Research

Knowing media harm: its production and circulation
Knowledge of the harm to children of violent computer games (media harm) is encountered in a variety of areas of society: in science producing knowledge of media harm, in industry designing games to be appealing to specific costumers, in regulation agencies classifying games, in the press discussing media violence, and in children’s everyday practices when they play, discuss and live with violent computer games. In each of these fields, knowing media harm is something different: a ‘finding’, a ‘constraint’, a ‘risk’, a ‘discourse’, ‘experience’, or other. The project aims for a practice theoretical understanding of
a) the practical reality of knowing media harm in the variety of fields mentioned
b) the circulation of such knowledge across these fields.

The practical reality of knowing media harm is understood as the way in which media can be known and is known in practice, that is: how media harm enters the practice, how it is handled and translated. How media harm can be known depends on 'the pattern of relations' (Sørensen) characterizing the specific practice, the materials and ‘inscription devices’ (Latour) involved in knowing media harm, the way in which the ‘discursive (and interactional) repertoire’ (Wetherell) available to participants can relate to media harm , and how media harm enters and is integrated in the ‘epistemic culture’ (Knorr Cetina) cultivated in the specific practices. It is investigated ethnographically how knowing media harm is enacted in situated practices, just as it is inquired which spatially and temporally distant utterances and discourses are folded into the practical reality of knowing media harm.

More than aiming for a description of how knowing media harm is realised in different practices, the project inquires the circulation of this knowledge across the different practices. Different ways of knowing media harm are followed across practices, investigating how they are translated as they travel from one practice to the next; which parts of the knowledges are passed from one to the next, which do not pass? In focus is the question of how ‘violent computer game’, ‘child’, and ‘harm’ are mutually constituted in and across the different realities knowing media harm.

The research is conducted as a multi-sited team-ethnography, inspired by and contributing to cultural psychology, science and technology studies and social and cultural anthropology. Theoretically the project aims to develop concepts to describe posthuman knowing as processes simultaneously locally situated and trans-local, personal and cultural.

The research team will consist of 4 or 5 scholars each covering one empirical field.
Research team leader: Estrid Sørensen

Science: Estrid Sørensen does practice-oriented ethnographic and discursive research in the scientific field. The research inquires the specificity of the practical reality of scientific knowing, following how media harm categorised in science, and how it comes to be known by scientists. Furthermore, the knowledge of media harm is followed out of the laboratory, and it is inquired how it is translated as it enters other practices.

Regulation practices: Jan Schank investigates the written reality of knowing media harm through the age classification of computer games. With Membership Categorisation Analysis he has analysed the German classification board's decision reports, inquiring which textual strategies they apply to differentiate between harmful and harmless games along with vulnerable and non-vulnerable children.

Adolescents’ gaming practices: Julian Meyer and Benjamin Weiner investigate the reality of knowing media harm in children’s gaming practices, and the circulation of this knowledge. Julian Meyer focuses particularly on WWII first person shooters, while Benjamin Weiner inquires ethnographically how young peoples' imaginaries are shaped through video games.

Game Industry: Sandra Plontke is studying game design through ethnographic research. Her focus is on the game as an object of knowledge of game designers and on how game design emerges through a process of tinkering with software, a world wide web of imagery and aesthetic standards. Sandra Plontke is particularly interested in game as known 'visually' in design practices, and how visual and aesthetic standars work as infrastructures for how military, martial and violent game content come to look.

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