ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Thinking Critically About Media Violence: Does Media Violence Contribute To Real-World Violence?

logo  2002-1The United States has one of the highest homicide rates among developed nations. While the overall crime rate has dropped in recent times, the occurrence of violent crimes involving children and adolescents has not declined. For Americans aged 15 to 34 years, homicide is the second leading cause of death, and for young African Americans, 15 to 24 years, it is the leading cause of death (Foege, Rosenberg and Mercy 1995). During recent times there has been passionate and ongoing debate about whether there is a causal relationship between media violence and aggression in society. Current events, especially in the United States, have highlighted the need to understand the nature and causes of domestic violence. Recent school killings have been shocking and naturally enough, debate continues on why such gratuitous violence does occur. Is violence an intrinsic part of human nature, something innate, or is it learned? Or is it both? Reflective persons everywhere look for causal connections and wonder if media violence is a causal factor and, if it is, how much does it contribute to real world violence.

Almost everyone has his or her own theory about what causes or contributes to violence. Among other theorists, this paper will focus primarily on the work of Sissela Bok (1998) and George Gebner (1993). They have for a long time been investigating the role of media violence as a contributing factor to real world violence. It is clear from the research that has been done that there are no easy, universally agreed upon answers. Some believe that focusing on media violence makes it easier for United States citizens to avoid or ignore more significant causes such as poverty, poor parenting, or the easy access to guns. Still many wonder if the United States culture always been as violent as it is today or is the media simply presenting Americans with a greater exposure to violence, wherever it occurs, for purely economic reasons? Good news, we all know, is not particularly exciting. It neither sells newspapers nor boosts TV ratings. Bad news, on the other hand, events such as murders, rapes, assaults, and general mayhem, does sell. “If it bleeds, it leads,” as the media adage goes.
During the nineteenth century, educators and others warned about the effects of lurid dime novels and newspaper crime stories on the young. In the early twentieth century, motion pictures and radio were both viewed as significant social threats. Today, concerns are expressed about violence in computer games, popular songs, and on the Internet. Throughout the evolving changes in media technology, some fundamental questions remain the same: Do depictions of violence in the media somehow contribute to real-life violence such as the Jonesboro and Littleton tragedies in the United States? Are viewers of media violence encouraged to commit real world violence? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Persuasive Success And Normatively-Desirable Argumentative Conduct: Is It (Persuasively) Bad To Be (Normatively) Good?

logo  2002-1One recurring concern in argumentation studies is the interplay of descriptive and normative approaches to argument. For example, van Eemeren, Grootendorst, Jackson, and Jacobs (1993) have discussed problems encountered in using normative models to describe natural argumentative discourse. This paper addresses a different but related aspect of the relationship of descriptive and normative concerns, by comparing the results of studies of factors influencing persuasive effectiveness (that is, research findings indicating what makes for persuasive success) against conceptions of normatively-desirable argumentative practice (particularly as suggested by the pragma-dialectical approach). The general question is that of the potential tension between practical persuasive success and normative directives about argumentative conduct. The nature and extent of such tension is an empirical question, and hence this paper closely inspects existing persuasion research to see what light might be shed on whether (and the degree to which) persuaders face a choice between being normatively sound or practically persuasive.

1. Preliminaries
Three preliminary observations are appropriate concerning some uncertainties attendant to this undertaking.
First: There is no single detailed normative argumentation framework that enjoys thoroughgoing acceptance, and hence there is no easily-identifiable set of obvious specific normative standards to employ in this sort of undertaking. In what follows I will often refer to elements of the pragma-dialectical approach (van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1984), because I think its focus on arguer conduct is especially congenial to the task at hand; but my hope is the relevant pragma-dialectical elements can be seen to be realizations of broader normative principles likely to enjoy widespread endorsement.
Second: Claims about the influence of various factors on persuasive effectiveness necessarily carry with them all sorts of caveats about the evidence underwriting such claims (both general caveats and ones specific to the particular research reviewed). This paper has not been burdened with all the hedging that might have been given. But–by way of reassurance–I do think that the empirical generalizations invoked here are sufficiently secure to permit us to consider their relationship to normative argumentative standards.
Third: Persuasion researchers have commonly not set out with the explicit aim of seeing the persuasive effects of variations in normatively-desirable argumentative conduct. That is to say, there is necessarily some imperfect articulation here, because the research evidence has been gathered with different purposes in mind. Even so, it turns out that various lines of persuasion research do speak to the question of the persuasive effects associated with various normative directives. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Reasoning In Listening

logo  2002-11. Introduction   
Our main thesis is that reasoning plays a different role in understanding oral discourse than it does in understanding written discourse [i]. In particular, this seems to be the case for listening to lectures, speeches, and other forms of monologue, as opposed to reading comparably long texts. The reason for this difference, as we shall see, is that listening takes place in “real time,” in the sense that one is not free to look ahead or back as one is in reading (We shall not deal explicitly with dialogue, which is the other main form of oral discourse, except to note here that it has a written counterpart, viz., the internet medium of “Instant Messenger” (IM), which is a kind of hybrid, in that, while it takes place in real time, it does permit the user to look backwards, though not forwards).
If listening does make different demands on reasoning than reading does, this may account for some of the differences between oral and literate cultures. It is sometimes assumed that oral cultures are generally less sophisticated than literate ones, but this assumption can hardly survive exposure to history. Havelock, writing about Greece in the time of Homer, offers an admittedly speculative corrective to such a view:
We can hazard the guess, in short, that that specific and unique Hellenic intelligence, the source or cause of which has baffled all historians, received its original nurture in communities in which the oral technique of preserved communication threw power and so prestige into the hands of the orally more gifted. It made the competition for power, endemic among all human beings, identifiable with the competition for intelligence. The total nonliteracy of Homeric Greece, so far from being a drawback, was the necessary medium in which the Greek genius could be nursed to its maturity. (Havelock, 1963, 127)

The classical civilizations retained an oral character long after the development of literacy. A modern listener would find it difficult to follow the oratory of Cicero, with its long sentences, or periods, characterized by subordinate clauses, often nested within one another. In The Art of Memory, Frances Yates describes the elaborate methods employed by ancient orators to commit their speeches to memory. But it is unlikely, to say the least, that the short-term memory of ancient listeners was more capacious than our own. Cognitive scientists have found severe and apparently universal limits on short-term memory. Consequently, if ancient listeners were more proficient at processing complex oral communications, it is probably because they employed different strategies than we are accustomed to. When Mark Twain made fun of Germans waiting with rapt attention for the verb at the end of a sentence, he was, of course, exaggerating for comic effect. But apprehending the ornate periods of a Cicero in real time must have involved the sort of suspense Twain describes. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Significance Of Effective Communication In Critical Thinking

logo  2002-11. Brief background to  English in Namibia
Article 3(1) of The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia (1990, 3)  declares that “the official language of Namibia shall be English”. This, clearly, is a pragmatic response to a situation before independence where the South African Administration in place before 21 March 1990 had established Afrikaans as lingua franca. It was also the medium of all official administration and instruction in most schools. Independence changed all that since there was now a desire to learn and use English in schools and in the place of work. The choice of English, a language for international business and effectiveness in our age, was appropriate and timeous.
For education, however, this declaration meant a tall order and several implications. Policies and strategies by means of which they could be achieved were to be framed within a short time if the declaration were to meet with success. Personnel to implement it were to be produced within an equally short time and, above all, the preparation of basic teaching and learning materials was to be undertaken with the seriousness that both the task at hand and reality posed. However appropriate these actions might be, given the context within which they were to be accomplished, any planner would be wary of the extent to which the declared ideal would be achieved.
But the responsible ministry, then that of Basic Education and Culture( MBEC), took on this declaration head on. Its first task was to frame an appropriate policy directive that English be the medium of instruction from Grade 4 upwards. In Grades 1-3, the policy recommended that mother tongues be used as a medium of instruction. Implicit in this directive was the hope and truth that teachers who had hitherto used Afrikaans as a lingua franca in most schools would be prepared to implement the said policy directive. To achieve this ideal, one needed adequate and aggressive training sessions, workshops, and seminars side by side with the production of instructive teaching and learning materials. The reality on the ground is that teachers could have done with more of these sessions, for quite a lot of them are not confident in the use of English in a number of contexts and in various scenarios.
The policy by MBEC directed further that English be both a subject and a medium of instruction from Grade 4 to university/ tertiary levels. This is still so with but interesting results.
This is the watershed of achievement or not in English Language in all levels of Education in Namibia since independence. This is the also the context that has a significant bearing on the achievement of higher education learners in critical thinking. As can be appreciated, clarity and precision in the use of language are the hallmark of meaningful critical thinking whether in the specific domain of critical thinking, or, indeed, in the case of critical thinking across the curriculum. If confidence in the use of language is lacking, achievement in a field such as Critical Thinking will beg serious questions. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Linguistically Sound Arguments: Part II: Eloquence And Argument

logo  2002-1At the 1998 International Conference on Argument, Ziegelmueller and Parson proposed a perspective on what constituted linguistically sound arguments. While those positions are surely memorably familiar to the listener or reader, it is possible that four years has dimmed recollection of these insights. Thus this paper will first summarize the positions taken in the 1998 paper presented here in Amsterdam; then it will focus on the one area which received but scant attention. In a word it will look at the possibilities of eloquence and argument; stated another way, it will return to the divorce between lexis and logos, and propose a settlement. That settlement will start with an awarding of the first of children involved, the lexical strategy with the name of “metaphor.” The awarding of the subsequent three children will await future conferences.
The earlier paper began by surveying a series of definitions of Good Argument, which included its reasonability – reasonable argument is that in which “the form of inference is free of obvious defects, and the underlying assumptions of the argument are shared by the audience” (Zarefsky, 1981: 88). Other definitions featured an argument’s “soundness”. An argument is sound, Farrell argues, if it:
1. is addressed to an empowered and involved audience,
2. conforms to the consensual standards of the specific field, and
3. is consistent with social knowledge (Farrell, 1977).
After surveying differing perspectives on Good Argument, we concluded that Good Argument is one that is linguistically sound and proposed three characteristics of linguistically sound arguments:

A linguistically sound argument:
1. conforms to the traditional field invariant standards of inductive and deductive argument,
2. is based upon data appropriate to the audience and field, and
3. is expressed in language that enhances the evocative and ethical force of argument (Ziegelmueller and Parson, 3-5).

Without reviewing the reasoning or data involved in establishing these characteristics, the purpose of this paper is to develop the third characteristic of linguistically sound arguments: the problem of language.

That lexis and logos have been divorced should come as no surprise. From the early applications of Aristotle to the present, the view of arguments as valid – when determined by a mathematical account of validity – have dominated the view of argument. Toulmin’s comments on the problems of the mathematical model and the need for a substitute model are well known (Toulmin, 3-10). Similarly, Chaim Perelman sees modern logic becoming increasingly removed from argument in discourse, being content to set up its own systems: “In modern logic, the product of reflection on mathematical reasoning, the formal systems are no longer related to any rational evidence whatever. The logician is free to elaborate as he pleases the artificial language of the system he is building, free to fix the symbols and combinations of symbols that may be used” (Perelman/Olbrects-Tyteca, 13). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Argumentation And Self-Representation In Everyday Narratives: The Logo Activity

logo  2002-11. Introduction
The central research problem presented in this paper is the relationship between argumentation, self-representation and narrative activity. Our main goal is to describe how group identity is collaboratively narrated in and through the arguments displayed in a group discussion activity that took place in a computer literacy program (La Gran Dimensión-LGD-) for adult Mexican immigrants in San Diego, California.
For this purpose we need to focus, first on the relationship between narrative and argumentation and second, on the one existing between argumentation and identity. Our analysis shows that argumentative structures are part of the narrative activity embedded within the group discussion activity taking place in La Gran Dimensión (LGD). Group-discussion activities, such as the one presented in this paper, serve to construct a group identity, based on argumentative structures related to linguistic, national origin, friendship, and goal-oriented cultural identifications.

2. Narrative and argumentation
Generally, when we think of narratives or stories, we think of them in terms of past events that contain a setting, a complication action and a resolution (Ochs, 1996). Classical sociolinguistic definitions of narratives (Labov and Waletzky, 1967, 20) consider them as a sequence of two or more clauses, which are temporally ordered. In this way, the overall structure of a narrative consists of the following elements (Labov, 1972): abstract or one or two clauses summarizing the whole story; orientation or set of clauses which identify the time, place, persons, or situation; complicating action or narratives clauses comprising the sequence of events; evaluation or clauses giving the point of the story; resolution or the part following the evaluation; and coda or the ending that brings the listener back to the present. Labov and Waletzky´s model distinguished two main functions in the narrative, the referential and the evaluative function. The referential function referred to the ability to match temporal sequences and the evaluative function consisted of that part of the narrative which reveals the attitude of the narrator towards the narrative. Although the evaluative function of narratives implicitly conveys the speaker’s stances[i] and dispositions towards the events portrayed, narrative and argumentation have been studies as two separate fields of studies (Carranza, 1999).

Sociolinguistic and discourse analysis definitions of narrative as a discourse analytic category which involves an evaluative point (Labov, 1972) of characters and events have exceptionally been related to argumentation (Van Dijk, 1984). Recent discourse analytic approaches have shown how argumentative stories are told to back up positions, opinions and interpretations of experience related to characters and events (Schiffrin, 1985; Van  Dijk, 1993; Carranza, 1999; De Fina, 2000). These studies also agree on the complex interrelationship that exists between argumentative and narrative structures in concrete communicative situations. Read more

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