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The Inclusive Vision

Essays in Honor of Larry Gross

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Edited By Paul Messaris and David W. Park

Larry Gross is one of the most influential figures in the history of media studies. In this collection of original essays, his former students reflect on his groundbreaking contributions to three major developments: the emergence of visual studies as a distinct field of media theory and research; the analysis of media fiction as a symbol of power structures and a perpetuator of social inequalities; and the growing scholarly attention to the relationships between mass media and sexual minorities.

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6. Larry Gross and Cultivation Analysis (Michael Morgan)

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6. Larry Gross and Cultivation Analysis1

MICHAEL MORGAN

Larry Gross made essential, profound, and far-reaching contributions to the area of media effects research known as cultivation analysis. This chapter tells the story.

But in order to tell it, a bit of background is required.

The story begins with George Gerbner, who became Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. After about ten years of conducting a variety of discrete studies of media content and institutions, in the mid-1960s Gerbner began to formulate a more comprehensive theoretical framework for studying mass communication. He sought to draw attention to the historically distinct institutional qualities of mass communication; he argued that the rise of mass media meant that culture was now being mass produced by commercial organizations, and that this transformation had enormous implications for collective consciousness.

By the late 1960s, Gerbner began to refer to his scheme as “Cultural Indicators.” Economic indicators (e.g., unemployment, inflation) were regularly reported in the news, and a movement was emerging to provide periodic reports of social indicators (e.g., health and illness, social mobility). Gerbner hoped to establish Cultural Indicators to complement these efforts, providing cumulative and comparative information about the mass-produced cultural climate.

Cultural Indicators was envisioned as a three-pronged approach to examining relationships among “message systems, corporate forms and functions, collective image-formation, and public policy” (1970, p. 71). First,...

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