One of the recurring enigmas in research about cultural values and community attitudes concerns the tendency of research participants to take a more conservative position on social issues and the media than they apply to themselves. This was demonstrated in the study of children’s beliefs about media harm (UWS/ABA 2000) where children routinely assumed that children younger than them, or children of the opposite gender, or both, were likely to be the ones in need of protection from harmful media content. As Baker and others have noted, a similar phenomenon occurs in the legal discourse on community attitudes and the ‘third-person effect’.
These trends offer contradictory scenarios for the future relevance of the third-person effect and molar concepts like ‘community attitudes’. Firstly, the segmenting impact of advertiser demand increases the likelihood that some community groups may be increasingly unaware of the attitudes and values of other audience segments (Turow 1997). Secondly the impact of convergence on broadcasters is creating a climate for the development of ‘enhanced media’ where different sections of the mass audience are attracted by event programming. It is suggested that this leads to a simplification of what community attitudes are imagined to be, and that the attitudes promoted as ‘communal’ in such mainstream media events (Roscoe 2001) are likely to be increasingly media-driven (cf. Big Brother 4). Diversity is located at the margins of the media event, safely contained in blogs and chat rooms. And lastly the increased use of the Internet and the experience of interactivity suggests that while people increasingly engage with diverse identities online, this may increase their sensitivity to the possibility that others may be affected by media coverage in ways that they are not (thereby intensifying the third person effect).
|Keywords:||Media, Convergence, Cultural Values|
University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Lecturer, Media Policy and Research, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Australia
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