MEDIA FRENZIES &
THE “TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS”

         Rational Choice eory
      in Communication Research
          Lu...
Table of contents

      Intro: In the Era of Media Frenzies                Towards Rational Choice
                      ...
Lugano, 7-05-2009   Rational Choice eory in Communication Research                                             3
        ...
Lugano, 7-05-2009   Rational Choice eory in Communication Research   4
Media frenzy occurs…



“…when a critical mass of journalists leap to
cover the same embarassing or scandalous subject
and...
Swine flu trends




Lugano, 7-05-2009   Rational Choice eory in Communication Research   6
Media flu trends




Lugano, 7-05-2009   Rational Choice eory in Communication Research   7
Social media flu trends




Lugano, 7-05-2009   Rational Choice eory in Communication Research   8
Good ol’media frenziness

 Bird flu, pitbull attacks, locust alarms (Fengler &
 Russ-Mohl, 2005), the strange case of Mr. K...
What’s the problem?


Prerequisites: uncertainty, news competition
& information overload, time, lack of property rights
(...
The “Issue-Attention Cycle”

                                     Pre-problem stage




                     Post-        ...
IAC=f (issues)


Issues characteristics
• e majority does not suffer from the problem as
  much as some numerical minority...
IAC in practice


•       Most people are not reminded of the problem (because
       they do not suffer from it).
•       ...
So the issue or the problem must be…
   DRAMATIC, EXCITING, LARGE ENOUGH
   TO COMPETE WITH COMPETING
   ENTERTAINING NEWS...
“ARE JOURNALISTS LOCUSTS, TOO?”*

                                                *(Fengler&Russ-Mohl, 2005)




Lugano, 7...
Rational Choice Media



News organizations pursue profit maximization
=break-even point




Lugano, 7-05-2009   Rational C...
The social costs of media frenzies
                                                                                       ...
MPC => Media circus


News organizations consider only MPC, doing only
private interests, hence they send more reporters =...
The “Tragedy of the Commons”




   “e elite’s enviromental deterioration
   is often the common man’s improved
   standa...
A World’s dilemma




                     Is it possible to achieve
“the greatest good for the greatest number”? (Bentham...
A Tragedy exemplified
E.g. Pollution as a problem of the tragedy of the commons

According to Malthus, population grows ge...
“Injustice is preferable to total ruin”
                       (Hardin, 1968)



Lugano, 7-05-2009   Rational Choice eory...
Are there any other solutions?

Collaboration (no, it works only in small “fraternities”)
Censorship vs. Open Access (=> f...
Time to discuss…
   ANY OTHER IDEAS?


Lugano, 7-05-2009   Rational Choice eory in Communication Research   24
Thank you for the attention!

             Marco Bardus
    Institute of Communication and Health
      Università della S...
References          Downs, A. (1972). Up and down with ecology. e “issue-attention
                       cycle”. Public ...
References          FluTracker. http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com
Web sources         Google. http://www.google.com
         ...
References          '56 Dodge Lancer. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kahluacream/
                        2114887238/
Picture...
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Media Frenzies and the Tragedy of the Commons

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Presentation held at the Rational Choice Theory in Communication Reserach seminar, Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, May 7, 2009.

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Media Frenzies and the Tragedy of the Commons

  1. 1. MEDIA FRENZIES & THE “TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS” Rational Choice eory in Communication Research Lugano, May 7, 2009 Marco Bardus USI- Institute of Communication and Health
  2. 2. Table of contents Intro: In the Era of Media Frenzies Towards Rational Choice in Health Communication… Rational Choice Applied to Media e Social Costs of Media Frenzies Discovering the Issue-Attention Cycle e Tragedy of the Commons Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 2
  3. 3. Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 3 Images of the H1N1 Influenza Virus. h7p://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/3493605447/
  4. 4. Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 4
  5. 5. Media frenzy occurs… “…when a critical mass of journalists leap to cover the same embarassing or scandalous subject and pursue it intensely, often excessively, and sometimes uncontrollably” (Sutter, 2001) Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 5
  6. 6. Swine flu trends Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 6
  7. 7. Media flu trends Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 7
  8. 8. Social media flu trends Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 8
  9. 9. Good ol’media frenziness Bird flu, pitbull attacks, locust alarms (Fengler & Russ-Mohl, 2005), the strange case of Mr. Kohl and the anonymous donations (Kepplinger, 2001), heartquakes, mad-cows… and environmental issues (Downs, 1972), over and over again. Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 9
  10. 10. What’s the problem? Prerequisites: uncertainty, news competition & information overload, time, lack of property rights (Sutter, 2001) Consequences: lack or scarcity of control (verification) => low reporting standards => low quality journalism? (Fengler&Russ-Mohl, 2005; 2008; Sutter, 2001) Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 10
  11. 11. The “Issue-Attention Cycle” Pre-problem stage Post- Alarmed problem discovery + Gradual delcine of Realization (Downs, 1972) intense of the Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 11
  12. 12. IAC=f (issues) Issues characteristics • e majority does not suffer from the problem as much as some numerical minority. • Sufferings are generated by social arrangements that provide significant benefits to a majority or a powerful minority of population (Pareto’s law). • e problem has no intrinsically exciting qualities. Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 12
  13. 13. IAC in practice • Most people are not reminded of the problem (because they do not suffer from it). • Solving the problem requires social changes and great effort in behavior change. Significant attempts threaten important groups in society. • Media attention soon starts to be boring for the majority of the public. • Media realize that the attention is threatening someone and boring the others, hence they reduce coverage. Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 13
  14. 14. So the issue or the problem must be… DRAMATIC, EXCITING, LARGE ENOUGH TO COMPETE WITH COMPETING ENTERTAINING NEWS! Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 14
  15. 15. “ARE JOURNALISTS LOCUSTS, TOO?”* *(Fengler&Russ-Mohl, 2005) Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 15
  16. 16. Rational Choice Media News organizations pursue profit maximization =break-even point Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 16
  17. 17. The social costs of media frenzies MPC MB MSC MEC Maximiza Ion of  Marginal benefits/costs benefit Turning point Rcrit Ropt Rfrenzy Number of reporters covering story MPC= Marginal Private Costs; MEC=Marginal External Costs; MB=Marginal benefits; MSC=Marginal social cost (MPC+MEC) (source: Sutter, 2001) Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 17
  18. 18. MPC => Media circus News organizations consider only MPC, doing only private interests, hence they send more reporters => Rfrenzy > Ropt Reducing costs triggers excessive coverage and Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 18
  19. 19. The “Tragedy of the Commons” “e elite’s enviromental deterioration is often the common man’s improved standard of living.” (Dawns, 1972) Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 19
  20. 20. A World’s dilemma Is it possible to achieve “the greatest good for the greatest number”? (Bentham revised)
  21. 21. A Tragedy exemplified E.g. Pollution as a problem of the tragedy of the commons According to Malthus, population grows geometrically. Hence, commons are justifiable only under conditions of low-population density. How to solve it? a) Allocation of goods. b) Freedom to breed (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?) c) Appeal to conscience and responsibility e solution? = mutual coercion (Hardin, 1968) Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 21
  22. 22. “Injustice is preferable to total ruin” (Hardin, 1968) Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 22
  23. 23. Are there any other solutions? Collaboration (no, it works only in small “fraternities”) Censorship vs. Open Access (=> false dilemma: tragedy of the commons) Tradable permits (anonimity) => Depend on the choice of a regulator New problems: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 23
  24. 24. Time to discuss… ANY OTHER IDEAS? Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 24
  25. 25. Thank you for the attention! Marco Bardus Institute of Communication and Health Università della Svizzera italiana via Buffi, 13 – 6900 Lugano
  26. 26. References Downs, A. (1972). Up and down with ecology. e “issue-attention cycle”. Public Interest, 28(38). Documents Fengler, S., & Ruß-Mohl, S. (2005). Influenza aviaria, allarme cavallette e pitbulls come spettacoli mediali. Corriere Del Ticino, December 3, 2005. Fengler, S., & Ruß-Mohl, S. (2005). Media frenzies over bird flu and locust alam. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, December 3, 2005. Fengler, S., & Ruß-Mohl, S. (2008). Journalists and the information- attention markets: Towards an economic theory of journalism. Journalism, 9(6), 667-690. Hardin, G. (1968). e tragedy of the commons. Science, 162, 1243-1248. Kepplinger, H. M. (2001). Handle the scandal. Studies in Communication Sciences, 1, 117-136. Sutter, D. (2001). e social cost of media frenzies. International Journal of Social Economics, 28(9), 742-751. Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 26
  27. 27. References FluTracker. http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com Web sources Google. http://www.google.com Google Blog Search. http://blogsearch.google.com Google News. http://news.google.com Google Trends. http://google.com/trends Social mention. http://socialmention.com Technorati Blog Search. http://www.technorati.com XCD. A Webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math and Language. http://xkcd.com/574/ WHO- Influenza H1N1. http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ swineflu/en/index.html Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 27
  28. 28. References '56 Dodge Lancer. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kahluacream/ 2114887238/ Pictures Do note [Closed] http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulwatson/ 5070827/ Images of the H1N1 Influenza Virus. http://www.flickr.com/ photos/ajc1/3493605447/ World Population Growth. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ laurenmanning/2979574719/ Lugano, 7-05-2009 Rational Choice eory in Communication Research 28

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