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Oxford University Press - Online Resource Centres

Hale et al: Criminology 3e

Chapter 7: Chapter synopses

We live in an age of 'media saturation', an age in which the media play an increasingly central role in everyday life. It is also an age in which high crime rates and levels of concern about crime have become accepted as 'normal'. The rapid and relentless development of information technologies over the past 100 years has shaped the modern era, transforming the relations between space, time and identity (see Giddens, 1990; Castells, 1996; Jewkes, 2002; Greer, 2004). Where once 'news' used to travel by ship, it now hurtles across the globe at light speed and is available 24 hours-a-day at the push of a button. Where once cultures used to be more or less distinguishable in national or geographical terms, they now mix, intermingle and converge in a constant global exchange of information. Where once a sense of community and belonging was derived primarily from established identities and local traditions, it may now also be found, and lost, in a virtual world of shared values, meanings and interpretations. In short, the media are not only inseparable from contemporary social life; they are, for many, its defining characteristic. In this context, understanding the connections between crime and the media is central to understanding the cultural place that crime and media occupy in our social world.

This chapter is an introduction to the investigation of crime and media. The chapter?s aim is to present a summary of major themes and debates which have shaped the research agenda, but also to sharpen the focus of investigation on some less well rehearsed issues such as the changing global communications marketplace, the development of new media technologies, and the significance of these for understanding the connections between crime and media.

The chapter is divided into four main sections.

The first offers some background information and addresses the crucial question of why exploring media images of crime and control is important.

The second section considers how scholars have researched crime and media, and presents an overview of the main findings.

The third section discusses critically the dominant theoretical and conceptual tools which have been used to understand and explain media representations of crime. The final section considers the evidence for the influence of media representations, both on criminal behaviour and fear of crime.

Finally, suggestions for some areas of future research are outlined.