Miscellaneous (한 + EN)

"The Importance of Being Critical"

2019-10-05 21:04
"Social and symbolic structures cultivate tacit agreement on the terms of their existence. People growing up and living with these structures come to assume their existence as unwittingly as the proverbial fish in the ocean does salt water. Any scholarly inquiry that explicitly recognizes these structures and frameworks is inherently critical. It poses a challenge to unthinking acceptance. It extends the possibility of conscious control and deliberate change. It brings some degree of autonomy, self-direction, and development into the realm of human social possibilities. Posing that challenge is a unique task of an academic discipline and the only legitimate justification for its admittedly limited but still significant freedoms.

... Those fixated on the "primacy" of such influences as "primary groups" or "opinion leaders" or economic and social relationships sometimes ignore data showing that mass media tend to weaken and short-circuit, rather than enhance, such influences. Those attributing complex behavior like violence primarily to media, particularly television, equally neglect the role communications study should play in understanding such behavior. As others point out, quite reasonably, unemployment, poverty, neocolonial wars, immorality in higher circles, and repressive activities of police and armies may be contributing "more" to social violence than the mass media. But that is like arguing about which is the most important section of the orchestra or which leg makes a three-legged stool stand up. If the implication is that the other sections (or legs) are somehow less significant or even dispensible, the statement becomes misleading and harmful.

... The traumatic sociocultural pathologies leading to World War II pushed the concern with media manipulation and centralized control to the forefront of political and academic attention. The reformist zeal following the war seemed to challenge the new concentration of industrial and media power about to achieve domestic and global hegemony. The reaction to that threat was twofold.

The explicitly political reaction was the attack on Hollywood, the blacklist, the so-called McCarthy era. The scholarly reaction, taking advantage of wartime and industry research on persuasion, was a new wve of agnosticism. The "hypodermic needle" and "bullet" formulations were set up as straw men with which to deride the concern about media power. The brilliant work of pinoeers noted (and represented) in this symposium was diffused in a new wave of emphasis on traditional sociologial and other "intervening variables" and "predispositions" deflecting media effects and channeling uses in audience-gratifying directions. These formulations were neither new nor wrong; they just ignored and distracted attention from what was new. ... That sea change was the rise of television.

... While the long and checkered history of empiricism certainly produced fractured positivistic fantasies based on real data abstracted from their historical context, it also had a consistently critical line."

— Gerbner, G. (1983). The importance of being critical—in one's own fashion. Journal of Communication, 33(3), 355-362. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1983.tb02435.x