Pol 150/CN: Video violence

For Tuesday’s class: Is video violence a cultural problem? (NOTE: I’m having you read two articles per side, largely because the pieces are short.)

Note that I’m saying “maybe/maybe not”, not “yes/no” because the evidence is at best mixed (see, for example, Raul Ramos, et. al., Comfortably Numb or Just Another Movie?, although other studies do indicate slight upticks in aggression after viewing violent content.) Also, I want you to go beyond just the question of “will playing Grand Theft Auto make you beat someone” to ask questions about different types of video or cinematic violence, the age of players, and whether this could be a safe outlet or a spur for someone who is already aggressive.

It’s also worth asking whether US popular culture is so saturated in depictions of violence that we have, as a culture, become numb to its effects. In our movie ratings system, for example, depictions of sex will more likely lead to an R-rating than depictions of violence. To put this another way, maybe social scientists can’t tease out the specific effects of, say, video-game violence because there is already so much violence that one more game won’t make much difference in terms of aggression and crime.

Finally, there are questions of artistry (see, for example, this review of BioShock Infinite), as well as deeper questions about the purpose of such depictions of violence, as well as, quite apart from its effect on crime rates, it is good for us as human beings to consume so much violence.

Have fun. . . .


About proftp

I teach political science and bioethics as an adjunct at a CUNY school.
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