, I had a middle school student laughingly tell me that although her parents had banned her from reading a certain book, she had gone ahead and done so in any case, simply because she wanted to.

It is only logical that parents, teachers, etc. attempt to protect youth from what they see as harmful influences in terms of media, but at the same time, it does nothing to speak to the fact that these influences continue to exist and that children are often exposed to them anyways - either unwittingly or of their own accord. Censorship and controversial content continue to be issues, but in terms of a media democracy and creating a public sphere where ideas, opinions, and information can be freely raised, shared, and debated, education and discussion, rather than ignorance or denial, is necessary in order to move towards compromise and understanding.

1 comment:

  1. I'm very much in agreement, Sophia. Media abstinence is not a viable solution in a world that is increasingly saturated with advertising messaging and media "information" (scare quotes here thinking ahead to the Holiday reading) or "entertainment" (thinking ahead to the Adorno). That said, I do think discussing and analyzing media can lead to carefully choosing what fills your hours and your forebrain.

    You're also right to point to the cyclical nature of media fears (generally accompanying the introduction of "new" technology). And as for Patten, we could perhaps argue that the old civic spaces have been replaced by or compensated for elsewhere, perhaps even online (on that see sociologist Ray Oldenburg's work on "third places") or the question of a Habermasian public sphere on the Web).