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Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Social Science

Apologies for the slump in wordmongering of late, all the usual excuses are applicable. Today's the town beer festival. In light of this day of restful inebriation, I'll be throwing all worldly responsibilities to the wind (so that's essays, gastric discipline, and the duty to scan the pavement below for signs of small children). Thankfully I regard this blog as a pleasure to write for, never a burden. So, without further verbal stew - here is the news:

A daring academic has seen reason. Karen Sternheimer - sociologist at the University of Southern California - publishes her informed opinion, outlining the media's role in the construction of our understanding of violence:

"Politicians and other moral crusaders frequently create “folk devils,” individuals or groups defined as evil and immoral. Folk devils allow us to channel our blame and fear… Video games… have become contemporary folk devils because they seem to pose a threat to children."

"The biggest problem with media-effects research is that it attempts to decontextualize violence. Poverty, neighborhood instability, unemployment, and even family violence fall by the wayside… Ironically, even mental illness tends to be overlooked in this psychologically oriented research."
The above discourse should be familiar to anyone who's found themselves defending video games in public - this, however, is not old hat:

"White, middle-class killers retain their status as children easily influenced by a game, victims of an allegedly dangerous product. African-American boys, apparently, are simply dangerous."
Emile Durkheim urged sociologists to embrace their school of thought in a scientific manner, for "the aim of science is to make discoveries, and every discovery more or less disturbs accepted ideas". I'm overjoyed to view Karen Sternheimer so effectively challenge accepted prejudices against gaming, and against the falsely-defined characteristics of certain social stereotypes.

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