Guide Thinking Inside the Box: Reflections on Television

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At the end of ten minutes, the child was taken to an observation room in which an experimenter recorded behavior. Each child spent 20 minutes with the toys. The authors reported that those who had seen the adult model attacking the Bobo doll showed twice as much aggression than those in the control group, as evidenced by their playing with the aggressive toys.

The result for the scholarly community, and the public at large, was that television could no longer be ignored as a influential source of social behavior. Conclusions were immediately reported to the public, characterizing television as a cause of real-world violence. Bandura is now one of the most well-known names in social psychology, and this is the experimental backdrop in which Leifer and Graves worked. Moore raised the question in Say Brother why there was so much violence on television. But networks, Graves clarified, were not allowed to show all types of violence.

This, she says, teaches children nothing about the reality of violence. Leifer, reiterating a common interpretation among scholars, argued that children learn that violence is acceptable and useful in real life and that they should be frightened of the world outside. These assertions, as mentioned above were reflected over and over again in newspapers.

Leifer and Graves argued that, while television has effects on children, researchers cannot conceivably make the connection that if there were, say, acts of violence on Monday night television there would be acts of violence on Thursday in the streets. And if you cannot quantify or measure real-world effects, what could anyone say conclusively about the effects of television violence? Leifer and Graves thus took a different approach to studying television effects. Rather than ask adults to evaluate children for being aggressive, then showing them a video clip, and then re-assessing their aggressive behavior, Leifer and Graves decided to ask children and adolescents what they thought was real on television, what they thought was pretend, and how they decided which was which.

The goal was to figure out how young viewers differentiate between fictional narratives that conform to their values and those that do not conform. Leifer emphasized that the solution is not to actively ban racist or sexist content, but instead provide more variety in programming. The result would be an overall reduction in violence, racism, and sexism. Even with special advocacy groups working at the federal level to combat television indecencies, Graves said, advocacy agendas are limiting.

The only solution was greater diversity; new ideas and new people must to be brought to the medium. The essence of their argument was that any other solution would amount to censorship and counterproductive.

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If they could not influence content, maybe they could influence viewers. Unlike the Bobo Doll studies, this kind of research attempts to be highly representative and highly practical. These two s programs summarized for the public audience a few common and long-standing questions about the effects of television violence, industry opinion on the matter, and what could be done about television violence. Interestingly, the industry executives acknowledged that they have some responsibility, a rare position for industry executives then and nonexistent moving forward as we will see in the next sections.

Yet both programs ultimately emphasize that the viewer has sole responsibility in their viewing habits. Before a looking at public television discussions of television violence in the s, it is important to consider the context of violence of the time. For example, the lyrical content of gangsta rap, the most globally lucrative of all hip-hop movements, during this era was heavily themed on gun use, drug use, and violent crime, consistent with the realities of inner-city violence.

Congressional attention on gun violence in these years is significant. On March 30, John Hinckley, Jr. At close range, the shots seriously wounded the President and three others. While Reagan recovered, Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head, was left permanently paralyzed and permanently confined to a wheel chair. Brady and his wife, Sarah, campaigned thereafter for effective gun control, since the Act proved to be largely symbolic and lacked any practical use.

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In , a masked gunman opened fire outside a party store in Detroit and wounded four people. In October , twenty-three people were killed and nineteen others wounded when a man drove his truck into a cafeteria and started randomly shooting with a copy of an AK The next month, four ATF officers were killed and sixteen others wounded at the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, where the cult hoarded nearly semi-automatic rifles. In July , eight people were killed and six others wounded at a San Francisco law office shooting involving semiautomatic assault pistols; and finally in December , two days before the Senate hearings on video games, a gunman used a semiautomatic pistol, randomly killing six people and wounding twenty.

In all cases, large amounts of ammunition were used or within reach. Gun violence was very much on the minds of citizens. But some people were not convinced crime bills and gun bans were sufficient. Looking at newspaper and magazine articles of the early s, popular opinion still included indictment of television, film, and video games. In , A New York Times reporter linked crime in New York with violence and gunplay on television, and on cartoons where people who are hurt do not show pain or damage.

And getting rid of guns would surely help… Can I be the only one who thinks that we all live in the climate of violence created by television and the movies? I recently bought a television after three years without one, and I am astonished at the level of violence there.

Half of the shows involve someone getting killed or beaten. All this creates the belief that violence is normal. And as long as we think that, we will never solve the crime problem. We will also never get real gun control, because most Americans want their guns, because violence is normal.

The Clinton Administration agreed and looked to entertainment media as a source for increased social violence. In late , despite a decrease in gun-related violence on television, Attorney General Janet Reno had warned the television industry that the federal government would intervene if it did not decrease the amount of violence on television. A few weeks later, President Clinton urged film and television executives during a fund-raising event to take more responsibility for their role in shaping the morality of American youth with violent entertainment.

In addition, the Administration required the television industry to employ ratings, but no overt content regulations were passed. On February 12, in Liverpool, England, 2-year-old James Bulger was found brutally tortured and murdered by two year old boys who had abducted Bulger from a nearby shopping center. Authorities could never establish whether they had seen the film, but the incident fueled the controversy over the real-world impact of violence on television.

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Juliette Tuakli-Williams agreed; we only need to look at what television shows us. Peggy Charren, however, immediately criticized the blaming of television for the behaviors of children or other aggressive people. If there was an equal distribution of wealth in the U. Latham, in answer, suggested that the public wants to externalize the causes of violence.

It is hard to see year-olds as evil, he said, so blaming some external cause makes sense. Censorship, she argued, is never the right tactic. The solution, the group surmises, is to have more awareness in the family. The public must share their concerns with networks, and conversations must be had across disciplines- pediatricians, public health professionals, criminologists, and parents must all be part of the discussions at all levels.

To attempt an answer to the question, correspondent Al Austin and a camera crew rented a house in Schenectady, New York, where Frontline says television was invented in Al Austin selected three families to document for several weeks. The families allowed cameras to be set up in their homes to have their television viewing monitored.

The black and white video is of a woman actively beating up the Bobo doll, and Austin explained that children were later left alone with the doll while researchers observed how they behaved. Austin pointed out that it was still hotly argued what, if anything, these studies proved. In short, Austin said, it was then widely regarded by social scientists that violent images can have a powerfully negative effect on viewers. One of the families Frontline monitored showed distressing images. While the other two families seemed to have normal childhood behavior, a child in the third family exhibited obsessive amounts of television viewing.

A monitor in his bedroom showed this boy watching television alone, nonstop throughout the day, only pausing to eat dinner after pleas from his mother. This behavior was repeated daily. The child admitted to being a minor bully in school and not reading very well. Do these behaviors stem from his viewing habits, or do they instead stem from an obvious lack of involvement from his mother? Frontline considered whether laboratory studies had any bearing on the real world. To answer this, Austin presents the work of psychologist Leonard Eron who observed children in Hudson County in and found that television violence led to aggressive behaviors.

Devising a longitudinal study, Eron went back to the community ten and twenty years later to check up on the children in his original study.

He and his collaborators on these studies including Berkowitz found that boys who watched a lot of violent television as children were more likely to get into trouble as teenagers and adults. Boys who were more aggressive at age 8 had more criminal convictions, more serious offenses, more traffic violations, more drunk driving incidents, and more aggressive at home. Frontline tracked down two of these men, Pat and Mike, who were part of the original study and had watched violent television as children.

They were 42 years old in Pat allowed cameras to be placed in his house, and what Frontline found was indeed nothing shocking. Despite the television being on, the family interacted often. Pat, and others like him, posed a conundrum to television violence researchers.

Just as Graves had explained in , research could simply not predict who or what would be affected by television. A glaring problem was that there was no way to compare children who watched television and children who did not watch television, since everyone had television by the s. Television intervention experiments suffered from the lack of true control groups, save for one unique study.

In that year, Frontline explains, television arrived for the first time to a small town in British Columbia. She had a checklist of 15 different aggressive behaviors, such as kicking, slapping, and verbal aggression. After 2 years of television use, Williams found that there was a significant increase in physical and verbal aggression in elementary school children, community activities decreased, and creativity decreased. At the same time television was brought to the rural BC community, a new road opened the town to the outside world, and business tripled.

A crime wave, the usual indicator for television critics that television was causing violence, never hit the town. Importantly, parental guidance was not assessed. A member of the BC town summarized the study this way: Television executives corroborated this attitude. According to Bradenburg, the television industry has overwhelmingly rejected the view that television contributed to violence in society.

Frontline interviewed social scientists then looking into the issue. In response to the claim that television was a scapegoat, George Gerbner, communications scholar, argued that this response sidestepped the real issue. What is interesting is that the actual statistics did not support these views. While the incidence of violent crime had doubled since the s, violent crime rates during the s dropped dramatically.

It is unfortunate that Frontline did not interrogate these statistics further. Instead, the program ended with Bill Moyers having a conversation with three contemporary experts on media and children: While both Thoman and Chen adhere to a panic attitude, Rushkoff emphasized that we need to consider the new crime statistics and what is actually happening in society, and society must move the conversation forward.

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For him, TV does not kill. Television programs like these all investigate similar questions about the effects of television violence: The most obvious issue that has changed over time is the issue of race and sexism in television that seems to drop out of concern in the s. This makes sense given civil and social unrest in the s and s and the blatant racism and sexism of the time. But television programming, despite continuing criticism, expanded to include shows depicting strong African American and women characters during the s and s. Violence, however, continued to be a great concern.

Other questions remained utterly the same. Why was there so much violence on television? Do networks have a responsibility to the nation in helping to raise healthy and non-violent children? Does television violence negatively affect children? It seemed to be agreed upon by everyone and through time that commercial television employed violence because it was a moneymaker.

However, was violence on television manifest as problematic in the real world? Despite decades of research, the answers to these questions were hopelessly convoluted, contended, and unclear. Several social scientists were and remained adamant about the ill effects of television, as evidenced in The Group. However the practical connection to reality was terribly ambiguous, as Frontline showed.

Ultimately, even with the benefit of historical reflection, not much changed in with respect to specific questions asked since , and not much more seemed to be added. The question of whether television kills seems to be even more difficult to answer after over thirty years of research. In fact, children, adolescents, and adults continue to be creative, he said, in spite of television and despite what Sanders feared.

Indeed, crime waves had not continued, and in fact dropped dramatically in the s. Children may be glued to the set, but they have been glued to the set for decades. There have not been epidemics of listless, lifeless adults. That, it seems, is simply the work of zombie fiction. Panic Discourses and Dilemmas of Modernity.

It bares emphasis that the designation of a moral or media panic does not imply a rejection of the objective reality of a problem. Folk Devils and Moral Panics: University of Illinois Press; Spigel, Lynn. Make room for TV: University of Chicago Press; Bodroghkozy, Aniko. Milestones in mass communication research: Mass Media and Violence: US Government Printing Office. Knopf, 4; Mass Media and Violence , Crimes and Crime Rates by Type of Offense: Violence and the Struggle for Existence. The subculture of violence: Towards an integrated theory in criminology.

For something to be innovative, it must also actually effect a change. It must take action and create an impact. Therefore, just creating an idea isn't really innovative since the process should also develop results. That is why putting constraints into the innovation process is actually helpful. Constraints could mean a number of different things.

From Text to Txting

A client of ours recently underwent a significant merger and they needed an innovative plan to roll out employee training systems to their employee base. The problem was that the number of people who needed training was now much larger and the technology system to track the training was no longer just on one platform. It was a huge challenge, as thousands of employees needed this training. But instead of focusing on all the ways that they could roll it out and all the different kinds of programs now available to them, they actually reframed the issue and started with a key constraint.

Any system that would be rolled out would have to work on their current learning management software system. So this very quickly focused their efforts. Either they'd need to innovate about how to scale the current offerings that worked on this system or they'd need to find new solutions that would accomplish their training goals and fit onto the software. This isn't a new phenomenon of course, as constraints exist in nearly everything we do. As a leader, you likely never say "Just go come up with a new product," because this kind of directive is hard to act upon.

Your direct reports and team members would come back with a million questions. So we all have constraints in our work, but we don't often think about framing innovation this way.


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Here's my approach to innovation by using constraints and thinking inside the box. John Seely Brown said it and I agree--innovation truly happens when we change our mindset and our dispositions. Adding constraints is a new mindset but one that surprisingly opens the door to innovation. Constrain the problem but not the potential ways of solving it: Innovation isn't only the provenance of highly conceptual thinkers. People who are very process-driven can be innovative as well. Recognize that we all innovate differently.

Constrain the atmosphere but not the team: