Does political comedy increase political knowledge

I never watched The Daily Show before, because I am not a big fan of US politics. i guess I am a typical “less politically interested viewer” as Xeno and Becker described. I selected The Daily Show aired on October 07 (Big banks don’t read the fine print, and Naomi Watts recalls her moment with Steve Carell) and October 06 (Aasif Mandvi visits a divided Delaware, and Philip Dray remembers America’s labor movement). Then I surfed the web for about 25 minutes.

Xeno and Becker conducted two experiments to test political comedy’s influence on less politically interested viewers. The Daily Show aired on October 07 was about mortgage and foreclosures. I paid little attention to economic news, so watching the Daily Show definitely increased my knowledge regarding the topic. When I browsed the web for news afterwards, stories with the title “mortgage” and “foreclosure” definitely caught my attention, but I didn’t click through the title as I have little motivation to dig deep into the topic which contradicts Xeno and Becker’s second Hypothesis. The second episode of the Daily Show is a little hard for me to comprehend as I had little knowledge about the partisan conflicts within Delaware. I capture the main idea that north Delaware is different from the south. I just couldn’t get the underlying implication expressed in the episode. As I browsed the web, I didn’t find any related articles. If there is, I feel certain I wouldn’t click through the title to learn more about the topic. The result is consistent with that of the first topic.

When I browsed Google News, I not only looked at the top stories in the middle, but also the sidebar presenting the stories by topic. In the listed topics, I clicked the subject “Liu Xiaobo”. I didn’t know who he was, I am just curious at how he made into the Google top news. After I learned that he was the Nobel Peace Prize winner this year, i then googled him. It seems that my cultural background has a significant influence on my selection of news content. Although my own experience does not necessarily support Xeno and Becker’s ideas, their argument definitely makes sense to me. If I were consuming Chinese news content, the result could have been totally different. I would have a better understanding at the jokes which would then stimulate me to consume more news of the related topics. As a “less politically interested viewer”, I do not normally watch political programs. But if I do watch one, say a political comedy, I must have a inherent motivation to do so. Otherwise I would just change the channel.

Xeno and Becker’s argument is built on Baum’s research. I like Baum’s article because he is very rigorous. He did not exaggerate his findings but rather present it in a modest way: “Exposure to soft news does most likely have at least some effect on factual knowledge, at least with respect to those aspects of high-profile issues, like foreign crises, that attract substantial soft news coverage, and at least in the short run.”




About tinamomo

I am a simple person who enjoys simple things~
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5 Responses to Does political comedy increase political knowledge

  1. luckymaggie says:

    Interesting, I mentioned that I am a typical “less political interested viewer” as well. I have the same feeling as yours, and I think when we are exposed to unfamiliar topics, we can always learn something new thus our knowledge about this certain topic is increasing. I don’t think we have similar format in China, like political comedy, but we do have parodies towards specific political issues, though they are not released via traditional media outlets. I knew Xiaobo Liu because my first blog post mentioned Nobel Peace Prize 2010 and I knew he was one of the candidate thus I did some research at that time. To confirm the result, these days I did check the relevant websites as well. I think my “confirmation” decision is stimulated by news story which I read several weeks ago, but it seemed effective. Therefore, in general, I think Xeno and Becker’s conclusions explain the increasing knowledge phenomenon very well.

  2. fanninchen says:

    I totally agree with you, Tina! Because for international students, there is a knowledge gap for us. So I am definitely the “less political interested viewer” as you are. For my own experience, same as yours, I triggered from those soft news and I learned, not much, but I learned some political phenomenon. I won’t describe it as knowledge, because I don’t absorb any factual political knowledge during the “tonight show”, only sarcasm and jokes. I still believe that we should watch serious news talk to gain more actual political knowledge.

  3. Pingback: Blog post 7 comments « Fannin's Place

  4. It has been interesting to me to learn that Chinese students here did not know about Liu Xiaobo’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize for several days. It was all over all the news media, so I would have thought no one could miss it. It just gives evidence that people can be using media all day, every day, and still be unaware of what’s happening! 🙂

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