RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics ( Lon g Draft)

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 15:04:55 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics ( Lon g Draft)
    Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001 15:04:55 +0100
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    Well, these comments reflect a central concern in media teaching at the
    moment- the status of contemporary media standards, and the conflict between
    the public interest, and what the public are interested in (always seen as
    distinct things that aren't particularly compatible). As usual I'm not sure
    I buy into this debate in a straightforward way, but it'd probably take me a
    book to explore what my position actually is. Basically I don't buy the
    media standards in decline idea that much, nor do I really accept the
    distinction between information and entertainment that much of the debate
    uses. At root I suppose though, are assumptions about media effects that
    are problematic for me.

    Taking your later comments up, certainly there have been many efforts at
    pro-social soap operas endeavouring to inform and educate as well as
    entertain (one of our undergrads studied the pre-production process of one
    in Sri Lanka, for example). In the UK, soaps endeavour to cover social
    issues with accuracy and empathy (in some cases- e.g. Eastenders and
    HIV/AIDS). Of course, the problem of how such things actually influence
    people remains, let alone what constitutes legitimate forms of
    representations of certain social problems (e.g. screening rape- how to do
    this without making it voyeuristic and thus counter-productive).

    Could say loads more, but I have to teach a seminar.


    > ----------
    > From: Kenneth Van Oost
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2001 10:05 pm
    > To:
    > Subject: Re: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics
    > ( Long Draft)
    > Hi Vincent, you wrote
    > > I saw a TV series a while ago about cannibalism in the animal world.
    > One
    > > example was of a mouse who ate its offspring, after a cat uncovered the
    > > mouse's burrow (is that the right word?).
    > << Yes, you are right, here. I got the same information somewhere hidden
    > in my writings. In a sense you can compare what the mouse did and what
    > the people did in those cases I mentioned.
    > Anyway, back to your own hobby horse, is that the right expression !?
    > > The later point about the media as a trigger, or as Robin mentioned, as
    > a
    > > kind of tipping point, I still think is problematic. Not necessarily in
    > the
    > > sense that it's incorrect, but more in the sense- of well what do we do
    > > about it if this is true? Now, personally speaking, as a libertarian I
    > have
    > > real problems
    > > with this because it inherently limits freedom of speech, and won't
    > impact
    > > on rates of these kind of behaviours ( in the same way that death
    > penalties
    > > do nothing to crime statistics- well apart from adding state-sanctioned
    > > murder to those lists...).
    > << I thought it might be problematic for you, so I wish to comment
    > further on this subject in order to straiten things out.
    > But first, have you read my post to Wade, what do you think !?
    > Of course, to ban the media is absurd, but IMO it needs to charge
    > itself with a deonthological code.
    > Let me explain my point of view.
    > Media ( TV here), is devited in two forms of entertainment, one, those
    > programs which come to meet the public wishes. Nowadays these
    > are programs like Call 911 and Amazing Video's. Somewhat sensa-
    > tion-seeking TV programs.
    > The second category are those more intellectual programs, human-
    > interest- programs, made for the likely buiseness man, the sales mana-
    > gers,... most of the time also distributed at a later hour.
    > Here IMO you already see an interest- contrast.
    > The first category seeks out the rapid, the quick light consumering
    > reports, not mush of info, but more sensations, the explicit images, no
    > text.
    > The second category seeks it deeper, more info, more specifications,
    > it goes further than the images, it shows somewhat the consequences.
    > Both categories are, and for the second unfortunely, bound to ratings,
    > bound to commercials, to advertising. We are customers, we pay for
    > what we like to see. The program- makers make what the ratings
    > figures tells them.
    > But, media as a whole has also a role to play in society and can easily
    > make or break it and therefor IMO it is its duty to inform in all the ways
    > possible and therefor it needs IMO not to warn people not to commit
    > suicide, but to tell people where they can actually turn to when things
    > might go wrong.
    > But, and that is IMO the problem, in both ways, that is by the common-
    > sensation- seeking program the people who watch these shows don 't
    > really care what the subject is ( it is entertainment, they like to watch
    > if they don 't recognize anyone), so additional info is a waste of time.
    > And IMO, most of those viewers don 't understand the problamtic
    > nature of subjects like suicide, incest, murder and adultery anyway, so
    > why bother !?
    > In the other way people seem to see human- interest programs more
    > as moralizing sermons, suicide is forbidden, incest is taboo, murder can
    > 't
    > be done and adultery gets punished. Such crap is American- style but
    > holds a possible solution in itself.
    > Wouldn 't it be better to make soaps wherein the problematic nature
    > of any kind of subject is well explained !?
    > I mean, showing a suicide to get more viewers is one thing but trying
    > to get the public understand why is another. IMO, you can do that
    > within the context of the soap. Maybe an idea for program- makers !?
    > You can first, make more episodes and second you reach out to those
    > who are/ were devoid from info. And more important, you learn...
    > you memetically engineer people to see/ watch out for the points which
    > make up a suicidal process. But this must be done in a not moralizing
    > sermon- way. Program- makers ought to be even more subtle and
    > inventive than they are today. ( Reality TV within the context of soaps).
    > Anyway, such a solution depends on what TV channel is it, the IKON
    > in the Netherlands, a catholic channel, wouldn 't be keen to give adresses
    > of hospitals where you can have a penis- enlargement.
    > Also, they could explain it within a Christian context where having
    > children
    > is important. To get the necessary tools for it....go to....
    > Anyway, media IMO should inform people in need, should allow people
    > to have plenty to say about themselves and should stimulate people to
    > care for themselves. For this you need to give people information and
    > the right information and that is something what the media don 't always
    > does and if she does it, she don 't reach the people she must.
    > As long you will have certain distinctions within society you will have
    > the distinction within the media, but it is up to the media itself to see
    > trough and above the ratings. On the other hand, the public itself here
    > is wrong in seeing the media as the guilty part. The public ought to look,
    > to learn about the problematic natures of certain subject presented on
    > TV, but they only seek a hour of entertainment. You can 't blame them
    > for that, but IMO that says more about the public than it says something
    > about the media. Media, IMO has to stop to run after the desires of the
    > public, but that could be in itself a vicious circle....
    > Best,
    > Kenneth
    > ( I am, because we are) luckely not a media effect
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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