Monday, October 15, 2012

Cultivation Analysis

Living with television: the Violence Profile is a re-examination article of “priming effect” by taking a long-term and societal level view of TV violence. Gerbner claims that TV violence should not be discussed “in the stimulation of occasional individual aggression”, but should be understood in the larger symbolic world as the “dramatic demonstration of power” (p243). And he explains that this power could be demonstrated as telling us (the audience) who’s the winner and loser of the game, what’s right and what’s wrong, and “what’s the risks of life and the price for transgressions of society’s rules”(p243).

We audience are easily going to take in these messages in the environment of symbol, because (1) the lack of knowledge in other fields of real life, may lead us to believe “the foreground of plot or the background of the television world” to be real/facts. (2) Television makes “facts” imagery, and “truth” becomes pure and simple.

What interests me here is: Gerbner is trying to give a quite different definition or different perspective of “violence” from what the priming effect scholars do. He tries here to put “violence” into the large picture – as he defines it as “an efficient means to test the norms of and settle any challenge to the existing structure of power” (p248) – rather than viewing it as stimulus to individuals’ knowledge/attitude/behavior change. Thus, for those criminal genre films/TV series, we should not be surprised to discover that they’re changing the values of the society as a whole… they’re cultivating new norms and rules for real life (e.g. prison break can be reasonable under certain circumstances, revenge may also be viewed as legitimized for good reasons, the gang boss may have a very unique personality, etc.), while the demonstration of violence is just a mean.

And Gerbner mentions “industrial order” and “institutional process” for the control of creation and demonstration of these symbols to legitimize the rules and exert the power. I am thinking if new media is breaking down this “old” power and claiming for its own power? e.g. home-made videos show individual’s value about what’s good/attractive. If it’s true, since the process has become relatively less professional and decentralized, then the power for sustaining values will also be decreased, thus we are embracing a “pluralistic” world…


  1. I found your closing comment/question about how new media might fit into Gerbner's analysis of violence in the bigger picture an interesting one that does deserve some further attention, seieng as he wrote this piece in 1981 and mass media has changed a lot since then. It is definitely the case now that the process of creating and spreading media products like videos has now become widely open and decentralized with the advent of the webcam and YouTube, etc. - virtually anyone can create media content and share it with the public. Thus, today, we might look at how all these different individual voices and opinions might fit into the bigger scheme of things in society in terms of how symbolic violence serves as an "instrument of social control."
    I also thought that Gerbner raises an interesting point with his assertion that media violence needs to be studied in a much larger context than that which it is traditionally analyzed in. However, I find it difficult to imagine how this broad-context-approach would be practically implemented or effective in studying media violence. How does one exactly go about studying the long-term, far-reaching effects of violence on the mass public's perceptions of society? In theory Gerbner's approach sounds like it has value, but it is hard to picture how his approach can be practically carried out.

  2. Yiting, first of all, what a funny pairing of cartoons. The first makes the second read quite differently than it would by itself, since the child with his hands up in the air looks like he's the victim of a TV "stick-'em-up"! You and Yurie both usefully pursue G&G-related questions--a) whether their conclusions still hold in the era of egocasting (remember Rosen?), and b) the empirical approach to such long-term, societal questions. Of course, G&G highlight their decades-long work on the Cultural Indicators Project and the Violence Profiles, so let's not forget those.