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Understanding Media Violence: School shootings and framing reality

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Andy Ruddock

on 20 April 2016

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Transcript of Understanding Media Violence: School shootings and framing reality

Media Violence: what does it mean when social expression depends on commerce?
"What is a fair price for April Showers on DVD, iTunes (download or rental), Amazon etc? If that means lowering the price on a certain aspect of the film or doing a special promotion I want to look into it so that I can ensure you’re able to see the film without having to turn to questionable means. The fact that the film was on several top downloaded lists was kind of awesome despite how troubling that statement is going to come off to some of my investors and fellow filmmakers. At the end of the day obviously, I want as many people to see the film and get whatever they want/can out of it because that is the intent. I also would like to pay back the good men and women who made it possible for us to make this wonderful film you all like so much. I do believe one good deed deserves another, but understand that in tough economic times one has to be flexible."
Andrew Robinson, Director, April Showers

􀁸 It is useful to think of media violence as a political message, whose main
effect is to shape beliefs about what the world is like.
􀁸 School shootings appear so frequently as media events because they
encapsulate a number of fears about what it means to live in a world
marked by acts of random violence.
􀁸 The concepts of cultivation, agenda-setting and myth have been used to
explain how media process school shootings into events with political
􀁸 The topic has also seen interesting international comparisons, illustrating
how the same sorts of global effects can eventuate from very different
national concerns and media practices.
􀁸 School shootings invite consideration of how far the commercial logic of
media systems has become the prevailing logic of all media culture.
Cultivation Analysis
Introduction to the idea of mediatization
Appreciation of the factors that have commodified media violence.
Understand how media users participate in the commodification of media violence.
Understand how violence represents larger dynamics in media cultures
Why have school shootings become powerful examples of how media make reality? You may discuss in terms of their staging, their
representation in media, or political and public reactions to these crimes. (This question relates to the previous essay on violence).
Learning Outcomes
Violence is a story about power.
It's 'effects' are related to the privatization and centralization of storytelling.
Its main effects are to make people afraid and suspicious
1. School shootings reflect 4 sorts of media power.
Media are powerful because they can turn controversial political arguments into common sense through the power of signification. We might be able to disagree with particular images or stories, but it's hard to resist the media's general power to define social reality

Media power works by developing 'thick language'; sets of ideas and associations that we have to use when thinking about society.
Media Rituals: James Carey
The quote that everyone uses....
communication as “a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed” (1989, p. 23)

The one that's cited less frequently...
"Because we have seen our cities as the domain of politics and economics, they have become the residence of technology and bureaucracy. Our streets are designed to accommodate the automobile, our sidewalks to facilitate trade, our land and houses to satisfy the economy and the real estate speculator… [R]ecasting our studies of communication in terms of a ritual model is… to give us a way in which to rebuild a model of and for communication of some restorative value in reshaping our common culture. (Carey, 1989, pp. 34-35)"

Carey agreed with Gerbner: the critical question was how message systems favoured economic interests in framing reality, and this set the terms for what was 'created' and 'shared'.

Agenda Setting-Maxwell McCombs
Agenda setting is a process where the media affect political opinions by presenting particular events or objects as being of the public interest, and then emphasise attributes of those events in defining why they are of public interest (McCombs & Shaw, 1972, McCombs, 2005).

Attributes take the form of aspects and central themes; aspects are themes that the media attach to events, and central themes are aspects that the media repeatedly present as summarizing what a story is about, in terms of why audiences should care about it (McCombs, 2005).

McCombs thought that Columbine was a case study in agenda setting, because media manipulated attributes of space and time to create the impression that this was the defining school shooting, transforming a local tragedy into a tale of a dysfunctional American psyche (Chyi & McCombs, 2004).

Muschert’s analysis of 683 newspaper reports (2009) confirmed that Columbine became an applicable story because, gradually, stories about Columbine itself became less frequent, while others about reactions to Columbine in other schools became more common

2. Media, repetition and 'thick' languages
The Columbine Murders: The development of myth.
"First, a myth requires the identification of innocent and often-helpless victims. Second, a myth requires the appearance of brave and virtuous heroes. Third, there must be a threat to legitimate and established norms, values, or lifestyles. Finally, a crime myth needs the identification of a deviant population responsible" (Muchert 2007b, 252).

Columbine exists as a powerful narrative that can be used to communicate a number of ideas.
Thick languages establish narratives that we have to engage with.
Gerbner would agree with Manson's analysis: But the question is, how do we conceive the effects that Manson describes, and how do we gather evidence to show that media indeed induce cultures of fear? Creating an academic case for his point of view isn't that straightforward.

Even for people who were there...
Media are vital resources in processing the social.
3. Violence, media, social performance
What happens when mass murderers script their crimes with media industries and audiences in mind?
"In competitive media environments, digital communication technology offers new possibilities to fight for the audience. Circulation of authentic visual material –– killer images –– becomes an easy, low- cost and effective strategy for the media business" (Sumiala & Tikka, 2010)

The fact that anyone can get involved in framing does not imply that events will be framed in numerous ways, if we are all bound by "thick" languages

Media: a violent business...
The Finnish Experience: School shootings, media users, media business and national identity
What is unique about the Finnish experience of a global media phenomenon?
Go online and find news coverage of a rampage shooting.
What are the main themes in the story?
How do these themes explain why the event happened?
How do these themes explain why the event is socially significant; i.e. it is something that represents social trends, rather than being a crime that just happened for no particular reason?
Answer these questions by using the ideas from the book.
Add to this by searching for academic writing about rampage shootings.
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