Week 2, Thursday: On Mediatization

Today I reviewed several sources about the concept of mediatization.

Of the sources I reviewed, Hjarvard (2008)’s work has been the most influential. He defines it as:

‘[…] the process whereby culture and society to an increasing degree become dependent on the media and their logic’ (Hjarvard 2013:17).

However, I also like Schilleman’s definition, which acknowledges looser uses of the term while still managing to account for them:

‘Mediatization is the label carrying a general theory about how the media exert power over and in other social spheres’ (Schilleman 2012:15).

One of the interesting things Hjarvard traces is how the media as an institution has been imagined in scholarly analyses since c.1920. I thought it was interesting that Schilleman’s definition happened to capture this significant consistent thread in that history. In this analysis of modern media culture, media is analyzed as an institution that gains autonomy as it develops, and proceeds to exercise power.

Against this context, one implication of my case-study is that it reveals how individual actors have to negotiate different media, each of which is subject to its own set of institutional interest or sociocultural norms. To put it in other words, while ‘media’ is usually referred to as an agent, union, or conspiracy of interests (that imposes and flattens perspective), in our case-study we see how an agent can embody a range of interests, some clearly in problematic conflict.

Not only can the agent embody a range of interests, in some ways I think he must, in that he faces an audience that demands he authentically present these interests. This is an aspect of the case-study that reveals the influence of the audience, who can no longer be ‘left to their own devices’ after a ‘structured break’ between generation & presentation of media content (à la Thomson’s analysis – see Robertson (2015)). Technology has enabled the audience to participate in the creation & perpetuation of ideologies, images, and discourses, effectively allowing them to mirror (if somewhat imperfectly) the structure and processes of the media institution they are usually imagined as being subject to. The commentary of the audience-media must now itself be commented on, in the media commentary.