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    • CommentAuthorSteve Toase
    • CommentTimeApr 16th 2012 edited
    I couldn't sleep last night and started thinking this through instead.

    Here's a little thought experiment. I believe that a lot of anxiety about the condition/violence in the world doesn't relate to a quantitive increase, but in an increase in the speed in which we get information globally. For example a riot in LA gets the same immediacy as a riot in your hometown. Do you think that this could be eased by reverting to only accessing local media, (Local or regional papers) rather than global media, and that this could change perception of social volatility?

    I'm not saying turn back the clock, but whether anxiety is increased by speed of media.
    • CommentAuthorflecky
    • CommentTimeApr 16th 2012
    Years ago, I was staying in a house in Notting Hill during the carnival. I'd been working as a steward, helping to direct people to the tube etc. On the way back home a domestic situation kicked-off in a house directly over the road from where I was living. They'd been having a party 24/7 for most of the weekend.

    There was lots of shouting, a couple started fighting in the street, some idiots started throwing bottles etc. Within seconds the police arrived and, for about 20 minutes, chaos ensued. But it wasn't exactly what I would call a riot. I watched the whole thing play out. No, I didn't get involved :)

    Anyway, when I went inside it was all over the news. What I watched made it look really bad: shaky camera-work, people running and screaming - fucking Cloverfield! I spent the next hour on the phone to let my mother know I was OK, as she had watched it on the TV on the other side of the country and was worried sick.

    A small example of anxiety being increased by speed of media.
    • CommentTimeApr 16th 2012
    As far as the psychological effects of increased dissemination of information, I personally think you are bang on the money, Steve. However, I think that the main reason that this is causing anxiety is because culturally we can still remember when this wasn't the norm.

    Technological and social regression tends to work poorly as a solution. I think this is something we just have to ride out.
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeApr 16th 2012
    Beyond the speed of media, I think you have to look at the nature and tone of news reports.

    A tornado that kills nobody and destroys nothing may as well not have happened. Have you ever seen a headline: "No Earthquake Today: Death Toll Zero"? Interviews with tearful and celebrating relatives after somebody was not murdered for the 25,000th successive day?

    Essentially, news media has a (very logical) selection bias towards negative events because bad news seems more notable than good. Multiply that by the sheer quantity of news now available, and it's inevitably going to exert torque on your outlook.

    PS: Somewhere in the TED archives there's a fascinating talk on a statistical analysis of crime rates in the West over the 20th century, which suggests that in reality they peaked around 1960 and have been dropping ever since. If I find it, I'll link it.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeApr 16th 2012
    Yeah, total reported crime is generally down across the board during my lifetime. But you do see it on the TV an awful lot more than you used to.

    A few years back Charlie Brooker had this segment on the phenomena of rolling 24 hour news channels and how they behave when there's a big story breaking (in this case, the Madeline McCann story).

    This is why I love Brooker so much
  1.  (10615.6)
    Global communication has overloaded the human sense of perspective. Our brains just aren't equipped to deal with a "village" of 7 billion people... we simply can't conceive of it. So (for example) we hear about every pretty blonde girl who goes missing or is abducted anywhere in the world, then subconsciously map that onto the universe we have personal experience with (which usually consists of merely thousands of people we've interacted with in our lives), and it seems as if they're being thrown into vans on every street corner (and consequently overreact with new legislation and diminished liberties to combat the perceived threat... but I digress). It isn't just that we're not used to this flood of information or that it's more than we used to have... we're simply unable to properly process it and put it in its proper context.
  2.  (10615.7)
    Some really good points here. The approach news takes to presentation, particularly in the days of rolling news and having to fill silence (Something Brooker is a god on).

    @Jason the village of 6 million is a really important. I use a news site which filters material that relates to one of my interests, collating it internationally. But what I'm ending up doing is reading local news in communities I have no link to, but the brain creates links and patterns that increases anxiety. Fear of the 'known' and perceived rather than the unknown.
  3.  (10615.8)
    'Filling silence' leads to absurdity. I recall the death of Milosevic, for some reason I was stuck in front of the BBC's coverage, which for several hours was pretty much a live feed of police arranging traffic barriers in front of the Hague. Or the bird flu outbreak in which they had a reporter in a helicopter just wittering nonsense, including "We're hovering now above the three mile exclusion zone. Of course it's not a real, physical barrier because that would be impossible..."

    But is the increase in speed and the resultant anxiety necessarily a bad thing? Could you not make a case that the immediacy and fast spread of a story such as the Trayvon Martin killing is able to shine a brighter light on things that would previously been lost and forgotten? Or that the horror of violence in Libya, and Iraq and Afghanistan etc is brought closer to home by a globalised media and that's an advance on these things being abstract newspaper reports. Whether it relates to a quantitative increase in violence or not, maybe seeing it up closer might provoke more revulsion. Or not, maybe it just desensitizes people.

    I'm also not sure that people aren't capable of discerning the proximity/relevance of stories - I can easily filter the BBC site for my local news, I read the local paper on line, but I can 'zoom out' easily to global news sources. There would have been loads of murder stories in the press last week but the only one I was paying much attention to was the one that happened about a mile away (hell, NOBODY gets murdered round here).

    And moral panics are nothing new either...
  4.  (10615.9)
    Just because you filter the news for local subjects doesn't mean others do. In fact, the mainstream media do the opposite for their audience: the murder of Trayvon Martin has received metric tons more coverage around here than the kid who got shot a mile from my house last month, simply because it's a "better" story.

    And the (false) perception of an epidemic in rates of sensational crimes demonstrates that most people do not properly put these stories into statistical context. It isn't that people don't understand where they're happening, but that they can't wrap their heads around populations so large: "a billion" looks the same in most people's heads as "a million" or even "ten thousand", so if 1 pretty blonde girl in 10 million gets abducted by a stranger each year, the news of it happening is just as alarming to them (on an instinctive level) as if it were 1 pretty blonde girl in 10 thousand.

    The problem of TV news filling time with non-news isn't exactly a new problem. Just ask Chevy Chase. :)
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2012
    JP Carpenter: You sure about that murder rate of yours? "No one gets murdered around here" is what they said in Sanford you know. :D

    I do believe it's a question of acclimatisation. Not desensitising. We say that we can't process massive numbers, we can't quite cope with the idea of the global village. But for some reason, people manage to cope with living in Manhattan or London, despite their massive numbers, especially compared to the villages most people lived in only a hundred years ago.

    The insane influx of information is making all negative stories more visible, yes. It's also making it easier to find positive stories. There are entire websites dedicated to finding lovely stories to counteract some of the big, apocalyptic news stories we see regularly. We might be anxious now, but violence on a global scale has been going steadily down since... forever, and soon enough, the Global News Immediacy as you call it will uncover that fact. It's just that right now, it's all a bit much.

    We will get used to it, it will just take time. More knowledge is ALWAYS better. (more or less)
  5.  (10615.11)
    I think in cities we create villages. After we lived in Leeds for a couple of years we had a cognitive map which would not correlate with anyone elses, but consisted of those people/places significant to us. This is something we have done in Munich too.

    I think we need to learn to be more discriminatory with the information we filter. In the UK the current generation is really the first to move from a three tv channel, handful of papers, four radio station media web. In this environment we can absorb most of the media without being overwhelmed. Now we've moved to a mist of information and maybe we haven't found the best way to prioritise in this environment.
  6.  (10615.12)
    JP Carpenter: You sure about that murder rate of yours? "No one gets murdered around here" is what they said in Sanford you know. :D

    Well, unless they're really great at hiding the bodies...

    Just because you filter the news for local subjects doesn't mean others do. In fact, the mainstream media do the opposite for their audience: the murder of Trayvon Martin has received metric tons more coverage around here than the kid who got shot a mile from my house last month, simply because it's a "better" story.

    I didn't mean to imply that my browsing habits are typical. More that the routes to navigate to more localised stories are usually quite clearly defined on news sites.