Our Viewing Templates: Stereotyping

What are the things that come to your mind when you think of Italy? Is it Pasta? Pizza? The stunning and varied countryside? Or cities of art?

Apparently, “What Country” app from the iTunes store describes Italy as the home of pizza, scooters, and the Mafia, the last of which is illustrated with an image of a “Mafia parking only” sign. This Mafia reference has upset Italy’s Minister of Tourism, Michela Vittoria Brambilla , who says that the references are insulting to the dignity of Italians. Thus, Ms Brambilla has demanded that Apple remove its iPhone and iPad application, “What Country” from its online store because it uses negative stereotypes to describe Italy.

Perhaps some may think that Ms Brambilla is being a little too uptight. After all, “What Country” didn’t mean to smear Italy’s name and hopes users will “explore and discover funny, strange and exciting peculiarities of various countries around the world” through such phrases and photos. But I could understand Ms Brambilla’s action.

Media can be a powerful tool in creating or reinforcing stereotypes; it can affect the way society views them and change society’s expectations of them. Media influence is dependent on the direct experiences the public has with the issue addressed by the media. Media may not be successful in telling us what to think, but they are extremely successful in telling us what to think about it. With enough exposure to a stereotype, society may come to view it as a reality rather than as a chosen representation. Also, the image of a “Mafia parking only” sign accompanying the issue play a huge part in altering people’s standards of perception; whereas there is a saying that “a picture speaks a thousand words” proves the effectiveness of the image to a certain extent. In this case, it may lead to some having prejudices toward the Italians.

Such negative stereotypes not only affect how society view them, it also influence how people perceive themselves. The feeling that the rest of the world doesn’t respect or understand you does little to encourage a positive sense of self-worth. Hence, we should never understate the seriousness of stereotyping.

However, not all stereotyping are negative. By using stereotypes, it allows us to draw conclusion faster; whereby a complex issue could reduce to a simple understandable issue. Stereotypes are our viewing templates by which we make sense of the world around us, regardless of context and accuracy. Thus, we must be mindful about the way we stereotype things.

Read more of the news: http://www.italymag.co.uk/italy/arts-and-culture/tourism-minister-demands-removal-iphone-app