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The Sound (and Sight) of Silence: Notes on Television and the Communication Ecology of Adolescent Homosexuality.

Kielwasser, Alfred P.; Wolf, Michelle A.

Abstract: Gay and lesbian adolescents are marginalized at many levels. Their needs and interests are slighted in the balance of advocacy work that purports a concern for the welfare of minority children. Their presence is overlooked in studies of youth and the mass media. Their existence is excluded from American popular culture. The symbolic annihilation of gay and lesbian youth exhibited by television in the extreme (and by most mass media in general) contributes to a dysfunctional isolation that is supported by the mutually reinforcing invisibility of homosexual adolescents on the television screen and in the real world. Such invisibility and isolation can be examined through a spiral of silence process, which outlines the reciprocal communication-based conditions through which the oppression of gay and lesbian youth is achieved. The social- psychological mechanism of the spiral of silence also partially accounts for the inefficacy of oppositional interpretive practices for disrupting pluralistic ignorance in this case; the relative ability of gay and lesbian youths to actually subvert dominant meanings, in an empowering way, is called into question. There is an exigent need for more programatic research in this area. In pursuing research within this emergent agenda, researchers must confront a number of concerns: the position of argument in social science; the methodological significance of the relationship between individuals and subcultures; the value of critical analysis; advocational possibilities relative to mainstream and alternative media resources; issues involving mediated intrusions into childhood "innocence"; and the range of uniquely severe barriers that stand in the way of research activity in this area. (Author)

Title: The Sound (and Sight) of Silence: Notes on Television and the Communication Ecology of Adolescent Homosexuality.
Author: Kielwasser, Alfred P.; Wolf, Michelle A.
Note: 65p.; Paper presented a the Annual Meeting of the Western States Communication Association (Phoenix, AZ, February 15-19, 1991).
Publication Year: Feb 1991
Document Type: Conference Paper (150); Position Paper (120)
Target Audience: Practitioners and Policymakers
ERIC Identifier: ED332242
Clearinghouse Identifier: CS507449

Descriptors: * Adolescents; * Communication Research; * Homosexuality; * Mass Media Effects; Mass Media Use; Popular Culture; Programing [Broadcast]; * Research Needs; Social Attitudes; Subcultures; * Television

Identifiers: Marginality; Spiral of Silence Theory

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