Video Games Disorder: Just Another Moral Panic about Gaming?

The World Health Organisation recently included ‘gaming disorder‘ as a new mental health disorder in its latest updated draft version of the International Classification of Diseases.

The disorder has not yet been formally recognized as a condition, it’s under review over the coming year.  Not everyone’s convinced that it actually exists: the gaming industry is especially skepital, tending to view this as a moral panic reaction to parents’ raised awareness and dislike of their children spending longer on games such as Fortnite.

Is ‘gaming disorder’ must a moral panic reaction?

What is ‘Gaming Disorder’?

You can read the full definition here. It breaks down into three main elements:

  1. impaired control over gaming
  2. increasing priority given to gaming, such that gaming takes precedence over other hobbies/ interests and daily activities
  3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.

In order for it to be diagnosed, the WHO is suggestion that it needs to be observed over a 12 month period and have resulted in the declining ability of an individual to function in one of more are of social life, such as at work, or within the family.

What’s the evidence base for its existence?

Dr Vladimir Poznyak is one of the main defenders of the idea that VGD is a really existing phenomenon. He points to the fact that the last few years have seen a rising number of cases of ‘gaming addiction’ in several countries around the world, and some governments and charities have even set up treatment programmes, along the line of gambling addiction programmes.

He outlines in his case in this article.

NB – In his defence, Dr VP does say that <1% of gamers are ever likely to suffer from gaming disorder.

Problems with the concept and the evidence… 

UKie CEO Dr Joe Twist argues that the WHO definition is based on questionable evidence, and when pushed WHO officials are quite vague about what exactly it is they are worried about.

For example, it is unclear whether certain genres of games are more ‘addictive’ than others, or whether certain triggers (such as rewards structures) within games are the problem…

This episode of ‘Click‘ on iPlayer does quite a good job of summarising the issues surrounding gaming disorder.

What do you think?

Personally I think it’s perfectly reasonable to establish a new disorder, especially when the WHO is clear that it effects only 1% of users – I mean, check the definition, we are talking about SEVERE addiction here. Even someone who plays 40 hours a week wouldn’t necessarily be classified as having gaming disorder.

I think its fairly clear that some computer games have addictive features, which are going to affect a tiny minority in a negative way (very similar to gambling), and the games industry needs to recognize this rather than just ignoring the fact that their products create serious problems for 1% of users.

Having said that, maybe we do need further research which pins down particular genres and features…?

Image source.

 

Advertisements

Is alcohol really that bad for your health?

The new ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption should be none, at least according to a recent study into the health risks of alcohol published by the The Lancet.

This contradicts the current official government guidelines on the ‘safe’ level of drinking: currently around 14 units per week for women, and 21 for men.

The findings of this research study were widely reported in the mainstream media:

  • The Daily Mail reported that ‘just one glass of wine a day increases your risk of various cancers’.
  • Even The Independent reported that ‘the idea that one or two drinks a day is good for you is a myth’.

alcohol health statistics.png

But what are the actual statistical risks of different levels of alcohol consumption?

The actual risk of developing a drink related alcohol problem for different levels of drinking are as follows:

  • No drinks a day = 914/ 100 000 people
  • One drink a day = 918/ 100 000 people
  • Two drinks a day = 977/ 100 000 people

I took the liberty of putting this into graph form to illustrate the relative risks: blue shows the proportion of people who will develop alcohol related problems!

alcohol health risks

This means that statistically, there is only a 0.5 % greater risk of developing an alcohol related illness if you have one drink a day compared to no drinks, which hardly sounds significant!

Meanwhile, there is a greater increase in risk if you have two compared to 1 drink a day, which suggests the government guidelines have got this about right!

(NB, despite the headlines, The BBC and Sky did a reasonable job of reporting the actual stats!)

So why did some news papers report these findings in a limited way?

This could be a classic example of News Values determining how an event gets reported: it’s much more shocking to report that the government has got its advice wrong and that really there is no safe level of drinking!

Or it could be that these newspapers feel as though they’ve got a social policy duty to the general public… even if there is only a slight increased risk from alcohol consumption, maybe they feel duty bound to report it in such a way to nudge behaviour in a more healthy direction.

In terms of why some newspapers did a better job of reporting the actual findings: it could be that these are the papers who rely on advertising revenue from drinks companies? Maybe the Mail and the Independent don’t get paid by drinks companies, whereas Sky does>?

This post will also be published to the steem blockchain: where you can get rewarded in crypto currency for posting, liking, commenting and so on! 

Bake Off 2018 certainly packs a strong middle class punch…

While there’s a lovely ethnic and gender diversity shine on this year’s Great British Bake Off pie, the social class balance is just way off!

I’ve done a rough analysis of this year’s 2018 Bake Off contestants by social class background and compared these to the percentages of people working in different social class occupations (1) and found the following differences:

It’s all about class 2 in this year’s 2018 Bake Off!

There’s a very strong upper middle class skew, and a corresponding under-representation of especially the traditional working class.

The 2018 Bake Off contestants by social class…

Focusing purely on social class, and categorized using the National Statistics Socio-economic classification (NS-SEC), in this year’s 2018 Bake Off line up we have the following:

Class 1 – Managers, directors, senior officials – COUNT 3

  1. Antony the ‘Bollywood’ Banker,
  2. Briony the stay at home mum
  3. Dan the stay at home dad.
Antony: representing all actually working higher professionals

My logic for including the two stay at home parents in class one is as follows: only the very wealthiest of parents can afford to have one of them staying at home permanently, and given that class 2 (see below) is already well over-represented it follows that the most likely class fit for these two is in class one. NB – this isn’t necessarily the case, just my best estimate in the absence of any data on what Briony’s and Dan’s partners do. 

Class 2 – Professional occupations – COUNT 6

  1. Imelda, the Former teacher, now countryside recreation officer
  2. Kim-Joy, the Mental health worker
  3. Luke, the Civil Servant
  4. Manon, the Software Project Manager
  5. Rahul, the Nuclear scientist
  6. Ruby, the Project Manager
Kim-Joy: a good candidates this years social class Bake Off ‘median’

Classes 3-5 – count 0

Associate professional, technical profession (class 3),  administrative and secretarial (class 4) and skilled trades (class 5) have zero representation on Bake Off this year.

Class 6: caring and leisure – COUNT 1

Representing the 3 million workers in class 6…. retired air steward Terry

Class 7 – sales and customer service – COUNT 1

Karen represents the 2.5 million working people in class 7…. at least she is actually ‘working’.

Class 8 – Plant and machine operatives – COUNT 0

No representation from the ‘traditional’ working class at all. I guess custard creams are off this year’s Bake Off menu!

Class 9 – elementary occupations – COUNT 1

Finally…. Blood courier Jon represents those working in class nine.

Jon also represents all of Wales too. Quite a burden!

A few observations on the problems of social class analysis…

I had to limit myself to categorizing the contests by occupation, as this is the only valid, ‘objective’ data I’ve got about their class background. I would have like to have used the more up to date ‘New British Class Survey‘ (scroll down for details), but I can’t tell how much cultural capital etc. each contestant has got just from watching them of the T.V.

I might have mis-categorized a couple of the contestants: especially the two who don’t work, but even so, there’s still a middle class bias!

Discussion Questions….

Does this poor representation of the lower social classes matter? I mean, we all know that ‘trophy baking’ is a middle class affair, so maybe this sample of bakers actually does represent those who ‘trophy bake’ – i.e. those who can actually afford to spend that much time and money on baking?

Or should Channel 4 be trying a bit harder to find a machine operator to get their ass on Bake-Off?

Sources/ Find out More…

  1. U.K. population social class breakdown based on Office for National Statistics: Employment by Occupation, April 2017 figures.
  2. The Great British Bake Off web site (source for contestant images).

 

The social causes of the California wild fires

The California Wild Fires are typically reported as being caused by a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental factors. Mainstream news reports tend to focus on how a conflation of a lack of rain, humid conditions, and fierce winds results in these dramatic, and unpredictable fires.

California wild fires certainly appear to be newsworthy, in that they tick many of the news values used by news agencies to determine what should be aired. California fires are dramatic, visual, involve an elite nation, and are often personable: if they’re not threatening a town, we can always focus on the brave bush firemen.

Challenging the envirocentric narrative 

However, I think we need to challenge the mainstream narrative that California wild fires are purely natural events.

If we dig a little deeper, we find that this ‘environment centric’ view is misleading as human social factors are just as much a cause.

Gegory L Simon argues that wildfires in California are just as much a result of reckless human development decisions as they are due to environmental conditions.

Authorities all around California have agreed permission for development to take place on areas they new were high fire risk. He further argues that authorities turn a blind eye to the fire risks because of the huge profits to be made from building houses in California.

Evidence for this lies in the simple fact of the increasing costs of dealing with fires in California…

One would have thought it sensible to stop developing in areas where there appears to be an increasing fire risk. Or if not, at the very least, we could be more honest about the fact that there is a human cause’ to these fires, rather than it just being purely down to environmental factors!

Then again, I guess deluding ourselves with the later explanation is more comforting.

This post will also be published to the steem blockchain.

Sources

If you want to explore this issue further, I suggest reading the following two critical articles

The Conversation – Don’t Blame California Wild Fires on a Perfect Storm of Weather Events

The Atlantic – Power Lines are Burning the West

Federal Fire Fighting Costs 

Image Source 

 

Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom – ‘Distraction Politics’ of the very highest order?

The British Press have been all over Donald Trump’s four day visit to the United Kingdom… but predictably the focus has been mostly on the trivial details of the itinerary, the ‘intense’ security surrounding the event and Trump’s ‘outrageous’ off-the-cuff comments about Brexit, rather than on the substance of Trump’s pro hard-Brexit arguments or on the logic behind why thousands of people are protesting about his being here.

The BBC News coverage, for example, made a great deal out of the stringent security methods surrounding Trump’s first visit, and there was lots of coverage of Trump ‘in transit’ to various elegant places, such as Blenheim Palace, where we were reminded that while this wasn’t a state visit Trump still gets the Grenadier Guards playing the national anthem, a full-on Banquet, and he gets to meet the Queen.

Trump UK state visit.png

There was, of course, coverage of the protestors outside Blenheim palace, where a couple of them told us that they didn’t like the politics he represented, or his misogynistic and racist attitudes, but this was largely stripped of any deeper logic or substance.

There was also lots of commentary on the (non)-content of the interview Trump gave to The Sun Newspaper on Thursday 12 July during which he criticised Theresa May for not listening to his advice on Brexit and pursuing a ‘soft-brexit’, suggesting that this would now mean that a ‘trade-deal’ with the USA would be very unlikely, and even lamenting the fact that Boris Johnson had stepped down from Politics, stating that he would make a great ‘Prime Minister’.

According to Chomsky, the function of such ‘outrageous comments’ is to keep ‘all eyes on Trump’ and to distract us from the wider neoliberal republican (and Tory) agenda which seeks to dismantle government protections for the average working person, and make it easier for elites to destroy people and planet for short term profit.

Chomsky outlines his views in this video, and I suggest everyone watches it:

Chomsky makes some pretty ‘hardline claims’ in this video, mainly that in reality Trump is part of a broader republican administration who knows exactly what they are doing: they have an extremely neo-liberal agenda to dismantle every part of government which protects the poor and the planet. In America the Republic Government is currently doing this, by taking away workers rights, pollution laws, consumer protections and by basically destroying the planet for short term profit.

The function of Trump needs to be understood in this context: all the time we focus on him and his personalised politics, we are not focussing on the real issues: the fact that the Republican Party are the most dangerous organised institution in human history, worse than the Nazis: because the Nazis never actually intended to destroy all life on earth for their short term gain, only some lives! (NB these are Chomsky’s words – in the video- not mine!)

Back to the media coverage of Trump – the subtle art of distraction away from the harsh realities of neoliberal politics?

Here I just want to focus on how the BBC coverage distracts us, both in the US and the UK…don’t forget that any 10 minute news item could focus on any aspect of the issue….

Firstly, at least 20% of the coverage is on triviality – itineraries, security, personalities, which has nothing to do with politics. Time wasted here.

Secondly, Trump’s comments in The Sun give us a distorted idea of how politics work – he personalises politics – giving us the impression that Theresa May is ‘free’ to heed his advice or not, that’s not how politics works, individuals are generally much more constrained.

Thirdly, Trump greatly simplifies the issues…. As he’s got the power to decide whether or not the USA does a trade deal with the UK… it’s the republican party more generally that decides that, remember he’s embedded in a power elite, he’s not a ‘lone operator’…. However, in the media, he appears like a lone operator, that’s why the elite love him so much, it’s just total obfuscation.

Fourthly…. Trump today (Friday, one day after) actually called his interview with The Sun ‘Fake News’ and denied criticizing Theresa May, even though the whole thing is recorded: another great distraction tactic, keeping the media focused on him, again away from the issues.

Fifthly… some protesters are protesting because they are against precisely the reality that Chomsky points out…. They are against people destroying the planet for the short term gain of an extremely wealthy ultra-minority. Yet does the media tell us this: no – most people are there protesting because they don’t like Donald Trump the man, the misogynist, again personalising and individualising the issues which are fundamentally social.

I’ll leave it there for today, just a few comments to illustrate what  Chomskian analysis of the mainstream media coverage of Trump’s visit to the UK might look like!

Picture Sources

All pictures screen captured from BBC News at 10.00, Thursday 12th July.

This post has also been published to the steem blockchain, check out steemit for more details!

A few sociological observations on England’s progress through the World Cup…

Sociological analysis of the World Cup as a media-construction and a bizarrely inclusive kind of nationalism…

I don’t care too much for football, and I’m most certainly not an English nationalist, and yet I’ve got thoroughly caught up in, and even enjoyed watching England’s progress through this 2018 World Cup (England-Colombia accepted, at least until the very final kick of the ball).

In this post I just present a few sociological musings on the World Cup 2018…..

Come on England

The World Cup is most definitely a media spectacle…

It strikes me that what I’m enjoying is not just the football, it’s the whole month-long media-spectacle surrounding the event: without the media-hype I just don’t think it would be the ‘World-Cup’…. I mean let’s face it, there’s at least 30 minutes ‘studio discussion’ before the group-stage games, and now England are the semi-finals, this pre-amble has increased to 90 minutes, not to mention all the coverage during the day, on T.V. and radio, not to mention social media.

And of course, this year, the ‘youngster’s in the squad have upped the media-integration even more, with (well-managed) use of social media and goal-celebration dances taken from Fortnite….

There’s even instructions out on how to do it… as in this Guardian article

Celebrities co-opting the World-Cup?

Then of course there’s the inevitable celebrities and their ‘support messages’…as in this BBC 1 minute long trailer… I do wonder how many of these celebs even like football?

Celebrities world cup

In fairness, I do know that Russel Brand is a genuine ‘fan’ so fair play, he’s ‘earned’ his place in video, but the rest of the them… this might just be a vessel for self-promotion?

The role of the BBC in constructing ‘World Cup Fever’ ?

Is it just me, or is ITV coverage just a bit ‘wrong’? I don’t actually even regard ITV as a legitimate part of the process of World Cup construction… it’s more of a passenger IMO, it’s just not the same as the BBC.

I mean Gary Lineker is about as ‘England in the World Cup’ as you can get (at least in the last three decades), and there’s no adverts, so you just get to soak up more the atmosphere, and it’s not just Garry: Breakfast Time does a pretty good job hyping up the event too.

BBC world cup
Would it even be a World Cup without Gary ‘crisp-muncher’ Lineker’?

And yet it’s not quite hyperreality!

For all the media-construction, and even talk of ‘hyping it up’, I can’t quite bring myself to call this a truly hyperreal event (as some postmodernists might argue) … because the games take place, well, in place, and there’s clear rules and a time-limit, and I can pop out there for myself if I want to!.

England in the World Cup: A ‘friendlier’ sort of nationalism?

Of course the number of England flags draped out of people’s windows increases during the World Cup, as do the number of on-display beer-belly and football-tattoo combos, but this isn’t a small-minded, intolerant, closed kind of nationalism, it’s a ‘liminal’ type of sports-specific nationalism that’s maybe a little less angry and a little more vulnerable than your Brexit nationalism?

England flags world cup

I definitely think there’s something nationalist about the event: I mean being taken back through our nation’s footballing history is a mainstay of the narrative in the media-coverage, it’s even takes ‘solid form’ in our ex-England players fronting BBC’s coverage, and then of course… ‘football’s coming home’. OK, going down the home homeland route of analysis maybe a bit strong, but then again?!

Certainly the way the World-Cup is constructed in the media, it’s a very inclusive, multicultural, open to all ages, and family-friendly event. A ‘soft-brexit’ kind of nationalism if you like, having said that, I’m sure there are plenty of places and pubs in the UK where those England flags and those tattoos are most definitely not expressing an open and tolerant idea of England!

Anywhere, I’ll leave it there for today, just a few sociological ramblings….

Come on England!

Does Peppa Pig Encourage Unnecessary G.P Visits?

To what extent is Peppa Pig responsible for increasing strain on the NHS?

Peppa Pig is one of the most recognizable celebrities in the U.K., recognizable by 93% of 18-24 year olds (compared to only 78% who recognize Jeremy Corbyn); s/he (?) is one of our most popular exports: now viewed in 180 countries in 40 languages; and s/he’s also the only pig in the world worth over £1 billion.

Media-effects-Peppa-Pig

But is this cutesy character unintentionally increasing strain on another national treasure : our beloved NHS. G.P. Dr Catherine Bell argues that it does – she even wrote an article for the British Medical Journal about it!

NB – In case you’ve never seen it: An episode of Peppa Pig…

G.P. Dr Catherine Bell regularly watches Peppa Pig with her toddler, and, based on (a largely involuntary, as she puts it), analysis of several programmes, has concluded that the relationship ‘Dr Brown Bear’ has with the ;Peppa Pig family’ misrepresents the way in which G.P.s deal with minor ailments in reality.

Dr Bell says of the above episode (NB her full article is well worth a read, it’s funny in a serious sort of way.)

‘In ‘George Gets a Cold’ Dr Brown Bear conducts a telephone triage outside normal working hours and again opts to make a clinically inappropriate urgent home visit. Had he explored Daddy Pig’s ideas, concerns, and expectations, he would have discovered that Daddy Pig already had a good understanding of the likely diagnosis and self limiting nature of the illness. ‘.

In the article (linked above) Dr Bell hypothesizes that the overall effects of the unrealistic representation of how G.P.s actually act actually encourages parents of toddlers to make unnecessary trips to their G.P.s: by encouraging them to seek medical advice for minor ailments which would clear up by themselves, for example. She basis her hypothesis on the fact that just the sheer exposure of parents to Peppa Pig must have some kind of effect.

Shame we can’t test it out in practice!

 

 

Contemporary sociology: false news spreads faster than true news

A recent MIT study led by Sinan Aral, published in the journal Science in early March (2018) found that ‘false news’ spreads much more quickly than real news—and it seems to be humans, more than bots, who are responsible for the imbalance.

Fake political news stories spread the fastest, but the findings also applied to stories on urban legends, business, terrorism, science, entertainment, and natural disasters.

Aral’s team of researchers looked at sample of 4.5 million tweets created by about 3 mmillion people over an 11 year period. Together these tweets formed 126,000 “cascades” of news stories, or uninterrupted retweet chains. The researchers compared to spread of false vs. true news stories, verified by using sites such as factcheck.org.

The main findings

Fake News Twitter

  • false stories were 70% more likely to be retweeted,
  • while true stories never reached past a  ‘cascade-depth’ of 10, false stories spread to a depth of 19,
  • false studies reached a cascade “depth” of 10 about 20 times faster than true ones.
  • true news stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 readers as false ones did,
  • “False political news traveled deeper and more broadly, reached more people, and was more viral than any other category of false information,”
  • humans were more likely to spread the false news than bots,
  • Fake news tended to be associated with fear, disgust, and surprise, whereas true stories triggered anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust.

Why do people spread fake news?

The authors of the study offer a ‘neutral’ explanation – simply that fake news is more ‘novel, novelty attracts more human attention, and ‘novel news’ is more valuable – individuals gain more status for being the ones who share novetly (or at least peopel think they will gain more status) and novel information tends to be more useful in helping us make decisions about how to act in society.

Ironically, spreading false news tends to have the opposite effect: it makes individuals who spread it look stupid and may lead to us taking fewer risks and to a misallocation of resources as we attempt to mitigate this (non-real) risks.

Relevance to A-level Sociology?

This is a great example of hyperreality…. to paraphrase Baudrillard, False News never happened… but it has real consequences.

It’s worth noting the limits of the study too… it’s limited to Twitter and doesn’t really help us to understand where fake news comes from, for example.

The fact that it’s humans, not bots spreading false news means that interventions will be more difficult and more complicated, because it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to find a technological fix for the problem.

I could imagine that Gomm and Gouldner would criticise this study as being ‘too neutral’… it could have looked more at the ideological bias of the political fake news stories, and the profiles of those spreading fake news, for example.

Sources 

The Spread of True and False News Online – Science, March 2018

Fake News Spreads Faster than the Truth on Twitter – Forbes

 

Homophobic Friends?

It’s almost 15 years (!) since the hit T.V. show ‘Friends’ went off the air. The show has been voted the best sitcom of all time, but since it started streaming on Netflix this month, many millennials have been shocked by its themes, perceiving the show as somewhat homophobic and transphobic.

Friends gender

Most of the criticism focuses on the way the show deals with sexuality and gender: younger viewers are offended by the recurring jokes about Ross’ Lesbian ex-wife, for instance, and Chandler’s cross-dressing father.

They have also criticized the show for ‘fat-shaming’ Monica, following the flashbacks to herself as an undesirable fat teenager, and the lack of diversity in the show: it is, to say the least, very white!

It’s amazing how our sensitivity to such issues has changed in the space of just one generation. 

NB – here’s an article defending Friends, suggesting that it isn’t actually homophobic etc.

Sources:

The Week, 20th January 2018

The Church of Stop Shopping – A Sociological Analysis

Reverend Billy and The church of stop shopping are critical of our addiction to shopping – especially at Christmas. They suggest we are facing a ‘Shopocalypse’ – arguing that over consumption fuels the debt crisis, global warming and destroys local economies and communities if products are purchased from TNCs.

Instead, they suggest that we should use Christmas as a time to develop positive new low-consumption habits – learning to be happy with less! The video below – ‘What Would Jesus Buy’ is an excellent documentary outlining their ‘activist performance art’ and their general critique of consumption at Christmas.

The Church uses its performance art to protest more widely than just at Christmas – they target unethical companies, such as banks who fund logging in the Rain Forest, and target their lobbies to protest their involvement, and get arrested a lot in the process!

There’s all sorts of links with the A level Sociology syllabus:

  • Linking to sociological theories… the Church is coming from a broadly leftist, Marxist perspective in its criticisms of our consumption habits.
  • Linking to Crime and Deviance – obviously what they are doing is deviant! More interestingly, it’s interested to note how their dealt with by the state – during many of their protests, they get arrested, spend a night in jail, then they’re back out again… while the far more harmful practices of the Corporations they protest against just carry on.
  • These activists are protesting what they see as ‘Green Crimes’ – companies which harm the planet, but of course these acts are not defined as such by the state.
  • Linking to Methods – you could argue that what they are doing is a form of ‘ethnomethodology?’ (look it up, it’s not a core part of the A-level syllabus!)
  • Linking to the Family – Personal Life Perspective maybe?
  • Linking to Education – well it’s educational!
  • And linking to religion – I dunno, I’m a bit confused about this! Possibly nothing at all?

Merry Christmas.

And don’t forget to slow down your consumption, Ahmen!  Although it’s possibly too late for that…?

church stop shopping