Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Why the fascination with extremes?

I was intrigued by Chris's comment about Small Town news especially in light of our discussion last week about whether we can be nostalgic for something we have never truly experienced. However, I want to take the discussion in a different direction.

In May's article we gain insight into how reporters frame the rural/urban debate in regards to homelessness - i.e., emphasizing the urban plight and minimizing, or romanticizing, the rural struggles. I agree that often reporters, while serving as gate keepers, do significantly limit the debate surrounding a topic I'm extremely curious about why academics spend so much time studying the extremes?

Of course the underlying hope, I believe, is that through a more detailed understanding of society's outcasts we might be better able to gain insight into our own lives. Yet, I'm struck by the need for a detailed analysis of the "Normals." Following a similar format to that employed by May, a critical analysis of how normal human existence is portrayed in the media would add a wealth of knowledge to any field of inquiry - how does the media craft and frame the "normal" human experience and how does that then cloud, or enlighten, our expectations, experiences, and dreams? Why are we so afraid to study "ourselves?"

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I suspect one easy explanation is that we expect to see more of what we're looking for in extreme examples, or at least expect them to be more salient for our audiences. There may not be any scientific support for the idea, but I'd bet that our reflexive assumption tends to be that extreme cases will be more affective or representative.