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Social and civic media: from mediatisation to mediation

Submitted by on February 8, 2012 – 21:23No Comment

What we gen­er­ally do when we speak about media is analyse their role as government’s supporter/government’s tool, or on the con­trary, as a full force of oppo­si­tion. In each case, media and polit­i­cal play­ers both monop­o­lise the pub­lic space.

Right that media aren’t sim­ple tes­ti­monies of polit­i­cal news. They also make it: if an event doesn’t exist in the media, it doesn’t either exist in the pub­lic sphere. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion isn’t only a cul­ture and ide­ol­ogy affair, but it also plays an impor­tant part in the polit­i­cal organ­i­sa­tion. The bound­aries between jour­nal­ists, com­mu­ni­ca­tors and politi­cians’ jobs seem today thin­ner. In Brus­sels, it is not rare to see jour­nal­ists become Euro­pean civil servants!

But in this screen dis­ap­pears the third essen­tial player of demo­c­ra­tic soci­eties: the citizens.

If we con­sider that pub­lic agenda — in all democ­ra­cies — results from meet­ing between polit­i­cal sphere, media, and cit­i­zens’ own agenda, we can point out that today, rela­tion between polit­i­cal author­i­ties and cit­i­zens is more and more depen­dent on media. The later would play a big­ger part than polit­i­cal par­ties and trade unions to relay cit­i­zens’ demands and pre­oc­cu­pa­tions. José Luis Exeni R., in Medi­amor­phis, explains well this evo­lu­tion from par­lia­men­tary democ­racy, to par­ties’ democ­racy, to finally ‘Mediacracy’.

But we face here a huge para­dox: while media play a greater role between polit­i­cal author­i­ties and cit­i­zens, to ‘fil­ter’ ones’ mes­sages and ‘canalise’ oth­ers’ demands, they don’t suc­ceed in make them meet and dialogue.

This para­dox could be explained by sev­eral rea­sons. The firsts con­cern the con­di­tions of media inde­pen­dence: we can’t ignore that media choices are linked to eco­nom­i­cal pres­sures and depend on their rela­tion to gov­ern­ments too. The sec­ond rea­son is linked to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the audi­ence, con­sid­ered as pas­sive con­sumers, much more than cit­i­zens enable to defend their rights and needs. Finally, the time being and fast news pre­dom­i­nance wouldn’t allow media to take the time of analysis.

Igna­cio Ramonet, in La Tyranie de la Com­mu­ni­ca­tion (1998), alerted us to dan­gers of direct live, that would be a sim­ple ‘con­duit’ or ‘snap­shot’ of the events, with­out con­tex­tu­al­i­sa­tion (he took the exam­ple of the CNN cover of Golf War).

Today, mul­ti­me­dia and photo pre­dom­i­nance in online news should keep us in alert! Added to the impor­tance of polit­i­cal mar­ket­ing, this phe­nom­e­non actu­ally tends to con­fine media in the place of sim­ple mediatisation/exposure agents. Var­i­ous com­pa­nies were actu­ally set up on this demand for media expo­sure. A French one invented a new for­mula (‘l’Unité de Bruit Médi­a­tique’) to mea­sure your pres­ence in the media.

The chal­lenge of social and civic media is to take dis­tance from this medi­ati­sa­tion phe­nom­e­non and to come back to jour­nal­ist fun­da­men­tal medi­a­tion role. The ques­tion is this one: how can media relay and encour­age the emer­gence of demands and polit­i­cal chal­lenges from soci­ety on one hand, and how can they stim­u­late attention/answers from gov­ern­ments on the other hand?

The ques­tion is not so sim­ple… Who are the ‘society’/ ‘cit­i­zens’ we are talk­ing about? Two dan­gers appear when we try to iden­tify them… two dan­gers pal­pa­ble in the cur­rent media land­scape. Either we offer space to big­ger organ­i­sa­tions, that are said to rep­re­sent more cit­i­zens, but we risk favour­ing always the same voices. Or we tend to aggre­gate a max­i­mum of voices, by using opin­ion pols, and we risk main­tain­ing the inter­viewed in a posi­tion of con­sumers, and stand­ing in for them.

What do you think?

Related posts:

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  2. Cre­ate a bal­ance between pub­lic ser­vice media, com­mer­cial media and community-based media
  3. Defend­ing media plu­ral­ism by mon­i­tor­ing threats in the Mem­ber States
  4. Cit­i­zen ini­tia­tive for Media Plu­ral­ism: from Brus­sels to Bologna
  5. Fun­dación para el Peri­odismo: ‘stim­u­late a bet­ter jour­nal­ism practice’

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