On Media Violence

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W. James Potter

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    Acknowledgments

    This book is a down payment on a debt I owe to many people who inspired and helped me in my scholarly career. First, I must thank the theoreticians—Albert Bandura, Leonard Berkowitz, George Gerbner, Rowell Huesmann, and especially Dolf Zillmann. While I have not always accepted all of their explanations, these scholars have given us the most important tools an area of scholarly study can have. I am also grateful to the hundreds of scholars who have directed their energies to doing the empirical work that extends our knowledge and reshapes our thinking about media violence. I have been fortunate to work with many graduate as well as undergraduate students on research teams where together we have explored the mysteries of how violence appears on television and how it affects us.

    The most intense, mind-expanding, maddening, rewarding, frustrating, and exhilarating experience of my entire career was the four years I worked on the National Television Violence Study. This was the kind of project we all dream about—a think tank-like experience where you are submerged deeply in important research. I learned so much from my colleagues in Santa Barbara (Ed Donnerstein, Dale Kunkel, Dan Linz, and Barb Wilson) as well as my NTVS colleagues from other sites, such as the University of Texas at Austin (Ellen Wartella, Chuck Whitney, Dominick Larosa, and Wayne Danielson), University of Wisconsin (Joanne Cantor), and University of North Carolina (Frank Biocca and Jane Brown). Also crucial to the project and my learning were Don Roberts, who chaired the advisory board to the project, and the graduate research assistants at Santa Barbara (Mike Berry, Eva Blumenthal, Carrie Colvin, Tim Gray, and especially Stacy Smith). These are people who are very smart and care passionately about creating knowledge. This was continually obvious in the numerous meetings we held to plan the project, then to carry out its execution and the analyses of several million data points. In these meetings, everything was challenged from the wording of a phrase in a definition all the way to the very nature of social science. Most of the ideas in this book were forged in the crucible of that experience. Every time I lost an argument in one of these meetings, I would walk the beaches until I could figure out the flaw in my thinking or the “limitation” in the thinking of my colleague who won that argument. I spent a lot of time at the precipice of knowledge staring down into the abyss of mystery. I hope this book lays down a few planks of knowledge that will help us bridge some of the gap between what we understand now and what we need to understand in order to help viewers, policymakers, and programmers deal effectively with this problem that affects us all.

    I am very thankful again for the professionals at Sage Publications. Margaret Seawell, acquisitions editor, Stephanie Hiebert, copyeditor, and Astrid Virding, production editor, are very demanding to work for but deliver high-quality service.

    Finally, there is you, the reader. If the ideas in this book stimulate you to think differently or more deeply about media violence, then I thank you for your attention. If you want to argue with me, then let me know, and I'll thank you for your counter insights that will help me learn more. If you conduct research that falsifies or supports any of the propositions in Lineation Theory, then I thank you in advance for your contribution in helping us all walk the plank a few more steps into the mystery.

  • References

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    Author Index

    About the Author

    W. James Potter is currently Professor in the Department of Communication at Florida State University. He has conducted research on media violence for the past 15 years and served as one of the Principal Investigators on the National Television Violence Study. He recently published books entitled Media Literacy and An Analysis of Thinking and Research About Qualitative Methods.


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