Critical Analysis of Cecilia von Feilitzen’s Media violence: four research perspectives
Mass communication has always been a cause for debate. Over the years considerable resources have been used to establish the effects of this communication. Since the rising popularity of television from the 1950s onwards, the concern for the effects of entertainment media on the population has grown in unison. This has often been focused on the effect on teenagers and the young, centralised around violence and more recently on sexualisation and body image. This essay will review the research of Cecilia von Feilitzen’s 1994 chapter Media violence; four research perspectives. Feilitzen aimed to show how the problems with effects research have been redefined over the years and determine the reason that so much importance is given to effects research; “media violence itself, culture, the audience, or the power relations in society.” Feilitzen claimed that since the 1980s it has become unreasonable to talk about there being only one perspective within media violence research and this has been discussed by many scholars and found to be true in most cases, as will be shown throughout this essay.
Firstly, Feilitzen looks at the traditional models of media effects and media violence studies. As Feilitzen states, most traditional media violence research centres around theories that view aggression the result of cultural influence and that studies rarely includes theories of human aggression as “biologically innate or as a psychic internal instinct” (Feilitzen, 1994). However Feilitzen goes on to say that as the studies evolve they develop broader research parameters and often also observe the role of school, family and peers. Some long-term studies reflect the influences of a wider range of factors (e.g., Huesmann and Eron, 1986; Sonesson, 1989) and suggest only 5-10 percent of children’s aggression over time is directly influenced by the viewing of entertainment violence while 90-95 percent is due to other factors. Halloran, Brown and Chaney commented that many of the things being said about television in the 1960s were said about films, comics, magazines and the press earlier “this is not the first time that technological innovations in communication have led to concern and anxiety” (1970).
Although many studies on effects have been done, the main focus for concern tends to be the effect on young people and their socialisation. Not only the effect of violence but as Feilitzen expresses, more advanced research has attempted to look at other consequences of media consumption, such as hyperactivity. In 1963 the Television Research Committee was set up solely to look at influence on young peoples “moral concepts and attitudes” (Halloran, 1964). David Gauntlett is very critical of effects research, especially effects research on children. He writes that effect studies treat children as ‘inadequate’ and depict them as ‘potential victims’, he notes that comparison studies of adults are rarely performed (1997). However Feilitzen sites empirically supported studies of adults, although the theory differs from the traditional view of media effects. Tannenbaum (1980) looked into the theory of emotional arousal or the ‘instigation theory’, which suggested that any media that inspires strong emotions will reinforce a viewer’s mood and this can lead to an increase in behaviour corresponding to that mood.
Feilitzen’s second perspective focuses on the power of culture. He talks about the creation of fear in society and the importance of news and news values and that the real violence on TV, although not as widely criticised can have just as big an impact on viewers, if not more so. The influence of news violence can be seen through the creation of ‘folk devils’ as Stanley Cohen’s theory of moral panics describes. We can see how stereotypes and judgements of certain types of people are shaped by the media and can influence the community’s...
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