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There is a light that never goes out - Cultivation Effects on the Freedom of Movement in Urban and Suburban Public Places

Paper i proceeding
Författare Gabriella Sandstig
Publicerad i European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) TWG Media & The City in Milan February 10 2012
Publiceringsår 2012
Publicerad vid Institutionen för journalistik, medier och kommunikation (JMG)
Statsvetenskapliga institutionen
Språk en
Ämnesord cultivation effects, fear of crime, freedom of movement, urban space, public place
Ämneskategorier Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap


Cultivation theory (Gerbner, 1972, 1973) focus on the relationship between how heavy media consumption in the long run can alter our perceptions of reality to become a stereotype, distorted and selective image of reality. This perception can lead to the overestimation of the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime or tend to view the world as a mean or scary place (Miller, 2005). Even though contemporary research continue this line of research, less attention is paid to the possible consequences of these perceptions on behavior, like limitations of the freedom of movement in the city in general or in the own neighborhood. This is more common within the field of criminology were the analysis is based on the assumption that sensations of fear are based on a fear of crime, and framed around the extreme case of re-spondents’ avoidance of going out after dark, to provide a maximum of variation in the results. However the explanatory value of such a framing is low for levels of fear and insecurity in the everyday lives of people. First of all there are numerous studies that point towards the paradox of fear: that the majority of the people having experienced fear or insecurity themselves lack experiences of crime. Secondly fear and insecurity in public places not only occur after dark but also during daytime and the indicators of this type of fear and the mechanism behind it differ from the fear and insecurity sensed after dark, as does the sensation depending on the social as well as physical context of urban space. Thirdly people in their everyday lives try to avoid places they fear and learn to live with and handle risks. In this paper the levels in the freedom of movement during both daytime as well as after dark and the cultivation effects restricting this movement, in the Swedish town of Gothenburg, is in focus. Cultivation effects have in this context previously shown to occur both on the sensations of fear in public spaces and the freedom of movement in public places on the urban level as a result of media experiences of crime but also social problems enhancing personal and social experiences of these risks or the result of perceived crime coverage in the media. This paper analyzes whether cultivation effects also occur on the suburban level, in areas were news media consumption is among the lowest. Survey data used is based on approximately 3000 inhabitants in the municipality in 2003-2004, and approximately 2500 inhabitants in 2011. The freedom of movement is as expected greater on the suburban than on the urban level, however the pattern in avoidance of places during daytime and after dark is the same. There are also cultivation effects due to the enhancements of personal and social experiences as well as perceptions of media coverage on the restrictions in the freedom of movement on the suburban as well as urban level, but the independent effects of perceptions of crime coverage are lower on the suburban.

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