Reading Choice: USING DIGITALLY DISTRIBUTED VULGAR COMEDY TO REACH YOUNG MEN WITH INFORMATION ABOUT HEALTHY SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT
On the most basic level, critique requires a recognition of the parameters of a piece of research. Specifically, this piece of research was financed by government research into prevention of STD spread, and a grant for community education. That is to say, the target audience for the study is academic people with an eye towards optimising government spending. This typically suggests people who must maintain a very dry, very distant view towards research, and further to that, they are almost certainly not young people engaged with youth culture and media. There’s a number of instances in the text where a piece is deliberately cited at arm’s length, such as citing Halo or Call Of Duty – videogames with almost no sexual content – as sources for common education. In these cases, the media is more of a social network – it allows players of the game to communicate in a common space, but that doesn’t make it very likely for it to be an educational vector.
Second, methodology. In this piece, the research was conducted by taking a group of school age students in focus groups and discussing with them within a group. This right there presented to me a curious problem. Focus groups bring with them an extra level of social dynamic: You learn about the way people behave in groups, rather than necessarily learning about what people believe or do fully for themselves. What’s noteworthy is the samples of media cited actually involved products that were themselves not, officially, appropriate to the children being surveyed. When discussing issues of personal exploration of sex and sexuality, focus groups may produce a damping effect – preventing the surveyed individuals from exploring or admitting to something they might see as ‘wrong.’ Is there a way to control for this in a media research group? Can more private conversations be arranged? Is the use of school age students in one city going to provide an inherent bias? All the elements cited by the children are broadly speaking popular culture, and in some cases social culture.
Third, style. I found that the anecdotes served a great aid for me, a student, reading the piece, because I laughed at them. On the other hand, if that humour is engaging to the reader, doesn’t that seem at odds with its target audience? Is this piece written to be considered academic and distant, even as it subtly acknowledges that Australian government representatives may not be quite as stiff and remote from actual media as they talk?
It is ultimately a qualitative study and the conclusion it draws is nebulous. While it suggests an interesting idea about the possible use of comedy, this sort of qualitive study only suggests that this sort of thing may be effective, compared to other methods. On the other hand, the specific joke citations and examples similarly may, in a more metatextual way, engage readers who are ultimately going to make decisions, and show them that these comedy resources may be useful sources of educational material.
McKee, Alan, Anthony Walsh, and Anne-Frances Watson. "Using digitally distributed vulgar comedy to reach young men with information about healthy sexual development." Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy 153 (2014): 128-137.
Well, rather than talk to you about how the game we designed work, why don’t we show you the game’s design document?