Echoes of Cultural Indicators at the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and the Media

screentimeThese days George Gerbner must be smiling down in the direction of  Mount Saint Mary’s University, home of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and the Media which, since 2008, has built up a lot of research on gender prevalence in family entertainment.  To boost their mission of tracking gender and minority inequality on the screen (with financial assistance from they are turning to cutting edge software, the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (or GD-IQ), comprised of video- and audio-recognition technology matched with algorithms “to identify gender, speaking time and additional details about characters presented in films, television shows and other media.” Automating this kind of data collection really changes the playing field from back in the day, i.e. the 1970s and 1980s when this sort of pioneering media research relied on video tape and manual coding.

Long before anyone was thinking about casting inequities, before celebrities were making speeches about such at award ceremonies, Gerbner was documenting the disconnect between populations inside and outside of the television set.  He noticed, and then systematically tracked, how the race, age, and gender of characters did not match the reality in the “real” world. To study this dynamic, he built an ongoing landmark research project called Cultural Indicators (1972-1996), amassing a cumulative database describing many thousands of characters and programs by key features, many of them demographic.

Check out a good summary of a 10-year study of TV demographics (based on the analysis of 19,642 speaking parts appearing in 1,371 major network prime time and Saturday morning children’s programs) as revealed by the Cultural Indicators Project in this 1982 piece written for American Demographics, The World According to Television” (Gerbner, Signorelli, October, 1982). 

Over 10 years later Gerbner observed, in a chapter called “Casting and Fate: Women and Minorities on Television Drama, Game Shows, and News” that appeared in Communication, Culture, Community (edited by Ed Hollander, Paul Rutten and Coen van der Linden, 1995):  subpage

“A general demographic overview finds that women comprise one-third or less of characters in all samples except daytime serials where they are 45 percent and in game shows where they are 55 percent. The smallest percentage of women is in the news (28%) and in children’s programs (23%). Even that shrinks to 18 percent as the importance of the role rises to ‘major character’.

While all seniors are greatly underrepresented, visibly old people, roughly 65 and above, are hardest to find on television. Their representation ranges from none on the youth-oriented Fox network and about 1% on network daytime series to less than 3 percent in the other samples. In real life, their proportion is 12% and growing. African-Americans are most visible on Fox and in game shows. On major network prime-time programs they are 11% and on daytime serials 9% of all characters. They are least visible on Saturday morning children’s programs. (Many cartoon characters cannot be reliably coded for race.)

Latino/Hispanic characters are rarely seen. Only in game shows do they rise significantly above 1 percent representation. Americans of Asian/Pacific origin and Native Americans (‘Indians’) are even more conspicuous by their absence. Less then 1 percent (in the case of Native Americans 0.3 percent) is their general representation.

Almost as invisible are members of the ‘lower class’ (judged by a three-way classification of the socio-economic status of major characters). Although the U.S. census classifies more than 14 percent of the general population, 29 percent of Latino/Hispanics, and 33 percent of African Americans as ‘poor,’ and many more as low-income wage-earners, on network television they make up only 1.3 percent of characters in prime time, 1.2 percent in daytime, half that (0.6 percent) in children’s programs, and 0.2 percent in the news.” p.126-127

Fast forward to the Geena Davis Institute and the GD-IQ, and we have, as reported in The New York Times, How Long Is an Actress Onscreen? A New Tool Finds the Answer Faster (Melena Ryzik, Sept. 14, 2016), Dr. Shri Narayanan, an engineering professor at the University of Southern California, studying the 200 top-grossing, non-animated films of 2014 and 2015 to find that “overall, in 2015, male characters were both seen and heard about twice as much as female characters. Parity on paper does not help: In films with male and female leads, the men nonetheless appear and speak more often than the women. Even in films with female leads, the men still get nearly equal screen and speaking time.”  

This new, emboldened-by-technology research is asking the very same questions Gerbner and his team of researchers here at the Annenberg School first posed so many decades ago.  There is even talk, once the software gets more fine-tuned, to look at STEM fields—how characters who play scientists and engineers are cast in screen roles,  how much speaking do they get to do, etc.  Sound familiar?  See Scientists on the TV Screen (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorelli) in Society May/June 1981).

Let’s hope today’s research on screen diversity can be the change-agent in the 21st century that George Gerbner hoped his would be in the previous one.


Publishers Weekly Digital Archive

pw3Publishers Weeklythe authoritative voice of the publishing industry in the United States (also Britain) since 1872, will soon be available in full digital format from its inception to the present. The collection will provide an historical record of the advancement of the publishing industry, with its famous mix of news, features, sales figures, and trends. Included in this trove are PW’s renowned book reviews, which began in the 1940s. The complete archive will include up to 400,000 book reviews, 5,000 author profiles/interviews, and bestseller lists from 1895 forward.

This primary source archive, to contain every page of Publishers Weekly published over its first 141 years, all in its original context, in full color, will be fully searchable “to support lines of inquiry into print media and digital culture, American studies, popular culture, history of the book, literature, history, humanities, and their many sub-disciplines” (NA Publishing). pw

While the full archive has been announced as available (and currently sits in our menu of Penn Library e-resources),  it’s actually still being rolled out with the project completion date announced for “the fourth quarter of 2016 or the first quarter of 2017.” A lot is still missing so I wonder if their estimated time frame  is not overly optimistic. Right now the only solid issue blocks are 1872-1884 and 1940-1954, and then a good sampling of material in the 2000s. (NOTE: Penn access will only include up to 2013 in this product but access to the more recent years is available in Lexis Nexis Academic, since 11/2004.)
“Providing students and scholars with access to the Publishers Weekly digital archive,” says Jeff Moyer, president of  NA Publishing, “supports a new level of research and understanding of America’s publishing industry. Every page, every article, every table and all of the advertisements will be reproduced as originally printed in full color.”  
Here’s to seeing more issues populate the platform in the next six months!  

Super Bowl Reading

nflLines of Scrimmage: Selling and Contesting the NFL in Contemporary Media Culture is the title of a special issue of  Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture (Volume 14, Issue 1, 2016).

Writes issue editor, Thomas P. Oates, in the Introduction: Shifting formations: The NFL in uncertain times:
This special issue of Popular Communication directs a critical focus toward the league’s efforts to expand its presence and the possible obstacles to its growth. The broader context for this struggle is a set of economic/political/cultural shifts that have created new modes of producing and distributing popular culture. New forms of citizenship stress the pragmatic and often moral virtue of free markets, the importance (and fun) to be found in what Randy Martin (2002) describes as the “financialization of daily life” (p. 3). Despite claims of a new postracial, postfeminist environment, this cultural formation, as Lisa Duggan (2003) notes, “has a cultural politics” that “organizes political life in terms of race, gender, and sexuality as well as economic class and nationality, or ethnicity and religion.(p.3)”

The articles that make up the issue represent a rich variety of perspectives on NFL football.

Reaching the kids: NFL youth marketing and media / Jeffrey Montez de Oca, Brandon Meyer & Jeffrey Scholes
“Together, We Make Football”: The NFL’s “feminine” discourses / Victoria E. Johnson
America’s game: The NFL’s “Salute to Service” campaign, the diffused military presence, and corporate social responsibility / Adam Rugg
The 12th Man: Fan noise in the contemporary NFL / Mack Hagood & Travis Vogan
A rant good for business: Communicative capitalism and the capture of anti-racist resistance / Abraham Iqbal Khan              
Reframing concussions, masculinity, and NFL mythology in League of Denial / Zack Furness

Critical Analysis of Cultivation Theory

While cultivation theory may not dominate the field of mass media effects like it once did, it continues to operate, even as parts of it are refuted and replaced with counter claims.  W. James Potter gives the theory, first introduced by George Gerbner (former Annenberg School Dean) in 1967,  a good workout in the latest issue of the Journal of Communication (Volume 64, Number 6). cover

A Critical Analysis of Cultivation Theory : ABSTRACT

This critical analysis of the “cultivation” literature reveals 3 conceptions of the term: (a) George Gerbner’s macrosystem explanation of mass media processes and effects, (b) a pattern of operational practices that searches for relationships between television exposure and a wide range of cultivation indicators, and (c) a general forum of explorations of media influence where researchers break away from Gerbner’s conceptualizations and boundaries. Using the criteria of heuristic value, empirical support, and precision, this essay evaluates the contribution this large cultivation literature has made to increasing our understanding of the mass media.

The journal is available via Penn Libraries e-resources

Media Industries Project

On the heels of last night’s inaugural PARGC lecture, it’s my pleasure to feature The Carsey-Wolf Center’s Media Industries Project, which last night’s speaker Michael Curtin directs at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The mission of the Project is as stated:

MIP examines the profound changes affecting media industries worldwide. In our research and programming initiatives, we foster collaboration between the industry and academy, encouraging innovative thinking and critical insights about the future prospects of modern media. Moreover, our thriving website publishes timely updates, interviews, and independent analyses of industry practices, policies, and trends. 
MIP has four strategic objectives: 
  • Foster dialog and awareness among the industry, academy, and general public
  • Generate critical resources for scholars, students, and industry professionals
  • Conduct independent research initiatives 
  • Build a global community of scholars devoted to media industries research

The Project currently has two featured initiatives, Connected Viewing, which focuses on digital distribution, cloud storage technologies, and multiple screen exhibition practices and Creative Labor which focuses on labor issues in the global film and TV industries.

There’s lots on the website. Check out sections The Buzz, Things to Know and Places to Watch which highlight current issues and trends from all over the world. And Helpful Links points you to media industry data, other research centers, trade and labor organizations, media activist groups, law and policy organizations, filmmakers services organizations, and online archives. Good stuff.

Media Industries Research–Business Press and Trade Journal Resources

The resource environment keeps improving for the study of media industries from an historical perspective. Penn’s recent subscription to the  Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive, which covers core US and UK trade magazines in film, music, broadcasting and theater from the early 1900s forward, comes to mind. (See blog post from November 2012). Last year saw the addition of the Vogue Archive whose pages, because its editors always had their eye on more than fashion, have much to contribute to media industry studies.  There is also the admirable open access Media History Digital Library’s Lantern database of digitized classic media periodicals in the public domain which I described here this past August.

In addition to these, I was reminded of the solid offerings of trade journals of the last few decades that we rely on Dow Jones Factiva and EBSCO’s Communication and Mass Media Complete serving up to us, when I ran across this article in the current Communication, Culture & Critique by Kenton T. Wilkinson and Patrick F. Merle called The Merits and Challenges of Using Business Press and Trade Journal Reports in Academic Research on Media Industries.

This article argues that media researchers should pay closer attention to the benefits and potential pitfalls of using business press and industry trade journal reports to inform academic research. To date, the use of these secondary sources in scholarly research concerning media industries has received little interest, as demonstrated in a preliminary examination of how academic literature and research methods textbooks treat the business press and trade journal reports. The authors call for a dialogue on this significant oversight, and offer suggestions for how researchers might begin addressing it as media across the globe grow in scope and influence during the 21st century.

Violence In Entertainment: Special Report from Variety

In response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, if not the on average 87 deaths per day in the United States due to gun violence, Variety has devoted a special supplemental issue VIOLENCE & ENTERTAINMENT (January 8, 2013)  featuring entertainment industry leaders’ essays on the topic– “a variety of voices looking for solutions.”  Rather than focus solely on how the media (TV, movies, video games) portray violence and how often, contributors weigh in from multiple perspectives; essays raise questions about psychiatric drugs, football culture, gun control, parenting, mental health, the Hollywood liberal, and evil, to name a few.

You can access  Variety‘s entire special report here.

Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive

Good news on the database front, Penn Libraries has just signed on to the Entertainment IndustryMagazine Archive. It sits in the Proquest suite of databases that you are already familiar with if you search key social science databases (Sociological Abstracts, IBSS, etc.), Digital Dissertations, or any of the historical newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc. so it will be easy to get find as well as combine with broader searching.

EIMA covers core US and UK trade magazines in film, music, broadcasting and theater. Magazines have been scanned cover-to-cover in high-resolution color, with granular indexing of all articles, covers, ads and reviews. I guess the biggest omission in this collection is Rolling Stone. That being said:
This database includes several trade magazines which have effectively provided the main historical record for their subject areas throughout the 20th century, such as Variety (1905-2000), Billboard (1894-2000), Broadcasting (1931-2000) and The Stage (1880-2000). Although these titles focus primarily on film, music, TV/radio and theatre respectively, they have between them covered the full range of popular entertainments throughout their history, from music halls, circuses and fairs to jukeboxes, gambling machines and computer games.
For students of popular music, the UK music press titles New Musical Express (1946-2000) and Melody Maker (1926-2000) are equally invaluable sources: from their origins as trade papers for working musicians, they grew into mass-circulation weeklies in the 1960s, and pioneered serious rock journalism in the late 1960s and 70s. A selection of more specialist magazines give in-depth coverage of musical genres and eras, such as ‘British Invasion’ pop (Rave, 1964-70), reggae, African and Caribbean music (The Beat, 1982-2000), or the rave scene (Mixmag, 1983-2000).
Bringing these titles together in a single database gives researchers the opportunity to find comprehensive information on specific films, plays, theaters, actors, directors, TV series, film studios, musicians, genres, record labels, subcultures and youth movements. The inclusion of consumer and fan magazines such as Picturegoer (1911-1960), American Film (1975-1992) and Musician (1976-1999) means that a single search can bring back industry news items, features on technological breakthroughs and in-depth interviews with major artists, together with photographs and illustrations, gossip columns, listings, reviews, charts and statistics. Items such as advertisements, covers and short reviews of films, music singles or other works have been treated as separate documents with accurately-captured titles in order to help researchers find all the relevant material for their search topic.  —Proquest description

New at Penn: WARC

Penn Libraries has recently added WARC to its rich collection of business intelligence resources. WARC is an international marketing database that includes over 6,000 marketing case studies as well as trend analysis, research reports, and other business intelligence information,  For media industry researchers it is chock full of useful and timely reports and data.

WARC stands for World Advertising Research Center. It has been around since 1985 and is also the publisher of International Journal of Advertising, Journal of Advertising Research and International Journal of Market Research (available from the Penn Libraries e-resources). If you do literature searches on media effects, persuasion, or communication campaigns it is not unusual to pull up articles in the advertising and marketing realm in journals such as these. Let’s just say these folks care about persuasion like nobody’s business (pun intended).

WARC’s Data section contains advertising expenditure data from 80 global markets, a comparison of global media costs (compare costs by market, medium, target audience and time period), Adspend forecasts for 12 key countries, and a wide range of media usage statistic, including TV viewing data from over 70 countries and time spent by media comparisons (television, radio, internet, newspapers, magazines and cinema) in 10 non-US markets.

WARC’s Topic section is useful for sifting out soft drink and automotive reports from reports in Media and Entertainment, or Telecoms, to mention the categories of most interest to communication researchers. 

The Industry Trends section has a Media/Tech category where you can find such articles as Cloud Gaming: What the End of the Console Means for Gamers, Brands and the Global Gaming Industry (August 2012). 

Featuring EMarketer

Looking for detailed digital media usage data?  Think outside the Nieslsen box (that is usually closed and taped up at the seams, at least to academics).  EMarketer is a great source that aggregates, filters, and organizes data on e-commerce, digital marketing and media from over 4,000 global sources. Its reports cover all aspects of the market with overviews, insights and analysis. Besides going to eMarketer for specific data or that perfect report on Social Media Measurement, you might want to beome a daily reader of The eMarketer Blog. If you think about it, no one is more interested in media usage trends than advertisers so even if the advertising angle is not what you’re after, this is fertile ground for digital use data in the United States and around the world.