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Cultivation analysis. Constructing our reality based on entertainment. Telling stories v. imparting information. Most media studies, especially ‘effects’ research, see the content we encounter as a bundle of information Tend to ignore narrative structure

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cultivation analysis

Cultivation analysis

Constructing our reality based on entertainment

telling stories v imparting information
Telling stories v. imparting information
  • Most media studies, especially ‘effects’ research, see the content we encounter as a bundle of information
    • Tend to ignore narrative structure
    • Usually treat each message as a unique piece of content without concern over its relation to other messages, the culture in general
  • Gerbner et al. are concerned not with particular pieces of information, but with the dominant stories within the US culture
  • They see ‘telling stories’ as a powerful cultural force
    • People are socialized through the telling of stories

“Television has transformed the cultural process of story-telling into a centralized, standardized, market-driven, advertiser-sponsored system . . . the cultural process of story-telling is now in the hands of global commercial interests who have something to sell, and who in effect operate outside the reach of democratic decision-making.”

why is this a problem
Why is this a problem?
  • Television has no conscience
    • Driven by market dynamics to provide content that is most likely to hold audience for advertising and to ‘travel well’
      • Research shows that this tends not to be most liked, but least objectionable
    • Children are most vulnerable but everyone is to some extent
    • US is almost unique in lack of government control over media content
traditional effects v cultivation
Traditional effects v. cultivation
  • Change v. stability
  • Short-term v. long-term
  • Individual messages v. message systems
  • Aggressive behavior v. fear

Misjudging the amount of violence in society is sometimes called the 'mean world syndrome'. Heavy viewers tend to believe that the world is a nastier place than do light viewers.

the evidence
The evidence
  • Cultural Indicators
    • Content analyses (since 1967) of television programming “to track the most stable, pervasive, and recurrent images in media content, in terms of the portrayal of violence, minorities, gender-roles, occupations, and so on”
      • Clearly shows heavy use of violence as a plot device
      • Violence is ubiquitous—kids’ cartoons, daytime serials, Prime Time programming; comedy, action-adventure, reality TV
      • Shows who can perform violence and who is a victim
        • Middle-aged white males have right to engage in violence
        • Women are victims
amount of violence across subgenres of children s programming
Amount of violence across subgenres of children’s programming

Source: Wilson, Smith, Potter, Kunkel, Linz, Colvin & Donnerstein, 2002

Journal of Communication

what is the impact
What is the impact?
  • Use surveys to ask how much TV a person watches, how dangerous she thinks the world is (e.g., how likely she is to be attacked if she walks alone at night), whether you can trust people, and so on
  • If heavy TV viewers give the ‘TV answer’ then Gerbner et al. conclude that cultivation has occurred
    • TV answer is determined by projection from Cultural Indicators findings
additional cultivation concerns
Additional cultivation concerns
  • The same ‘drip dripdrip’ that is supposed to make us fearful also may make us devious, obsessed with material accumulation, bigoted, sexist, and so on
  • Because it happens over time, slowly, and widely throughout the culture, it is hard to see it happening
  • Dominant cultural ‘current’ “representing the broadest and most common dimensions of shared meanings”
    • “Because of its unique role in our society, we see television as the primary manifestation of our culture’s mainstream.”
  • “Mainstreaming means that heavy viewing may absorb or override differences in perspectives and behavior which ordinarily stem from other factors and influences.”
    • Cultural, social and political characteristics of groups would otherwise lead to more ideological diversity
  • Where those who live in high-crime neighborhoods get a ‘double dose of messages that resonate and amplify cultivation’
  • Minorities “whose fictional counterparts are more frequently victimized on television”
cultivation research is very controversial
Cultivation research is very controversial
  • Much more questioning of the premise and of the study methods within the scientific community than with social learning theory
    • Most famous argument between researchers over a theory that can be found in media studies
      • Gerbner v. Hirsch
problems with cultivation research
Problems with cultivation research
  • No clear psychological process specified that would produce the results of interest
    • ‘Drip dripdrip’ is not a theory
  • No clear connection between individual fear and the development of an authoritarian society
    • Levels of analysis problem
  • Methodological problems
    • Definition of what constitutes violence
    • Accusations of ‘cherry picking’ high and low TV levels, which indicators of ‘cultivation’ counted, etc.
    • Lack of control for third variables
      • Heavy TV watchers tend to live in dangerous neighborhood
problems with cultivation research1
Problems with cultivation research
  • Low correlations
  • Limits on survey analyses—many are secondary data analyses
strengths of cultivation theory
Strengths of cultivation theory
  • It covers a broad range of social phenomena
    • Violence
    • Prejudice
    • Consumerism
  • It looks at a wide range of content the individual is exposed to rather than a small portion
  • It does cover multiple levels of analysis
    • (but note the problems here)
factors affecting cultivation
Factors affecting cultivation
  • “Cultivation is dependent on and a manifestation of the extent to which television’s imagery dominates viewers’ sources of information.”