Thursday, February 22 2024

“Don’t worry mama, even though they can be exposed to violent multimedia
content, children don not risk becoming bullies, hoodlums, or criminals.
Even with many hours spent watching TV. In fact children remain safe, it is
statistically proven.”

And just like that, a mother presented with yet another proven statistic
will feel a little more relaxed and allow her children to freely watch some
program on TV, play the latest war video game he just bought, or—paradox
inexplicable to me as a new form of entertainment—to go on YouTube simply
and spend hour after hour playing games with a kid like him sharing
comments from behind the wheel of this powerful machine.

And there will be a father that in front of his child who has grown bored
watching the other kids play games, will not hesitate to buy the child the
coveted video game. Often, “the results of the study demonstrate that the
consumption of mediated violence is not predictable of increased rates of
social violence.”

This is the response that Christopher J. Ferguson, of the Department of
Psychology of Stetson University in Florida gives in response to the
question posed in the article, Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? which appeared this
year in the Journal of Communication.

However, and to honor the truth, a sketch of response already exists in the
title that after the question mark, recites: response to the question posed
in the article, latest war video game he just bought, or—paradox
inexplicable to me as a new form o the scholar literature.

Yet another drop in the bucket of the academic studies that respectively
incriminate or absolve movies and violent video games with respect to the
effects they have or would have on human behavior. It has given rise to
years of debate that by now has divided the scientific community and,
consequently, public opinion since, in the words of Ferguson himself, years
of debate that by now has divided the scientific community andwith respect
to the he article, latest war video game he extreme heterogeneity of the
studies’tresults—resultsently, public opinion since, in the words of
Ferguson himself, years of debate that by now has divided the scientific
community andwith respect to the he article, latest wwhat is seen
and when. And on this we are perfectly in agreement with Dr.
Ferguson, so it is with high interest that we let ourselves be guided to
the discovery of that “what” and “when” trusting that we will stumble upon
an experimental case study finite in time and space in respect to the
object studied, and so… not intended to be of universal value.

Fergusonr the pretext of a university. ment with Dr. Ferguson, so it is
with high interest that we let ourselves be guided to the discovery odeo
games respectively. Let us begin with the former.

Within the first three lines of the studyent with Dr. Ferguson, so it is
with high interest that we let ourselves be guided to the discovery odeo
games respectively. Let us begin with the former. which it analyzes 90 of
the most-watched movies in the United States. Each one of these movies was
then classified according to its average level of violent content
calculated according to minute-intervals of content analysis in regard to
the total duration of the film. At this point we no longer have any doubt
about the substantially statistic slant of the research, the type of
results, and the way in which the results are presented. Without dwelling
on the relative classification details of the films examined, we limit
ourselves to reporting that the rate of variation of the violent content
was then charted on a Cartesian plane allowing us to graphically observe
the trends within the length of time considered. On the same graph another
curve was then constructed reflecting the social violence calculated
according to variation among the following parameters: the homicide rate
obtained by the United States Department of Justice (hence the study deals
only with homicides effectively reported), average family income, number of
police officer units employed over the course of 85 years, population
density, proportion of youth population under the age of 24, and the Gross
National Product.

As expected, in the analysis of the results the homicide rate obtass
divergent trends of the two curves — Ferguson records that “graphic
elements of movie violence have been on a steady liberalizing trend,
particularly in the latter half of the 20th century. Interestingly, this
trend toward more graphic violent content is not correlated with societal
violence… [Notwithstanding] Although graphic violence did not correlate con
societal violence, frequency of violence in movies did correlate with
societal violence in the form of homicides.”. And based on this he
concludes that “that efforts to establish causal connections between movie
and societal violence based on a select set of decades were an ecological
fallacy.”

Not without a certain delusion typical born out of frustrated expectations,
I went through the second case study,

Video games: A theme that certainly concerns the lives of our children
more closely

. However, the method choice is more or less the same, and as far as I have
seen, the criticisms of some aspects are as well. Among these, the
calculation of average consumption of violent video games in the 15-year
period between 1996 and 2011 is calculated on the basis of data provided by
the Entertainment Software Administration and measured in terms of units
sold, overlooking those video games reached through mobile devices, social
networks, distributed online non commercially, and above all without taking
account of those carried in the black market of pirated copies. Also
notable about the findings of this case is that the data is obtained from a
government website (childstats.org) and
is therefore relatively exclusive to episodes of homicide, rape, and theft
that were effectively reported to authorities. The graphical response to
the data is unchallenged: while the consumption of violent video games grew
exponentially in the course of 15 years, the episodes of violence among
youth between the ages of 12 to 17 exhibited a decreasing trend and
therefore “the consumption of violent video games in society is inversely related to juvenile violence.e

According to Dr. Ferguson, the results of such studies should encourage
(drive?) us to consider that the influence exercised by specific mediated
content depends much more on what the individual consumer is seeking to
experience from that content unchallenged: while the consumption of violent
videoe motivation for seeking out a certain media determines what the
person chooses to consume, while the contents, however ethically debatable,
can exercise very different influences on each individual viewer. In this
line of thinking, we can at most be in agreement with Ferguson, (further on
I will explain why), while I disagree on the way that he attributes
everything to the Theory of Routine Activities formulated in the field of
criminology in the 80to expFelson and Cohen, which affirms that whatever
the impact of media violence on mood or motivation, merely engaging in the
behavior of watching violent movies or

playing violent videogames occupies time and, thus, removes individuals
from opportunities to offend

, thus reducing criminal violence (Italics are mine)).

If it is reasonable to avoid establishing a direct causal link between
consumption of violent films and video games and the episodes of social
violence. Similarly, it seems to me an over simplification of the facts to
believe that one of the causes of the reduction of the criminal cases can
be that people are employed to search, flush out, and virtually kill their
victim.

Besides the methodological flaws of the Ferguson’s study and the personal
frustration when a clinical psychologist, like me, feels at reading tons of
statistics instead of case studies and experimental qualitative methods,
which cues of reflection we can draw from the literature of this article.
What response we can give to these parents who have difficulty managing the
requests of their children of video games with violent contents? How can we
intercept the reasonable worry of those parents not satisfied with the
peremptory explanation that ents who have difficulty mana

Without quickly dismissing the importance of statistical results, which
often help us to see through numbers what we know by common experience
about the reach of social problems, it is clear that statistical evidence
alone is not enough to base ethical judgments. In the first place the
statistical correlations do not demonstrate causality, as statistical
science itself warns. Certainly, the unwarned reader reads cause
in place of correlation. And the diverging results puts the accent
not certainly on its methodological caveat, that would make the literature
grave, but on the possible indication that follows from those
results. Further, it must be remembered that the statistics are also a
branch of rhetoric despite being presented as neutral data. Finally, it
must be said that statistics in the study above measures the “quantity of
violence” in a “discourse” (a movie or a videogame content for that matter)
without considering the merits of the discourse, which always
requires a qualitative study. I mean to say that the way of representing violence within the discourse can
neutralize the impact of it and vice versa. Apocalypse Now, the
movie adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s famous novel, In the Heart of Darkness, is a tough sentencing of violence with
little blood and gore. Kill Bill is almost a trivialized
justification of violence with tons of tomatoes in place of real blood and
virtual hyperrealism in the place of ordinary violence.

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