The more I looked back through my own blog posts, those of fellow students, lecture notes and general media trawlings from the last six weeks in search of some kind of neat summation of what I had learnt, the further I got from one. The theories, concepts and issues we have covered; media effects, semiotics, ownership and control, the public sphere, have all been discussed by academics in depth for years . Their scope is vast and a nuanced understanding of them is underpinned by many complexities. However, throughout all of what I read, and wrote myself, was a tendency to address questions and appease social anxiety through allocation of blame and responsibility.
In some cases this can be the foundation for important investigative journalism, which underpins the balance of power in democracies. On the other hand, the rush to blame can result in unnecessary hype; society’s fears can be easily misdirected and blame creates a simplified answer in complex circumstances.
This pattern perpetuates the mass ‘moral panic’ . As we discussed in class this week, we see this prominently surrounding the representation of children in the media. The idea that children lack adult agency and are thus more susceptible to marketing and advertisement underpins fears surrounding this issue.
When it comes to the media, we are quick to point the finger. In the first week of semester we analysed the flaws in the simplistic ideas of causality that underpinned the ‘media effects’ model. In our blogs many of us pointed out that while the media could be influential on human behaviour, there was a multiplicity of other factors that come in to play. As students of media studies and consumers of media ourselves we need to be aware of the impulsion to blame, and understand that it leads us away from our ability to critically analyse. As researcher danah boyd explains in her book on adolescence and media, “it’s complicated”.