Students in my Intro to Mass Media class have been asking similar questions (especially after viewing Stuart Hall’s Race: The Floating Signifier) as these two esteemed academics on the Association of Internet Researchers’ listserv:
Charles: My applied ethics class, we’re reading an essay by Robinson A. Grover, “the New State of Nature and the New Terrorism,” which argues that new media and globalization have brought about a new version of Hobbes‘ war of each against all, etc.
Charles: I attempted to buttress some of Grover’s claims with the work of Cass Sunstein, his notion of “The Daily Me,” etc.
This inspired one of my students to ask: are there studies, etc., that suggest that the new media, by giving us greater communication with “the Other” works to make us _less_ fearful of the Other, and thus, under some circumstances at least, _more_ likely to engage in aggressive behaviors, including warfare?
Charles (continued): That is, his thought is that in a state of ignorance of the Other, one is more likely to assume the worst – the Other is bigger, more powerful, etc., so I’d better stay home. But once I see the Other on TV, the Internet, etc., I discover that this is not so…
Radhika: my first response to this was – is this for real? Hasnt this person seen Television and Film portrayal of some “Others” all his/her life and seen how that can as effectively work towards building up fear and paranoia?
My general response is – depends on who’s producing this “Other” and what context this “Other” is being permitted to speak/represent hirself – and what code of (contextual) behaviour and hierarchies this representation of the Other is placed.
In other words – yes – in a state of ignorance what your students suggests is likely to be true – but the media dont necessary help us not be ignorant …
As for citations – I know postcolonial media theorists, critical race theorists and critical media theorists etc have written about this sort of thing.